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An interesting conversation ensued from the previous post on the Ardhanari iconography, not as a direct question from Sri Dev, but as an offshoot. I thought of developing the same and presenting it here. The sculptures have endured considerable damage and hence have tried to present them as line drawings using simple traces.

At the outset, the objective of this post is not to show the differentiation between the male and the female portions of the sculpture, but to reflect the evolution from the shoes of the sculptor ( well he wouldn’t be wearing shoes then anyway !) and how he had ingeniously solved a complicated problem.

The anatomy shows certain basic differentiations between the male and the female forms of the human species. Without getting into the details, the sculptor was posed with a problem when it came to the Ardhanari form. He had to fuse the male and female forms into a single composite image, maintaining the differences between the two sides, while at the same time, making sure the sculpture doesn’t look grotesque but rather as an appealing image. To illustrate this I have chosen a few random samples and focused just on this question or rather just the solution ( for otherwise each of these images need a full post for themselves)

Lets see an early version of the Ardhanari form from the Pallava period ( not stating that this is the earliest form but more for ease of study). This sculpture is from the Dharma Raja Ratha of the Five Ratha complex in Mamallapuram.

dharmaraja ratham mallai

To make it easier have traced it, so that we may study it in detail.

ardhanari dharamaraja ratha

You can see the characteristic Pallava touches, in minimal jewelry and simple formation (predominantly linear structure), but what it lacks, is the life, which we usually feel in a Pallava sculpture - This shows this is a early Pallava sculpture, as we see in later Pallava styling, in most cases the subjects are shown in profile and highly fluid forms, they almost seem to be able to give the viewer a sense of movement though cut into stone. This form however, is very rigid and resembles ( for want of better examples) a fly that’s been swat or a toad thats run over on a road. I am a great fan of Pallava stone sculpture and have argued with many about their superiority over even later cholas, but this particular one,I have to put my hands up. Why? was it because the sculptor was trying this composite form for the first time. It does look so. The differentiations between the two halves except for the breast is not much. Below the waist, its so flat that it leaves you quite disappointed.

So, what could the sculptor do? It was obviously not the same sculptor, but lets imagine a school of sculptors who start refining the form.

Lets look at the next sample - please bear in mind that we have not spent time in dating these sculptures to be sure that this is the evolutionary road but just presenting a series for discussion sake .

agastyesvara temple perungudi

once again a trace to highlight or focus just on the key aspects of the sculpture.

ardhanari perungudi

You see that the sculptor has realised the need to highlight the gender differences and is focusing on aesthetics. He has given the waist on the female portion a good bend and tried to move that side into a tribanga pose. But this causes problems on the male side, so he had had to flex the right knee a bit. He has tried to bring in subtle changes in the hands, the left hand is more graceful while the right hand is more manly - resting on his hips. He has also brought in changes in the apparel, the saree wound around the legs in the lady side compared to kind of tight boxers for the man portion.

Lets progress a bit more into Chola land and see the perfected form.

vridhagirisvarar vriddachalam

A trace again to savor the beauty more

ardhanarai vridhachalam

You can see the female portion in full triple flexion ( tribanga) and to compensate for it, the right leg of Shiva is bent fully. This causes the male torso to lean at the awkward angle and though the sculpture would look pleasing it would not be aesthetically appealing. So he comes up with an ingenious solution. Make Shiva rest or lean on to something and the readily available option is his mount or vehicle - Nandhi. Presto, problem solved. Add lots of beautiful ornamentation, develop the differences in the dressing style and this perfected model becomes a standard for all Ardhanari images henceforth.

Lets check out our theory, rushing to Elephanta Caves

elephantaArdhanari

What a wonderful sculpture, such grace and you can hardly see the two forms merge - the combination is seamless. And our bull is there to give balance as well. Check out the trace. Ofcourse, there are some differences in the ornamentation and styling but the basics stand.

ardhanari elephanta

so how sure are we of this, meaning how do we test this theory. Ok, the male and female portions occupy the right and left sides by default, but then there is one particular sculpture which is an exemption, where they switch sides ( why ? need to find out)

vadapurisvara tiruvedjudi tjore 3

What does happen when this inversion happens and how does it support our theory. Watch the bull behind…

ardhanari transposed trivetkudi

He too has been turned around to face left, to support the male half. What do you say about this ?

We must follow this study with a study on bronze figurines and test the concept. Ofcourse the structural engineering side of the image, the volume of stone which would need support, could differ from the raw strength of metal. But thats another post…..

Photographs are from the American Institute of Asian studies archives

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27 Comments so far

art.e
  1  

vj, u have made an intersting study.( i am obsessed by arthanari principle and intend doing paintings in that theme

September 4th, 2009 at 15:46
dhivakar
  2  

கலைக்கல்லூரி உத்தியோகத்துக்குப் போவதாக சித்தமோ.. அருமையான விரிவுரை.

இடங்கால் ஆடுவதும் வலதுகால் மாறி ஆடுவது கூட சிற்பியின் ரசனைகளில் ஒன்று.

விடைக்கு விடை.. சரியான தலைப்புதான்.

September 4th, 2009 at 15:53
Manii
  3  

what more we need to describe the beauty of arthanareeswar than this narration !!! we find bliss in things which are most intimate to us. this description and the sculptors provides more bliss. by just reading and viewing itself. i wonder how happy would be the writer (vijay) when he wrote this !!! “kallilae kalai vannam mattum alla, kadavulaiyae kaangiroam” :)

September 4th, 2009 at 16:17
  4  

Hi Vj,
The taces have worked out really well…

I thought you would post the bronze too…waiting for it!

