I had been wanting to run a series on Door guardians for some time. We have already seen a few like the massive ones in Tanjore Big temple, the mace carriers in Mangadapattu - these lovely sculptures in their myriad forms are a delight to watch, sadly not many people even spend a second looking at them - to marvel at the detailing of their costumes, assortment of weapons and fangs and their facial expressions. Will start to showcase them one by one from now on.

I am choosing this particular one to start the series formally - ones of my favorite sculptures and is part of our site’s logo. Also mumbai has been in the news for all the wrong reasons recently and the scene of that mindless violence is near to our subject today.

The door guardian from Elephanta.

our side door guardians.jpg

Why i chose this sculpture as the logo for this site, is the message this work in stone conveys. Having stood the test of time, sculpted to protect its master from peril, this particular door guardian is badly mutilated, he has lost all his limbs and the bare torso remains. After a 1000 years of dutifully discharging his role the door guardian met his match - with the Portuguese in the 17th C. What it takes in a man however barbaric to use such an immaculate sculpture for target practise for their rifles defies my mind. Even the hardest hearted men, would stop to appreciate the artistic beauty of these creations. The guardian was more a symbolic protector, sculpted to reign in the mind, to create a sense of awe amongst the visitor, to channel his mind to the main deity, to ensure that he rid himself of all other thoughts and focus purely on the God. The rough stone worked on by the skilled craftsmen, toiling long hours to shape these marvels in stone - were no match for the Portuguese guns - is it the punishment for the door guardian to be so left - maimed and to suffer this fate for failing in his duty?


No, one look at his proud face, tells you that he is indeed the victor. The radiance emanating from his calm face, if anything has multiplied by the disfigurement. Truly the triumph of art, its universal appeal and lasting quality - sheer poetry in stone. Hence he finds his pride of place as an apt carrier for our site’s logo.

To give you an idea of his location, here are more pictures - next time you go to Mumbai please do not miss to take the boat to Elephanta and see him.

elepanta door G.jpg
elepanta door guardian.jpg
elephanta door guardians.jpg

Now to give you a sense of scale of this creation, i am posting this picture - these are the same scale as our man, but are on the adjacent side of the same wall.

elephanta scale.jpg
the other side.jpg

Leave a comment »

Category: Sculpture

Tags:  , , , ,

Related Posts:

Read this in தமிழ்தமிழ்

This entry was posted on Thursday, December 18th, 2008 at 15:46 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.

8 Comments so far


விஜய், மிகவும் அருமையான வர்ணனை. இப்பொழுதே எளிபண்டா குகையை நேரில் பார்க்க வேண்டும் போல் இருக்கிறது…….- ஸ்ரீராம்

December 18th, 2008 at 16:02

destruction of bodyguards exists even now and you have brought the relevance to the current context of terrorist strikes in the gateway ….. terrorism is not only destroying mankind but also the masterpiece like this, its a cultural terrorism

December 18th, 2008 at 16:24

காகாசுரன் அன்னை சீதையை தவறான எண்ணத்துடன் நெருங்கி துன்புறுத்தினான்
சீதை மடியில் ராமன் படுத்து உறங்கிக் கொண்டிருந்தார், விழித்து எழுந்த ஸ்ரீராமன் ஒரு தர்ப்பைப் புல்லை எடுத்து சக்ராயுதமாக காகாசுரனை நோக்கி அனுப்பினார், காகாசுரன் அந்த சக்ராயுதத்திலிருந்து தன்னைக் காப்பாற்ற வேண்டி ஈரேழு லோகத்துக்கும் சென்று காகா என்று கதறினான், அனைவரும் ஒருமித்த குரலில் ராமரிடமே சென்று சரணடைந்துவிடுமாறு அறிவுரை சொல்லவே காகாசுரன் மீண்டும் ராமரிடம் வந்து விழுந்தான், ஆனால் கொஞ்சம் தள்ளி சீதையின் காலடியிலே விழுந்தானாம், சீதை தாயுள்ளத்தோடு காகாசுரனின் தலையை ராமர் பாதத்தில் வைத்தாளாம் மன்னிக்கச் சொல்லி
அது போல துவார பாலகர்கள் நமக்கு இறைவனிடம் நம்மைப்பற்றி எடுத்துச் சொல்லி அனுமதிப்பார்களாம்
அதனால் எந்தக் கோயிலுக்கு சென்றாலும் நான் முதலில் த்வாரபாலகர்களை வணங்கித்தான் இறைவனை வணங்குவேன்
அப்படிப்பட்ட த்வாரபாலகர்களுக்கு இப்படி ஒரு நிலையா வருத்தமாயிருக்கிறது


December 18th, 2008 at 17:32

எனக்கு இத்தனைநாளும் வாயிற்காப்போன்களை பார்க்கும்போது பொறாமை இருக்கும்.இறைவன் அருகிலே இருக்கிறார்களே என்றும்,கடவுளுக்கே காவல் இருக்கிறார்களே என்றும். ஆனால் அது எவ்ளோ கஷ்டம் என்று இப்போ புரிந்துகொண்டேன்.கடவுள்கிட்ட நம்மள அர்பணித்தால் எதுவும் கஷ்டம் இல்லன்னு புரிஞ்சுகிட்டேன்.
மிக்க நன்றி,VJ

December 19th, 2008 at 8:35
Kathie Brobeck

As you probably know, dvarapalaka along with
ganas & yalis, are just about my favorite murthis. The sculptors are given much more lee-way for creativity.

December 20th, 2008 at 0:59

hi kathie,

Ofcourse, looking forward to your forthcoming visit to add more to the collection.


December 21st, 2008 at 10:38
g.nanda kumar

dear sir,

dvarapalaka are main gate keepers to lord, there is rules if we want to meet any higher officials we should get permission to his poen or gatekeeper then only we can able to see the person ,like wise in temple if we get permission from them we will see god without any disturb and dvarapalaka also insist our prayers to god, for lord shiva we have to get permission to nandhi , lord vishnus main gate keeper jayan, vijyan. there is alot of stories about dvarapalakas. nowdays no one give repect to them , dvarapalaka statue showing the mudras of god is one,

December 29th, 2008 at 22:40

hi nanda kumar

thanks for sharing, have been wanting to do a series on door guardians exclusively - will start soon. If you have interesting ones please share with us.


December 30th, 2008 at 5:51

Leave a Reply

Name (required)(*)
Mail (will not be published)(*)