Archives by Month: June, 2009

Today we are going to see a bronze - not any bronze, but a spectacular Chola bronze. They are world famous for their beauty but its not just beauty that sets them apart. What is it in a Chola bronze that makes them so special?

Is it the craftsmanship, the artistic work, pleasing lines, attention to detail, expressions - no, its all of this put together plus something more. Maybe once you finish this post you will be able to understand what i am trying to convey.

To start with, lets take a look at the bronze, it stands in the Delhi Museum.

vishnu chola bronze delhi museum

Vishnu - the protector. We have seen various forms of stone sculptures, but working in bronze, frees up the craftsmen to really pour out his heart. We have already seen in the earlier post on Bronze Umai of Singapore Museum, about the Lost wax method. But here is a beautiful verse from a unique Devotee, one who fell in love with the Lord, or rather who made the Lord fall in love with her!! Aandal
( A chance search yielded a ref to the verse in English

My beautiful lover, it is as if he has put clay around me and
poured molten metal into my heart.

and thanks to Sri Dhivakar we have the actual verse below)

The verse in transliterated Tamil with meanings below

mazhaiyE! mazhaiyE! maN puRam pUSi uLLAi ninRa
mezhugu URRinARpOl URRu nal vE’nkaTattuL ninRa
azhagap pirAnAr tammai en ne’njattu agappaDat
tazhuva ninRu ennai tagaittuk koNDu URRavum vallaiyE

Oh rainy clouds! like the clay which embraces the wax mold, which on being fried in the oven melts the wax, The azhagar of tiruvenkatam has embraced me outside, and is melting me inside out and destroying me. Wont you first unite me with Him so that I can embrace Him closely just as I am imagining in my mind, and then shower your rains.

The protector that he is, how does the craftsmen bring the benevolence and love in his face. A face that should be so radiant that it can charm every devotee.

closeup of vishnu
the loving smile of vishnu

Not only that, he is Alankara Priya. Meaning, loves being dressed up.

the intricate work on the clothing

Now, we have seen the beauty, but the detailing ( hey i am coming to the topic just now)

Watch carefully. A test to your observation skills as usual.

the srivatsam
the srivatsam mark

Ok, a hint, watch closely, just above the right breast.


What is that. Not a barcode or a casting defect. Its the birth mark or mole of Vishnu. Read this sanskrit verse to know what it is ( thanks to Geetha Amma)

durdAntha daithya visikha ksahtha-pathrabhangam
veerasya tE VibudhanAyaka baahumadhyam |
SrIvathsa Kousthubha RamA VanamAlikAnkam
chinthAnubhUya labhathE charithArTathAm na: ||

Oh Dhaiva NaayakA! The unrighteous asurAs fight with You in battles and
wound Your chest with their arrows. You destroy them and yet bear the welt
originating from those arrows of the asurAs like a reminder of those
victorious battles. These arrow marks criss crossing each other on your chest
appear like a varNakkOlam (geometric patterns with different hues). On the
same Chest are seen the blue birth mark (maRu) celebrated as SrIvathsam,
he red gem known as Kousthubham, the wild flower garland revered as
VanamAlai (garland made up of wild flowers) and on top of every thing adorning
Your chest is golden-hued MahA LakshmI, who defines your auspicious
svabhAvam and Svaroopam. All of these special adornments on your chest shed
multiple reflections on the VarNakkOlam caused by the asurA’s arrows.
adiyEn’s mind enjoys the sevai of that valorous chest marked by so many
auspicious lakshaNams and considers itself as the most fortunate among all chethanams.

Now ladies and Gentlemen, thats how you enjoy a Chola Bronze.

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Today we head back to Pullamangai - Brahmapurisvarar temple. A treasure trove of miniature panels and we are going to see a whole ….lost for the right phrase to describe it!! Want to say something that will sound - like when Steve Irwin lands up on a viper’s nest or a pool filled with crocs. Isn’t she a beauty! Crickey, she’s a fiesty one!! How else to describe these. One particular sculpture, where the master sculptor - the master creator that he is, has tried to create the creator likeness. Well, if a creator creates his creator’s likeness - who is the creator. Read on to understand why i say this.

