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Archives by Month: March, 2009


The recent bird hit on flight 1549 of US Airways and its subsequent ditching or expert crash into the Hudson river caught the world’s attention. From the time planes have been invented we have had many such bird strikes and not all have had a happy ending as the one above. But what we are going to see today is possibly the earliest account of a bird strike.

Jataayu - the son of Garuda’s elder brother Aruna ( the charioteer to the Sun god), his valiant battle with Ravana as he is abducting Sita on his Pushpaka Vimana ( aerial chariot aka plane) is stuff of legends.

There are not many sculptural depictions of this battle, the most famous and often shown depiction is the painting by Raja Ravi Varma.

Ravi_Varma-Ravana_Sita_Jathayu

However, there are two sculptural depictions of this battle - one in Ellora Kailasantha ( thanks to flickr friend Mr Murali) and the other in Parambanan, Indonesia. We will visit the Indonesian one a bit later. But of most interest to us is the Ellora panel.

ravana jatayu

The mighty King Ravana is shown just as he is about to strike at the vulture Jatayu with a sword. Its no ordinary sword as we will see shortly. To the upper right we are just shown a piece of the flying machine.

Who is this Jatayu. We had read when we saw the Garuda story that his elder brother Aruna, who due to his mother’s hastiness is born premature - leaves to serve the Sun God as his charioteer. Well Jatayu and his brother Sampathi are the sons of Aruna.
garudanin-kathai-thirukurungudi

Once while both the brothers were playing, they tried to fly higher and higher - when Jatayu trying to outsmart his brother flew too high, he went dangerously close to the hot sun ( sounds vaguely familiar - Greek - Icarus ) Well the plot changes a bit here. Sampathi protectively covered his brother with his extended wingspan - while the sun burnt off his wings he fell to the ground while Jatayu was saved. ( Sampathi does get healed but at a much later stage - just by chanting the name of Rama!!)

Ok, back to the bird strike. So great is the resistance shown by Jatayu and his valor in battling Ravana, that the Thevaram verse actually credits him with victory over Ravana. Why so ?
www.shaivam.org


The place where the Lord, Who elucidated the shivadharma
with virtue as the basis freeing the capable devotees from

the disease of bad karma, sits is thiruppuLLirukkuvELUr
of jaTAyu who defeated the rAvaNa who came aggressive
counting his power!

It all comes down to the sword. Chandrahas, Shiva’s invincible sword - Moonblade, a divine gift. How did Ravana come in possession of such a weapon. Again an interesting story.

We have seen Ravana being humbled once before - by Vaali
ravana-humbled-yet-again-by-who

There is another one by the 20 armed kaarthveeryarjunan ( not found a sculpture for this yet) - but there is another instance - by Siva when Ravana attempted to lift Kailash - we have seen it at many places.
ravana-shakes-mount-kailash
mallai-olakkaneswara-temple
cambodia

if-pride-goes-before-the-fall-this-is-the-lowest-it-can-fall

Well after he went through the Ordeal and pleased Shiva by playing his ” hand” crafted veena - Shiva cured his wounds and along with his blessings, gave him his special sword. Chandrahas ( moon blade)

So by saying that Jatayu defeated Ravana - but for the divine weapon, Jatayu had valiantly fought and defeated Ravana. His powerful wings, claws and beak had wrecked havoc, while at the very edge of losing, Ravana not being a match for Jatayu with his powers, had used the divine weapon to clinch victory and slay Jatayu.

That my friends, that is the earliest recorded bird strike.
(Thanks to Murali again for the rare snap of Ellora. On content indebted to Sri Subramaniam, Mrs. Geetha Sambasivam and Dhivakar sir ofcourse)

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Today we are going to see a rare sculpture from Hampi ( Hazara Rama temple again). The splendid photograph is courtesy Kathie and the explanation thanks to Mrs. Geetha Sambasivam. I was intrigued by a friends site about the murals in Alagar Koil of the famous Yagna done by Dasaratha.

Mr. Bhaskar wonderful site on temple murals

For it involved a very special officiating Priest, brought in under special recommendation. Whats so special about him. Well he has a deer’s head to start with. Before we see the main plot, lets look into the peculiar origins of this sage. What set me on this is a chance reading of an article in the hindu.

The Hindu Article

rishyasingar+part+of+the+panel.jpg

It shows only a part of the sculptural panel and I too took it as per this mention - The deer headed saint as Rishyasingar ( as per Valmiki Ramayan) and Kalaikottu Munivar ( as per Kamban) distributing the child giving potion to the 3 wives of Dasartha. Though there were still a few loose ends, as both the literature and the murals show that he personally did not distribute it and the sculpture in question doesnt seem to show the potion /cup or pot. Thankfully Kathie managed to provide this excellent photograph of the entire panel - which ( thanks to Mrs Geetha) clears up the air. This is a different but equally interesting account of the same sage but happened much earlier.

Deer-headed-saint-seduction

Rishi Vibandanga, son of Rishi Kashyapa, once casts a passing glance a beautiful female deer. So great is his prowess that his very glance made the deer pregnant. In due course she gave birth - a boy with a deer’s head and human body ! His father brought him up in total isolation ( celibacy) - not even allowing the scent of women near him. ( wonder why?)

In an adjoining land, a King by name Romapathan was disturbed by an unending drought troubling his subjects for years together. It seems ( ok, i am only repeating legend - fairer sex please excuse me) that pious men who have totally abstained from you know what - will bring rain. So King Romapathan decides to bring Rishyasingar to his land, but how does he do it. Well, we have seen it happen many times - carrot of course. He sent ` talented’ women dancers to entice the poor boy. Imagine the plight of the poor boy, having being depraved their company since birth, he gets an overdose. He stands no chance against the guile of these women and follows them to the Kings Land. As foretold he brings rain along with him to the parched land. Well all is well that ends well. The King did it for a good cause i guess, but he could have just gone their explained the situation and brought him. Guess epics wouldn’t be so simple.

The depiction of the plot is superbly handled by the sculptor. see how the gay abandon of the youthful Rishyasingar ` appreciating ‘ dancing damsel. Net we see him being waited upon by three ladies ( the nonchalant stylistic crossing of the legs - cant be when he facing royal queens of Dasarata) - plus as per the epic, he gave the ` potion’ to Dasaratha to distribute.

Anyway, some more good things happen. The pleased King marries his daughter Sandhai ( Santham is calm in tamil - wow, hope she lived upto her name). After that another king sought the services of Rishyasingar but for a totally different act. What is that…we will see it shortly.


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