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)


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

Leave a comment »

Category: Sculpture

Tags:  , , ,

Related Posts:

Read this in தமிழ்தமிழ்

This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 31st, 2009 at 16:21 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.

13 Comments so far


Wow! This was indeed a treat :)

March 31st, 2009 at 16:55

Interesting and fascinating.

March 31st, 2009 at 19:15
Kathie B.

dear VJ,
There’s such sweetness in early Pallava sculpture don’t you think? Great detail.
In your ‘random photo’, was that ‘THE’ S.R. Balasubrahmanyam or another w similar name?
If same, he must have been very young when
he wrote his great books ? ? ?

April 1st, 2009 at 0:24

wow..I really wish I had travelled with u to the caves..would have learned so much..tell me when you are doing this again

April 1st, 2009 at 9:37
Sivaram Kannan

Vj, amazing details. You are really blessed and thanks to give such a detail, even I could see the intricacies.

April 2nd, 2009 at 10:05
Narasimhan Srinivasan

Hey VJ great article. Just superb. Yes, one can keep on watching the Pallava creations for hours together.

Thanks once again.

April 2nd, 2009 at 13:19

Super pictures, நல்ல ஆழ்ந்த கவனிப்பும் கூட.

April 3rd, 2009 at 14:17

It’s really wonderful and the material you present can be used by any body who want to do Phd.

April 5th, 2009 at 13:20

Hi Muruganandam

Thanks for the compliments. ( really high praise). the true credit goes to the sculptor, but sadly only a small % of people who visit the site are aware of these. they just pose in front and rush away.


April 12th, 2009 at 6:03

>>>No two hands are the same, not only posture wise but also in dimensions.

Why is this important? I hope this time I post the question in the correct blog.

June 12th, 2009 at 3:27

hi GRS,

There are two things that are special about these. One these show how talented and observant the sculptor was. secondly if you notice the 3D effect he has brought in in essentially a 2D ( these are bas relief ) as compared the say the angkorian ones. that’s why they are special


June 13th, 2009 at 12:42

Good one, especially the analysis of the feet! ths like others of their times would ahve been beautifully apineted over!

May 31st, 2010 at 12:33

@ Pradeep - Yes, the one turned into the panel stumped me…

May 31st, 2010 at 12:44

Leave a Reply

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Mail (will not be published)(*)