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Archives by Month: March, 2009


The core of this post is based on a interview that Satheesh conducted with Sri K.P.Umapathy Acharya - hereditary achitect and sculptor. I have supported it with pictures from Shriram,Gokul, graphic work by Ashok and closeups of the individual frames during my recent trip to mallai.

We would have passed this sculpture panel many times ( The earlier post)and each time a new awareness dawns on you. So too is this post

Lets first see the panel as a whole.

Mallai Varaha panel

We have already seen a detailed post of this core theme,so will skip that part. Now, to add some highlights ( thanks to Ashok)

varahaPanel(hands)2

Can you now understand the crux of this post. - we are going to see how the Pallava sculpture has excelled in his portrayal of a multitude of hand and leg postures, am also trying to compare these with Angkorian ( cambodia - thanks to photos from Sri Gokul / sin - ardent cricket fan and best scorer in Singapore league) panel - to highlight why the Pallava sculptor is par excellence.

Inorder to better understand these, have taken individual exposures of the poses - so please take your time to see the indexed version and then proceed to see the individual items.

varahaPanel(hands) index
index 1
index 2
index 3
index 4
index 5
index 6
index 6 closeup
index 7
index 8
index 9
index 10
index 11
index 12
index 13
index 14
index 15

Notice how each of the individual carvings are unique, ie not of the same size, yet every aspect of proportion is maintained for the individual sculpture. No two hands are the same, not only posture wise but also in dimensions.

index 14
index 15

At first glance we tend to miss out the significance of the last two photos.Well you might ask, why bring in the legs suddenly into the discussion. Let me throw in a few snaps of the Angkorian Apsara / dancers and see if you get a hint.

agkorian relief sculpture
angkorian sculpture

No, ok, now do you get it

the depiction of the feet of an angkorian sculpture
the depiction of the feet of angkorian panel

See how the Pallava craftsmen has depicted the feet, especially of the person who is sculpted as facing into the wall. Simply mind blowing.

The depiction of the feet both facing to one side - would be akin to a beginner’s attempt at sketching someone in straight profile. You have difficulty in showing the depth in a one dimensional sketch. But a bas relief is almost a 3 dimensional medium ( well 2 1/2 - 3D would be a full sculpture like an idol or statue). But the Angorian style is more representative of a craftsmen moving from a uni dimensional sketch into sculpture, while the Pallava craftsmen centuries before had already mastered this.

Some more pictures to illustrate the intricacies of the panel for your viewing pleasure.

boomadevi's upper garment fallen loose
varaha eye and snout
varaha right leg on naga hood
varaha tusk


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The Chola dynasty of South India, has a long association with valor and bravery, and it gives me great pleasure to present a sculpture that links their valor, sculptural beauty, spirituality etc. Many thanks to Sri N.S. Narayanasamy
(www.shivatemples.com) for allowing us the use of this rare sculpture and content.

Its a simple legend and a lovely sculpture. Lets take a look at the legend first. When a Chola King named Veeravadhithan was passing a town on his elephant, the animal suddenly turned rogue and went around creating collateral damage. ( The Kings soldiers were no match for the rogue elephant. As per some version - The pious King prayed to Lord Shiva. He graced his blessings on a rooster which was nearby) The rooster showed remarkable courage is standing up to the rogue elephant and took on the mighty beast. It flew high to its head and used his sharp beak and claws to inflict lot of damage on the elephants sensitive eyes. The vanquished elephant was almost blinded and ran away ( to take refuge / calm down near a tree). Seeing the valor of a common rooster and the spiritual energy in the place, the Chola King decided to use the City as his capital.

Lets look at the sculpture now - from the Panchavarneshwarar Temple in Uraiyur.

uraiyur legend.jpg

A very simple sculpture, but you can still see the detailing. The raised tail of the elephant indicating its rage, the barve rooster clamped on its massive head. That the elephant is loosing, is clearly shown by its demeanor - the bent front legs and the almost crouched head.

Seeing the valor of a simple rooster the Chola king, thought it fit to shift his capital to the town - Uraiyur - which got a new name Kozhiyur ( kozhi hen or rooster) and the kings were praised as Kozhi vendhar ( vendhar - Lord or king ) surprised since technically you could get into trouble for comparing a King to a hen.

Infact, Sri kalki Krishnamurthy would pull this explanation as an answer to a simple question in his immortal work Ponniyin Selvan when describing the Tiruvisaippa sung by Kandrathitha Chola - where the King takes pride in calling himself a hen or rooster king !!

Ponniyin_selvan_volume_1

But who is this King and what period can we ascertain him to. When we tried to search more we found references to the “hentown” in Thevaram Verses.
There are Thevaram verses. But the great surprise came when we found the legend in Elango’s Silapathigram ( a tamil work dated roughly to the 2nd C AD) - Tale of the Anklet. The hero and heroine - Kovalan and kannagi , in search of a new market ( after the has wasted all his wealth on his `other’ women Mathavi) move from Chola country into Pandya land towards Madhurai - passing through Uraiyur - Kozhiyur. So the legend was famous even then to find mention in the work !!

So much for legends living on for 1800 years !!!

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