A very important legend is sculpted into these panels. The legend of Shiva - the one without an end or a beginning, the omni potent and omni present, the legend of Lingothbhava. This is a very important sculpture and a concept that was entwined into later temple building canons to occupy a permanent position on the the Shivaite temple architecture - into the Vimanam, positioned on the rear of the sanctum.

The objective of this post is not to hurt anyone’s sentiments, but just a simple reproduction of the legend as required to explain the sculpture.

Ligothbhavar panel pullamangai

There are ofcourse umpteen things to notice in this panel.

so much to see

To start with we see the whole composition from far. There are 4 different parts of this sculpture and we will take each one in detail to view and study.

The main Lingothbhava sculpture.

closeup of the panel

The legend first - For the uninitiated, Hinduism’s basic trinity play a big role here - The creator ( must be five faced before this episode) Brahma, The preserver Vishnu and the destroyer Shiva. The story goes thus, once there arose an argument between Brahma and Vishnu, as to whose role / job was bigger and thus who was numer uno. As they kept on arguing, a huge pillar of fire emerged in front of them and a heavenly voice declared that whoever can find the start or end of the pillar is the best. Brahma took the form of a Swan and flew upwards to reach the summit and Vishnu took the form of a Boar and started digging down to find the base. They continued for ages without any success, when finally Vishnu gave up. Brahma on the other hand, noticed a flower falling down. He asked where was it coming from and the flower replied that it was falling down for ages from the top, not wanting to give up, Brahma convinced the flower to lie and brought it as proof to Vishnu to state that he had won the wager and collected the flower from the summit. At this point, from inside the fiery pillar Shiva burst forth and plucked out the lying head of Brahma ( he became 4 faced henceforth), and since he had lied, made a ruling that henceforth he wasn’t fit for worship ( so you generally don’t see Hindu Shrines dedicated to Brahma in India). Incidentally the said flower was also made unfit for worshiping within temples henceforth.

Both Brahma and Vishnu accepted that their ego had made them not realise the obvious that it was Shiva in front of them and he was Aaadhi andan ( endless, no beginning , no end). Now we return to the sculpture to view the characters.

Brahma flying upwards, Vishnu as the Boar boring down. Shiva (sadly badly mutilated) bursting from inside the pillar.

closeup of flying brahma
flying brahma
vishnu as varaaham
shiva emerging from the pillar

To the left and right, of this main panel - we see amazing sculptures of Brahma and Vishnu.

vishnu - on the other side
Vishnu closeup
brahma -on one side
closeup of brahma
brahma closer
brahma - what a beauty

The facial features of Brahma are so exquisite - despite the legend, the sculptor has not once missed to shape the creator’s likeness - So, if a creator creates his creator’s likeness - who is the creator

Hey, this is not a movie or play, to end with the title. We have more beauties to take notice and enjoy.

We have some spectacular miniatures below the main panel, which we will see one by one. The panels first

the left side bottom row panel
the left side first row panels
the right side first row panels
the right side lower row panel

We have already seen the famous Chandesaanugrahamurthy sculpture from Gangaikonda cholapuram. He is a pint sized beauty of the same. Shiva is shown fondly bedecking a flower garland on Chandesa’s head.

miniature panels - chandesaanugraha murthy

The next is Vishnu lying down on the coils of Adisesha with Lakshmi and another attendant.

mahavishnu on adisheshan with lakshmi and an attendant

This looks like Shiva and Paravathi - The posture seems to resemble Shiva as Gangadhara

shiva paarvati - is it a gangadhara

The other side, we have three attendants, heavenly beings or royal persons

three attendants

Next to them, is a very interesting miniature again - Shiva as Maha Sadhashiva. or is it Brahma??

shiva - mahasadhashiva or brahma

Down below, we come to the last miniature in the panel ( there are of course some lovely Yaali rows which we will see in another subsequent post)

shiva parvathi and a ghana

This has Shiva and Parvathi , kind of sitting on a throne with one leg bent ( upto the Knee) and kind of casually put on the throne. Its so amazing that they could sculpt to this detail in this scale. There is a cute Shiva Ghana by the side as well. Well inorder to truly appreciate the greatness of this we got to give you our signature photo - a scale comparison.

to give you an idea of the size of these miniatures

Satheesh’s masterstroke …another miniature from the same temple but with a car key by its side.

Picture courtesy’s are for our inhouse specialist Satheesh and Varalaaru.com archives.

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