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Archives by Month: December, 2008


We have already seen this cute little darling of a fellow in Mahabalipuram and in Srinivasanallur. Today we are traveling to another Chola treasure trove - Pullamangai, Brahmapureerswara temple .

A quick test for your observation powers. Can you spot our friend.

tiger belly see carefully.jpg

Can’t, try this one

tiger belly - see top right.jpg

Still Can’t, come on !!

tiger belly closer.jpg

Now, do you see him. such a darling fellow.

pullamangai tiger belly.jpg

Nowadays, we do see Shiva’s Gana’s ( assistants) adorning modern temple walls, but they lack the character and spirit of the originals. They are sadly repetitive and monotonous. Take a look at this impressive array of delightful ganas - each of them have such cute expressions that its difficult not to fall in love with them. One thing you have to notice is the fact that these are true dwarfs - as you can see by the body proportions and the depiction of the hands and legs - this is not to show the physical deformity but to show how observant were the sculptors who could sculpt them so beautifully.

look at the suttle change in smile.jpg
normal funny Ghanas.jpg
normal funny ones.jpg
normal well - for ganas.jpg
pullamangai normal ghana.jpg

Not all have the tiger belly face and it seems to be one particular individual who has this - what could be his name. Need to do some more research to find out. Meantime, please keep an eye out for this tiger belly face when you visit Chola temples. And for the normal fellows, please do spare them a glance.

picture courtesy : Ms. Kathie and Varlaaru.com

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I had asked this question in the original post - What is the inspiration for a sculptor ? True Mallai abounds with animals - the great penance panel with its whole forest / zoo of animals, the Govardhana panel with its cows etc, but this is a very unique sculpture, as it depicts no divine legend, no god figures - no puranic myth.

spectacular.jpg

It would have taken the sculptor months of hard work - to sculpt such a realistic natural scene. But why did he do it. Doubt if the King would have commissioned him to do such a work. It is also not a causal fling, like a half hour sketch by a caricature artist.

This line of thought made me try to come up with some other reason, to explain the sculpture.

Here it goes: consider this - the sculptors of mallai were experts, clearly the work in mallai is not that of novices. So it couldn’t be like some finishing school, the degree of perfection in form is much too advanced. Their stone craft could not be mastered by common people and would have called for years of study under expert teachers - most probably, right from childhood, these sculptors would have been exclusively tutored in stone craft, with single minded devotion. Whether there was the system of father teaching son or established gurukulam like - we don’t know. But one thing is clear, to achive this kind of mastery over any art, the heart soul and everything else had to be devoted into the work.

Keeping the above in mind, my interpretation of the panel is :

The sculptor is the monkey

In sculpting the visibly joyous, frolicking , happy elephant family, he depicts what he has missed - loving family life, for he would have had to be in sculpture school at a very young age, missing the years of fun and frolic which a normal
kid would have got, which he is lost when he decided to pursue his passion.

spectacular.jpg
the baby elephant.jpg
the mail elephant.jpg

The peacock could be his lady love - again am sure these guys would never had time to lead a normal family live, most probably would have been geeky nerds with single minded approach to sculpture. Even if they married, they wouldn’t have spent much time in the pleasures of it.

the peacock.jpg

Now look at the monkey again in the sculpture, he is visibly sad, has a sense of great loss but is also having a kind of searching / questioning face. He is looking at the viewer,as if asking, if all his sacrifices were worth it. what do you say, was it worth it

monkey.jpg
the monkey.jpg

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