Archives by Month: January, 2009

This is an amazing sculpture of Shiva as Gajasamhara murthy ( gaja - elephant), samhara ( vanquish) ins sanskrit or Yaani uri porthia murthy ( yaani - elephant, uri - skin, porthia - cover or clad in) in Tamil. This beauty was brought from Darasuram to Tanjore museum.


We have seen many sculptures of this episode before, so whats so great about this one? you might ask. Well when i met one of my mentors Shri. Kudavoil Balasurbramaniam, i asked him about his favorite pieces. ( incidentally the same one was picked up by master sculptor Sri Umapathy in our recent interview - will post it - he is trying out a new form of showcasing these beauties in plates !!)

sir umapathy's plate

Well, K Balu Sir explained to me the splendor of this creation. At first glance, i did not pick the amazing details of this sculpture. There are many repetitions of this pose in later chola temples and also in other places, but the chola style is unique. Here is one from Chidambaram.

yaanaiuri chidrambaram

Chandra of course will pick the Pullamangai sculpture we saw earlier as his pick - since its a miniature and the delightful baby skanda jumping off parvathi’s hands.

pullamangai yaaniuri.jpg

But the beauty of this creation - standing at almost 6 feet, the sculptor really used the proportions to bring out at sculptural marvel.

Inorder to fully appreciate the greatness of this magnificent piece, i requested my good friend Mrs. Lakshmi Sharath who was going to Tanjore to get me some closeup pictures. ( Kathie also helped with her snaps!!!)

We have already seen the episode in detail in the earlier post, however the dynamic post, quote from Sri Vidya Dehejia’s book - Art of the Imperial Cholas

Also from Darasuram is a dynamic relief carving of Siva’s jubilant dance of triumph after killing the elephant demon Gajasura. Having flayed the elephant, Shiva held its skin in his outstretched hands and danced a tempestuous dance. The exaggerated twist of his body dramatically conveys his frenzied movement. One cannot but appreciate the sentiment of Saint Manikkavachakar, who described Shiva as a madman:

i shall call you
madman draped in elephant skin
poison throated madman,
madman dancing
amid the trees
of the burning ground,
madman clad in tiger skin,
madman who enslaved
even me.

But the beauty of the piece needs more elaboration. He has four hands on each side - look at how his fingers have torn into the elephant hide and protrude out. Oh! such splendid detailing.

Darasuram yaani uriporthia murthy
darasram yaanai uri sculpture

Look at the ornamentation on the hands, legs, neck. The elaborate headdress, flowing locks forming a crown held back by a Skull shaped diadem, his knotted waist cloth swaying in the power of his dance. Exemplary art. But what is his lower left hand doing, its pointing the viewer towards the extreme left of the sculpture ( right as you view it).


Well well well, we see Parvathi in a kind of sidewards stance - her right shoulder is slightly pushed up, as though she is shielding someone, Oh!, there he is, baby skanda, cocooned by his mother, who doesn’t want him to witness the gory scene.

Paravathi with skanda

Here lies the magnificence of this sculpture. As you bend down and look upwards from the position of baby skanda, parvathi’s body would block the action of Shiva totally. But we return to the face of Shiva now, for the final flair of the artist, as a singer would finish off his masterful composition with a delightful alapana. Look closely at the face of shiva.

single fang
closeup of Shiva
angry side
normal shiva

The side facing away from Paravathi and Skanda - the right side ( left as you view it) - eyes brows are arched in anger, while the other side is more gentle

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Mysterious are the ways of God.. How else to describe these. Our Artist friend Prasad decides to sketch an idol and he searches on the net. He lands on a splendid photograph and is so inspired by the beauty that he renders a divine painting/sketch to compliment it. Later when i shared it with our Photographer friend Ashok, find that it is his commission. Not stopping at that and keeping the beauty of the Idol and sketch in mind and to compliment them - i sought the help of two distinguished friends for a description. Sri Seshadri ( Father of Varalaaru.com Sri Gokul - or rather now Author of Rajakesarai Novel by Palaniappa Brothers Gokul) and Sri Dev Raj. Both of them turned in wonderful renditions - so here i am having the joy of mixing an Idol, a Photo, a sketch, an english and a tamil description - thanks to all.

Sri Seshadri lists a few things that are nearer to his heart.

If we allow our minds to wander on the wonderful deities that our eyes have feasted on and touched our inner souls, I venture to list them:

1. our own Azhahiya ManavaLan of srirangam ( he is a resident of Srirangam)
2. The Tirumalai Deivam (moolamoorthy)
3. Ramabiran of Thillaivilaham and
4. The Gopalaswamy of Rajamannargudi.

The list is of course endless.


Ashok’s amazing capture

The slightly leaning stance of the lord at mannargudi with the bewitching smile readily captures the heart. The only vasthram that cowherds adorn on their body knee high shows him at once as a simple kovalan who can be touched upon ,talked to and quarrelled with. The azhwars esp. Periazwar goes into raptures on the leelas of lord krishna imagining himself as the mother, yasodha. The endless chestithams(kurumbuhaL) are narrated at great length in those pasurams. His adorning the earring in one ear enhances his beauty.

Rajagopaswami Prasad's sketch

Prasad’s splendid sketch

The cow and the two calves yearn to have his attention and are blessed to be with him always 24 hours a day and see their eyes and their radiance proudly proclaiming their proximity to him! It is hence not strange that His touch has made them VALLAL PERUM PASUKKAL and only the availability of utensils is the limit for their supply of the nector milk. I learn that the stick in his hand is called sendu and not saattai as some have stated in the websites. The sendu is a lengthy stick in the hands of cowherds which is used to bring down the branches green with leaves to be fed to the cattle. It helps to lower the bough to be used by the cattle but will survive as the branch is not completely broken. u.ve.swaminatha iyer has narrated this in en charitram i presume. Can any one ever imagine, saattai in His hand, as it is a punishing stick and the Paahan who touched fed and treated the wounds of horses in the midst of battlefield in Bharata yuddam will he touch it at all?

During the month of panguni vennaiththazhi uthsavam i saw in the t.v. as to how the Lord (and perforce the archahar) are flooded with vennai by all and sundry and He is not satisfied and seems to want more! I could feel that those who throw the navaneetham transform at that moment into the very gopalars and mannargudi transforms itself into ayarpadi. How fortunate they are?

Reg the flute that was used by Him there are references to it in many places and an entire paththu is devoted by Periazwar for this 3-6 thirumozhi–starting with Navalam. Kulasekarar better known for the cryptic summary of ramayana in his PerumaL Thirumozhi has talked about the agony of Devaki who laments on the luck of yasodha and her own ill luck not to savour the leelas of the Lord. (devahi pulambal). The ectasy experienced by the girls of ayarpadi, the women, the celestial beauties, thumburu, naradha, the kinnarars famous for dance and music, gandarvar, the gods who are offered havis for their food,the birds, the cattle, the deer,the trees and their branches was beyond measure. ) there is ref to ‘ seviyuL navin suvai kondu mahizhndu” which brings to our mind the famous kuraL ” sevikkunavillatha…eeyappadum”..

For a sculputural appreciation one may visit the front mandapam of chakkrathazwar koil at srirangam where the cattle,the birds, the reptiles and the trees are shown spell bound as they are by the melody of that music. It is a pity that the sculpture is not too well executed but the suggestion is there for everyone to see. (But how many have the aptitude?)

kodhai (godha in sanskrit) of course is a class apart but i feel that srirangam and thirumalai are places that captures her heart and soul. Pity she has not thought of the mannargudi temple.



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