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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28 Comments so far


கல்லிலே கலை வண்ணம் கண்டான் சிற்பி, அந்த கல்லில் கதை வண்ணம் காட்டுகிறார் நம் கலைஞர் விஜய்…அற்புதம்!

June 16th, 2009 at 21:45
Kathie B.

Wonderful !
When there in ‘95 I didn’t take time to examine the small reliefs. I Thank goodness for the Br. Indologist, J.C. Harle, who had a photo of it in his great tome: Art & Archit of the I. Subcontinent, Penguin ‘86. Nart. is there, too. Pullamangai has among the finest sculpture in TN.
I’ll send you my favorite Korravai from here.
She’s so quietly beautiful. Guy offering head, also.

June 16th, 2009 at 21:50

Brahma’s face peculiarly looks like a Buddhist or south east face. The pointed nose , long ears and curved thin eye brows typically look like the Buddha face we see these days.

June 16th, 2009 at 21:53

Hi, i enjoy the blog.Mostly the westside or back side of garbagra has Ligothbavar.But in Thyagarajatemple backside Vishnu is there. But in Moolavar Vanmeekinathar Back side has Lingothbhavar.Like ponnamangalam there are many small silpas resampling Pallavas of kanchi.Because It was renovated by Aathithakarikalan elder brother of rajaraja. -anandhinatarajan

June 16th, 2009 at 21:55

well VJ,

The legend about Siva proving himself to be bigger than both Brahma and Vishnu is the one on which the story behind Tiruvannamalai Agni Lingam is based upon… I think there is a similar panel even in the Jambukesvarar temple in Tiruchy… of course in Vaishnava parlance… Vishnu is the creator of Brahma and giving him responsibility to create the universe… and the first person to be created by Brahma (before creation of animal and human life plus flora and fauna) was none other than his own son, Shiva… so in that way Iyengars consider Vishnu to be the father of Brahma and the thatha of Lord Shiva… so how can there by any fight between Gods who are kith and kin of each other…. ??

June 16th, 2009 at 22:23

In any case Brahma sprouts out of the nabhi or navel of Vishnu is it not? so there is no question of there being any fight or argument about who is bigger among the Gods.. be it Brahma, Siva or Vishnu among each other…

June 16th, 2009 at 22:24

u bring back the magic of GKC..I love that place

June 16th, 2009 at 22:57

An excellent documentation.

June 17th, 2009 at 1:06

//Shiva as Maha Sadhashiva. or is it Brahma??//

mmmmm???? still doubting! will look into it again.

simply superb!! Excellent work! Great as usual!

June 17th, 2009 at 6:17


The sculpture of Brahma is so beauty,yes it almost look like buddha and other tiny minatures are also really wonderful

June 17th, 2009 at 6:20

இந்தக் கதாசிரியர்கள் அழகான பெண்களையோ இயற்கையையோ வர்ணிக்கும்போது படைத்த பிரமனின் பெயரை மறக்காமல் போட்டுவிடுவார்கள். ஆனால் கல்லாசிரியன் (சிற்பிதான்) கதாசிரியனை விட மேலானவன். அழகைப் படைத்த பிரமனையே எத்தனை அழகாகப் படைக்கிறேன் பார்.. என்று வரிந்துகட்டிக் கொண்டு செதுக்கி இருக்கிறான் பாருங்கள். பிரமனின் அழகு கொள்ளை போகிறது..

அத்தனை சிற்பங்களும் அதி சௌந்தர்யம். சதீஷுக்கு ஒரு ‘பலே’!!


June 17th, 2009 at 10:02

when creator is being creator all the beauties of the cosmos is reflected on the creation !!!

June 17th, 2009 at 11:33

Must visit.. :) .. Thanks for introducing such wonderful temples to us.

