Archive for August 13th, 2009

The moment we hear of the Indian section of Museum exhibits the world over, we immediately visualise beautiful Chola Bronzes. Most Museums have their fair share of such beauties - we would normally see a Nataraja, a Vishnu, a Somaskanda, Sambandar. But today, being Krishna Jayanthi, thought i would share a very rare bronze from the Cleveland Museum.

yashoda n krishna cleveland museum

The dating of the sculpture as per the exhibit, says it late chola - ie 12 C, basically due to the lack of elaborate ornamentation. But then even very early chola bronzes carried basic ornaments, though they were not very heavy, they were spectacular in designs. In comparison, the images of the shaivite saints were mostly stark in their portrayal keeping their monk like status. So, what is so rare about this bronze. Firstly very few such exist, secondly is the superb handling of the scene. Ok, we are talking of the bronze of Yashoda breast feeding baby Krishna.

Its a very emotional surreal sculpture, a foster mother, offering her breast to her adopted child, a Queen’s son being fed by a milkmaid!! So is this the reason for the sparse ornamentation?

The sculpture is rare, but the scene that it depicts has been sung by the saints long back. Perialwar sings thus

irumalaipola tirintha mallar ( the two wrestlers who roamed as two huge mountains) iruvarangameriseithaai ( burnt their bodies - destroyed). un (your)
thirumalinthuthigazmaarvu ( the heart where lakshmi graciously resides) thekkavanthu ( to store) enalguleri ( you climbed my lap)
orumulaivaaimaduthu ( you took one breast in your lips) orumulaiyai nerudikkondu ( playing with the other breast) irumulaiyum ( both breasts) muraimuraiya yengiyengi iruthunaayo ( one after the other, you satiated your thirst)

yashodha krishna cleveland musuem

What a splendid verse, and noting more required to explain the beauty of this bronze.

But the styling still raises some doubts. Normally chola bronzes are processional images - come with a base with options to stick poles into the holes and carry them. But this doesn’t look like a ceremonial processional image. Maybe made for private collection by a King!! But then Chola Kings especially of that period are said to be a bit biased towards Shaivism!!

picture courtesy


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