The previous posts on karaikkal ammai was very elaborate and short on sculpture, but had to be that way in order to introduce the great saint. Will try and make amends with this post of her sculpture, amazingly captured by the chola scuptor in Gangai Konda Cholapuram, Rajendra Chola’s amazing creation. ( An intro post for this is pending and will post shortly)

For a more detailed reading of the amazing temple, please visit Dr. Nagaswamy’s site where he has hosted his entire book on Gangai konda Cholapuram


While the beauty of the dancing shiva, is a site to behold, his dance duel with kali in the forests of alangadu must have been quite a spectacle. Chola bronze natarajas are indeed masterpieces of art but the stone sculptor seems to have competed with his metal working counterpart to create this amazing sculpture of Adavallar ( Adal - dance, vallar - Kind or supreme exponent ) - aka Nataraja ( Nata - Dance, Raja - King).

Gangai konda cholapuram adalvallan.jpg
adal vallan gangai konda cholapuram.jpg

A delightful figure of four armed dancing Siva - what a charming smile on his radiant face, holding kettle drum in the upper right arm and boon bestowing palm on the lower right. The upper left carries fire and the lower left is thrown across the body in gajahasta. The matted locks are flying in rhythm on either side. On the right is shown Ganga. By the left side of the leg is shown an eight armed dancing Kali, carrying drum, sword, trident, abhaya, dandahasta etc. A three legged figure, maybe Bringhi rishi ( we see his story in another post). He is dancing on a very fat musalagan ( the demon - or apasamara pursha - signifying ignorance - apasamara forgetfullness, purusha - man!!) and he is not been trodden to death - he is still very much alive ( see his head trying to lift himself up) but kept under check by his feet.

see kaali.jpg
the grace of shiva dancing.jpg
we move to the right to see the three legged dancer.jpg
who is this hiding to the left.jpg

Now, we come to the main object of this post, watch the panel just under the dancing shiva - Below the feet are three Ganas shown playing symbols and maddala, and then there is our Karaikkal Ammai, who on account of her devotion, was endowed this privileged position of being seated below the seat of the Lord, singing his Greatness.

can u see ammai now.jpg
can you see ammai.jpg

On the west side wall is shown Surya on top. Subrahmanya seated on peacock is shown flying towards the Lord while Ganapati moves equally briskly on his rat. Further down is four armed Nandikesvara playing maddala. Chandra is shown on the top on the side wall to the east. The armed Goddess Parvati is leaning on a majestically looking bull which is a bit startled; she holds a lotus in her right arm.

gangai konda cholapuram closer.jpg

The greatness of this composition is the expert depiction of emotions into stone - The nonchallant divine bliss and grace on the radiant face of the lord, the anger in the form of the bulging eyes of the dancing kali, the comic stance of the three legged bringi rishi, the enjoyment in the face of the shiva ganas and the sheer joy in Karaikkal ammai’s who is leaning up and joyfully clapping her hands, the calm grace of Parvathi compared to the bull which is a bit freaked by the dancing wrath of Kali ( watch is eye level , its seeing the fearsome face of kali)..what a magnificient creation.

Ok, have cut paste the above images to highlight the intricate details in this creation. Enjoy

ganesha and muruga on respective mounts.JPG
kaali ( note the bulging eyes).JPG
karaikkal ammai.JPG
nandhi on drum.JPG
paarvathi, see the terrified bull watching kaali.JPG
three legged dancer and musalagan.JPG

Karaikkal ammai sang some of the most inspired verses on the dancing lord and especially about tiruvalangadu, quoting a few here ( ok, she has taken a ghost form - as you read in the previous posts, so her songs are a bit graphic)

11th tirumurai - 1st song


The breasts have dried up ; the nerves are bulging ;
Sunk are the eyes and hollow is the maw ;
Ruddy are the gums in the two rows of teeth ;
Two white teeth are jutting out ; long are;
The raised ankles : thus, even thus is she – a ghost ! ;
In the withered wood she abides screaming. ;
In that wilderness of a forest, with His flowing ;
Matted hair wafting in all the eight directions;
He – our Father -, dances carrying in His ;
Cool body, the fire. Behold Tiruaalangkaadu ! ;

