Friends, Its with great pleasure that we present to you our anniversary post. Exactly a year ago, urged on by friends and well wishers we embarked on this remarkable journey on uncharted ground. For us, it was a modest start but with lofty ambitions. Its been an eventful 365 days, not restricting to South India and temple art, we have traversed almost the whole of South East Asia, spanning Stone sculpture, Bronzes, Cave art, in the process compiling 150 bi lingual posts covering wide gamut of subjects,sharing a common goal - to spread art awareness.Its been a journey of learning and discovery to us and am sure to our loyal readers as well. Along the way, we met many interesting friends, many who contributed to the richness of this pioneering effort. In our small but significant way, we believe we have succeeded in instilling the love to appreciate sculpture in our readers by presenting them a unique perspective of temple art. A lot of work goes into these posts, sometimes months are spent in researching for the posts, waiting for freinds to share the right photos, the right angles, experts are consulted, rare books are sourced from good friends, the essence of all these are distilled and shared with you in a form that can be appreciated easily by all. As we step into our second year with all your wishes, blessings and support, we present to you another of our special posts.
This is one such post which starts off as a nonchalant conversation and blossoms into a beauty, while emphasizing the need for experts. While discussing with Vairam on the previous post, we discussed the iconography of two very similar looking bronzes. One a dancing Balakrishna and another a dancing Sambandhar. See this exhibit in Tanjore museum ( they are identified properly and exhibited side by side - thankfully - Picture courtesy Satheesh)
To the untrained ( even many museums and sites are not clear) eye, both look very similar and are often mistaken for one another, or given both the titles to be on the safe side.
Take a look at these two bronzes. At first glance, they both seem the same.
But here comes the need for expert advise. Spurred by the doubt, we wrote to one of the foremost experts on bronzes today, Dr Nagaswamy, who replied to us sameday! That advise from the great man himself, who takes time to indulge and educate novices like us, is this post.
Lets look at the bronzes one more time,there seem some subtle differences especially with the pose of the right hand !
We first look at this sculpture of dancing Balakrishna - the clues lie in his right chest. Do you notice the triangular Srivatsam mark just above the right chest !! refer the earlier post on the same. No doubts, its confirmed that this is Krishna. Notice how the right hand is facing the viewer - Abhaya hastam, offering protection to the devotee.
Now, lets see the other sculpture. ( Many thanks to Stuart Lee - the left hand - spectacular capture - from chennai museum and Sakthis for patiently assiting with the others from singapore asian civilisations museum )
This is the more popular bronze, of Saint Sambandhar. The Chola kings were great patrons of Shiva,the very first verse of the Thevaram Hymns were sung by Sambandhar and aptly this sculpture depicts that scene.
According to legend, when Sambandhar was three years old his parents took him to the Shiva temple where Shiva and his consort Parvati appeared before the child.”parvathi fed her milk in a golden cup” . His father saw drops of milk on the child’s mouth and asked who had fed him, whereupon the boy pointed to the sky and responded with the song Thodudaya Seviyan - the first verse of the Tevaram.
the Lord has an ear on which a lady`s ear-jewel is worn.
He rides on a bull.
having worn a spotlessly pure white crescent moon of a single phase.
He smeared himself with the ash in the cremation ground which has the nature of a forest.
the thief who has captivated my mind
this person is really the great one who resides gladly in Piramapuram possessing greatness, where the Lord bestowed his grace on Piramaṉ who is seated in a (lotus) flower having petals, who bowed to him and worshiped him, in the distant past.
For a better understanding of this scene and to hear the verse being recited in this video capture.
Thodudaiya seviyan video
Now, that you have visualised the scene, think of how the sculptor showed this in bronze. And that is the clue to the identity of this bronze as well.
“The father asked who had fed him, whereupon the boy pointed to the sky”
Notice the right hand of the bronze. The index finger.
Let me get you the right photo angle to highlight this point of movement in chola sculpture.
Notice that the index finer is at an angle and gives you a visual impression of being in the process of pointing upwards, its not yet finished traversing to the point of pointing vertically up. Such finesse in sculpting this image. Truly masterclass.
Here are some more splendid bronzes from Delhi Museum, Chennai museum, Freer Museum.
Now, from above its pretty clear to identify the bronzes
The srivatsam is quite visible, so its krishna
This is clearly Sambandhar - as can be seen from the right hand and also the distinct ornamentation of similar bronzes.
The sketch below, while doesn’t show the srivatsam, the right hand index finger does points to the sky. So it should be Sambandhar as per reasoning above.
we thank you all once again for your continued patronage of our site and we look forward to receiving more photos and information from your temple / museum visits.
We take this opportunity to wish all our supporters, well wishers and guides who have stood by us, motivated us and continue to inspire us to do more. The list is endless but our thanks rise from the bottom of our hearts individually to all of you.
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