June 17th, 2009 at 12:22

i think the 5th photo from the end (one of the miniatures in the panel) is a depiction of shiva soothing parvathi ,who is angry on him for adorning ganga on his head…..one of his hands seems to bear the locks with ganga while he holds parvathi’s cheeks in his other hand….one can find a similar miniature on the pillars of darasuram………

June 17th, 2009 at 23:41
Satish Kumar Arunachalam

Wonderful post. I think the panel in question - Sadashiva or Brahma - is Sadashiva or Siva because we find some figures all around..one even sitting near the leg. I dont think Brahma is depicted with figures sorrounding or like people listening…which is more common with Shiva panels.

And the other one should be ganagadhara…for the reasons quoted by Gnanambikai…

And, is the three attendees - Rama, Lakshmana and Sita? The left most figure has a different hair dress than the other two. In between the middle and right figure, something looks like a bow…The posture of the two figures is masculine and the left figure is more feminine…


June 18th, 2009 at 3:02

Vishnu’s face (pic 10 of 24) looked like Asian (Oriental or pertaining to Mongloid Race). Is my observation way out of mark?


June 19th, 2009 at 1:07

Sorry, it is not the 10 out of 24 pictures, it is the 9th one .

June 19th, 2009 at 1:08

2006 ல் ..புள்ளமங்கை.. என் பதிவுகள்…

Chandrasekaran J

June 19th, 2009 at 11:23

A wonderful post. I salute the creators of such superb panels around the places of worship.

June 21st, 2009 at 22:46
Thanga.. Jagadeesan

really amzing work tat u r doing now. mind blowing…
researcher lik me, will get a much more informations from this site. thanks for being keep doing this!!!!!!!!

October 5th, 2009 at 12:43

dear mr jagadeesan

thanks for your nice words and happy to see the contents are interesting to you. we are eager to know more about your field of research. Please do share with us when you have time


October 5th, 2009 at 12:51
சிவக்குமார் .வெ

//கதையில் சற்று தாழ்ந்தாலும், பிரம்மனின் முகத் தோற்றம் அப்பப்பா அபாரம். ஒரு படைப்பாளி தன்னை படைத்தவனை படைக்கும் பொது - யார் படைப்பாளி யார் படைப்பு. தலைப்பு புரிந்ததா //

பிரம்மாவின் புன்சிரிப்பும் , உயிரோட்டமான கண்களும் , வரைந்த ஓவிய உதடுகளும் …..சிற்பமா?ஓவியமா ?
வியக்கவைக்கிறது …!!!
அறிய படைப்பு !!!
வாழ்த்துக்கள் விஜய் .

December 20th, 2009 at 21:49

வில் புருவம்
ஓவிய கண்கள்
வரைந்த உதடு
முக்கோண மூக்கு
பளிங்கு கன்னம்
மெல்லிய புன்னகை
நீள் காதுகள்
தொங்கும் தோடுகள்
கல் மகுடம்
மூன்று முகம்
படைத்தவனே …
உன்னை ரசிக்க
எனக்கு மட்டுமே தெரியும் …!!!
என் ரசனையை
யாருடனும் பகிரிந்து கொள்ள
நான் விரும்பவில்லை
ஏன் தெரியுமா ?
நீ என்னை பார்த்து மட்டுமே
புன்னகைக்க வேண்டும்.
உன் புன்னகை
எனக்கு மட்டுமே சொந்தம்.
ஆம் நான் சுயநலக்காரன் தான் …!!!

December 21st, 2009 at 22:19

புள்ளமங்கை பிரம்மன்
என்னை பிரம்மிக்கவைத்த
பிரம்மன் !!!

December 21st, 2009 at 22:29

அருமை சிவக்குமார். நேரே சென்று பாருங்கள்….கவிதை அப்போது வருகிறதா என்று பார்ப்போம். ஏனெனில் எனக்கு வார்த்தை வரவில்லை !!


January 6th, 2010 at 8:04

Amazing array of information you’ve presented… Thank you. I learnt the mythology of Ligothbhavar for the first time… :)
Keep helping us learn…

July 14th, 2012 at 7:07

thanks Ramjee. keep visting


July 17th, 2012 at 12:26
முரளிதீர தொண்டைமான்

அருமை. உங்களது இந்த சீரியப்பணி தொடரட்டும்..!

July 28th, 2014 at 20:03

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