Translation: S. A. Sankaranarayanan (2007)

22nd song


He sports a crescent in His matted crest ; He, for ever,
Dances His twirling dance ; His waist is cinctured
With a serpent. Lo, whoever, by His grace,
Is able to sing and dance out this decad
Of Karaikkaal Pey of fiery mouth and sharp teeth
That abides in the crematory,
Will be freed clean of all sins.
Translation: S. A. Sankaranarayanan (2007)

19th Song


It is a crematory where bodies burn crackling
And where lofty bamboos scatter white pearls !
There the huge and loud-mouthed ghouls
Of dry and dangling hair and tired bodies
Foregather and eat to their hearts’ content
The corpses ; it is in such a great crematory
The One of gramarye dances ; the Daughter
Of the Mountain witnesses this in wonder.
Translation: S. A. Sankaranarayanan (2007)

Got some better pictures

nandhi, muruga,ganesh.jpg
Karaikkal ammai.jpg
Parvathi with nandhi.jpg

Leave a comment »

Category: Sculpture

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This entry was posted on Monday, October 13th, 2008 at 9:26 and is filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

13 Comments so far

Satish Kumar

Wonderful Post Vijay. Thanks for the beautiful photos and the wonderful description.

October 14th, 2008 at 0:19

Hi Satish,

Thanks for the nice words - doing my best to showcase the greatness of our these great works.


October 14th, 2008 at 11:06
Kathie Brobeck

I learn more with each of your posts!
Know that 3-legged guy dancing?
Bhrngi, who refuses to worship Devi. Anyone know the whole story?

October 21st, 2008 at 0:10

Hi kathie

Yes it is indeed Bringhi rishi, working on a complete post on him, along with Vyagrapadar ( puli kaal muni).


October 21st, 2008 at 6:52

Great work! i wonder how u all manage to do nice research on Tamil history! i had made trips to temples just for taking photos… halebeedu,belur,mallai,musukundeswarar,muvar,bigT but cud find some real info only from first two - as there were some guides explaining things! hope i learn more… ur posts makes me go back to the temples(had stopped it in btw)! u had fuelled my interest thanks.

November 16th, 2008 at 10:22

Hi Arun,

Thanks for the nice words. There are lots of books written on our beautiful temples both in Eng and tamil - but sadly they are all resting in our libraries. Sometimes they are written in a language that scares new readers, am trying my best to make it reach to more people and in a language that is easily understood and enjoyed by all.

Please do share your pictures with us.


November 17th, 2008 at 7:12

Hi all,

Great website. For some excellent books on the poetry on Karaikkal Ammaiyar and her depictions in art I would like to foreward you to this website with recent books on Karaikkal Ammaiyar: http://www.dhyani.nl/Books.htm

Regards, lalita

January 6th, 2009 at 20:03

Hi Lalitha

Wow, great books, thanks for sharing


January 7th, 2009 at 17:34

hi vj

Howz u n family. Happy new year. regrets came back to ur blog afterlong time. Wonderful and my interests are getting revived with this viewing. Keep upthe good work.


January 18th, 2009 at 14:11

hi srini

thanks. all well.


January 18th, 2009 at 19:19

happy see god thank u

February 26th, 2009 at 16:43

hi vj, you forgot “muyalagan” who is in His feet enjoying in different angle.Muyalagan is carring nataraja with ganga,fire, moon,snakes ,weapons.Gra8

September 28th, 2009 at 6:48
kadambur vijay

வணக்கம் மேற்கண்ட படங்கள் அனைத்திலும் காணப்படும் காட்சிகள் அனைத்தும் ஒரு சிறு தூணில் கடம்பூர் கோயிலில் செதுக்கபட்டிருப்பதை காணலாம்

August 31st, 2013 at 22:22

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