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Archives by Month: October, 2008


Well, all of us at one point of time or the other have been shouted at, using the sleeping giant kumbakarna as an example. Its always tough to wake up in the mornings, that too when you are a kid and the evenings are too long and the mornings are too short. But seeing this freeze of the story sculpted into stone in far off Indonesia jolted me wide awake.

parambanan kumbakarna waking up panel.jpg

Lets brush up our memories of the story from Ramayana, Ravana’s mighty brother, the giant Kumbakarna, sleeps for 6 months at a time. Well, this was actually not a curse but a boon which he himself sought ( ok with some nimble work by Indra).

Having born to mixed parents ( mother was a demon and father a high born), the children are advised by their mother to seek the blessings of Brahma, the creator. So all four, Ravana, kumbakarna, Surpanka and Vibeeshana undertake a stiff penance.

Ravana performs intense penance , lasting several years. Pleased with his austerity, Brahma appears and offers him a boon. Ravana asks for immortality, which Brahma refuses saying everyone has to die someday. Ravana then askes for absolute invulnerability and supremacy before gods and heavenly spirits, other demons, serpents and wild beasts. Contemptuous of mortal men, he did not ask for protection from them. Brahma granted him these boons, and additionally gave him great strength by way of knowledge of divine weapons and sorcery.

Next, its the turn of Kumbakarna, who is already a giant, and Indra the Lord of devas is scared stiff, that any boon would make him invincible. So he seeks the help of the Goddess of Learning, Saraswathi, who at the appropriate moment holds his tongue back. So instead of asking for endless life, he asks for endless sleep. Brahma too glady obliges by granting him this boon. The others are shell shocked and plead with Brahma, that such a boon is akin to death, so he modifies it a bit - saying he will sleep for 6 months and be awake for 6 months. However, he cautions that if he is woken up in the 6 month hibernation, he would become vulnerable.

Ok, now the story spans a few years, the main events of Ramayana are over and we are nearing the climax. Ravana fights Rama - and the brilliance of Rama’s archery makes him loose his divine weapons, chariot and Crowns, and he is left, unarmed, on the battlefield. Rama humbles him more by telling him to go back and come tomorrow with arms.

Smitten by this insult, Ravana commits a blunder by asking his troops to wake up Kumbakarana. Now this is what is depicted on the sculpture. The mountain like colossal figure of the sleeping giant, with soldiers using spears and swords to prod him, one horsemen is riding on him ( see the brilliance of the sculptor - he depicts the previous horse and rider, tired and getting off - towards the left) - we also have an elephant trumpeting into his ear and another demon blowing a conch into his ear.

blowing a conch into his ears.jpg

Guess, my folks didn’t have to go through all this to wake me up.

Image courtesy: http://oldsite.library.upenn.edu/etext/sasia/aiis/architecture/prambanan/

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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

http://tamilartsacademy.com/books/gcpuram

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.

adalvallan.jpg
gkcnatrajar.jpg
kaali.jpg
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

chandra.JPG
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
surya.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

http://www.thevaaram.org/thirumurai_1/songview.php?thiru=11&Song_idField=11002&padhi=040&startLimit=1&limitPerPage=1&sortBy=&sortOrder=DESC


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

http://www.thevaaram.org/thirumurai_1/songview.php?thiru=11&Song_idField=11002&padhi=040&startLimit=22&limitPerPage=1&sortBy=&sortOrder=DESC

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

http://www.thevaaram.org/thirumurai_1/songview.php?thiru=11&Song_idField=11002&padhi=040&startLimit=19&limitPerPage=1&sortBy=&sortOrder=DESC

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

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