Mohabeer Dharmasala in Rameswar am once provided shelter to thou sands of pilgrims visiting Rameswaram -the island in Gulf of Mannar known for its spirituality , natural beauty and cultural ethos. Unfortunately, this 18th-century building fell into ruin due to lack of care and maintenance. A group of heritage enthusiasts is now giving it a face lift. "Architecturally unique with exquisite domes at the entrance, this building can be an attraction for not just pilgrims but also tourists visiting Rameswaram. We have almost finished the restoration work and it will be open for public in December," said Asaithambi Gurusamy , conservation architect who is in charge of the project.
It was after seeing the poor condition of the building that members of an architecture company , with the help of the Vivekananda Kendra, began to restore the Mohabeer Dharmasala a year ago. " As its name suggests, the dharmasala used to serve pilgrims. Later, it was used as a government office and was left unused leading to deterioration of the whole structure," said Gurusamy .
"The building was constructed using lime mortar and brick with a Madras terrace roofing. When we first surveyed the building, it was in a very bad stage. It had lost its character. A part of the Madras terrace had collapsed. We had to start from scratch and it was challenging," he said.
The restoration team removed the doors and windows and replaced them with fresh wooden ones with an antique touch suitable to the style of the building.The renovated Mohabeer Dharmasala will be open for the public in December and will host ethnic events and film shows. The first floor will house the office of Green Rameswaram project -an initiative of Vivekananda Kendra that aims at ensuring a green and hygienic pilgrimage to those visiting the holy island.
The building will also feature an exhibition on the green technologies used in the restoration process. "In Rameswaram, a number of ancient buildings face ruin. This initiative shows many old buildings in the town can be restored in a similar way ," said Gurusamy.