September 4th, 2009 at 18:25
  5  

Vairam is right. Waiting for the bronzes..
Chandra

September 4th, 2009 at 19:05
திவா
  6  

சந்தோஷம்! enjoyed!

September 4th, 2009 at 19:22
R.Devarajan
  7  

சிவ பெருமானுக்குரியதாகப் அறுபத்து நான்கு மூர்த்தி பேதங்களைச் சிவாகம நூல்கள் பகரும்.
அவற்றுள் ஒன்று ”கேசவார்த மூர்த்தி”.
இடப்புறம் திருமாலும், வலப்புறம் சிவனும் சேர்ந்த சங்கர நாராயண வடிவம்.
முற்கால பல்லவரின் அர்தநாரீசுவர வடிவமும் வளைவுகளின்றி அதைப்போலவே அமைந்துள்ளது.

தேவ்

September 4th, 2009 at 20:04
Satish
  8  

Wonderful Vijay. Thanks for the post.
I thought Ajantha predates Pallavas…is it not older than pallava? Then if Ajanatha has the grace, then pallava might not have been well trained :) OR as Mr.Devarajan has pointed out this might be an extension of Hariharan.
And the reverse image with female on the right side…may the sculptor got the trace from his master and due to neglegence turned the page the other side and came up with the reverse image and later realized its the wrong side (but being stone no ctrl Z possible. just wild imagination :) (antha kalathula trace paper irunthathanu kekkka koodathu…)..

September 4th, 2009 at 20:57
anandhinatarajan
  9  

thanks vijay,
very good describtion of arthanareeshwar

September 5th, 2009 at 22:21
  10  

//இரண்டு பாகங்களுக்கும் வேற்றுமைகள் ஒன்றும் பெரிதாக இல்லை, வெளிப்படையாக ஒன்றே ஒன்றுதான் தெரிகின்றது - மார்பகங்கள். கால்கள் இரண்டும் வித்தியாசம் பெரிதாக எதுவும் இன்றி ஒரே போல் இருப்பது வருத்தமே.//

பெண்ணுக்குரிய நளினம் இல்லை, விறைப்பாக இருக்கின்றார் அல்லவா?

//அதை சரி செய்ய ஆணின் காலை சற்று மடித்து - சவாலே சமாளி !!//

ஆஹா!

//அம்மைக்கு புடவை, ஐயனுக்கு அரை டிரௌசர் !!//

ஹிஹிஹி, புலித்தோலாடை அது! :D

//ஆஹா “விடை”யே விடை. ஒய்யாரமாக சாய்ந்து நிற்க அவரது கையை வாகனமான விடை மீது இறங்க விட்டு சிற்பத்தை முடித்துவிட்டான். //

“விடை”யால் விடை கிடைத்தது. உங்கள் அருமையான ஆய்வுக்கும், உழைப்புக்கும் பாராட்டுகள்.

//இங்கு இடம் மாறி இருக்கும் அம்மை அப்பன் பாதிகள். பாருங்கள்.//

இதுவும் எலிபண்டாவா?? பார்த்தமாதிரி இல்லையே??

தேவ் அவர்கள் சொல்லி இருப்பதுபோல் சங்கரநாராயணன் உண்டு. ஆனால் முற்காலப் பல்லவர் சிற்பம் அதைப் பிரதிபலிக்கிறதா தெரியலை! பார்க்கணும்!

September 6th, 2009 at 17:39
  11  

வணக்கம் கீதா அம்மா

இடம் மாறி இருப்பது திருவேட்குடி வடபுரீர்ஸ்வரர்

விஜய்

September 6th, 2009 at 17:47
  12  

interestg illustration

September 8th, 2009 at 14:12
anandhinatarajan
  13  

arputham. edammari erupathu ghavanika vendiya sirpam. pallava sirpam ellavatrikum mumoodi

September 12th, 2009 at 9:52
nallasivam
  14  

i think thiruchengode hill temple near erode has the oldest ardanareewarar.this temple is mentioned in silapadikaram.here ardanareewarar is the moolavar and made of herbal mixture called navapasaanam.it is a 6 feet tall majestic statue.

September 20th, 2010 at 21:36
  15  

dear mr nallasivam,

can you give us the ref from silambu.

rgds
vj

September 21st, 2010 at 18:30
nallasivam
  16  

seerkezhu senthilum CHENKODUM venkundrum
erakamum neenka iraivankai velandre…….

-vanchi kaandam;kundrakkuravai;paattumadai;2nd verse.
there is a sub shrine for murugan in this temple called chengottu velavar.ilango adigal is mentioning him.any way the temple is more than 1800 years old.

September 24th, 2010 at 11:20
Parvadha Vardhini
  17  

Very nice analysis and very beautiful sculptures!!

October 1st, 2010 at 20:02
  18  

Hello, I enjoyed reading your articles on “Poetry in Stone”. You have taken great efforts to collect quite interesting information on Ardhanari.

Similarly you may find similar interest in Ajanta Caves in Maharashtra - one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites….

Among the most important monuments in India are the magnificent caves at Ajanta and Ellora, both featuring some of the world’s most exquisite rock carvings. At Ajanta and Ellora, statues and monumental structures were chipped out of solid basalt rock, where as at Ajanta, one can also see the most remarkable cave paintings which has survived over the centuries.

The caves are now like chapters of splendid epic in visual form, recalling the life of the Buddha, and illustrating tales from Buddhist Jatakas(fables). They are cut from the volcanic lavas of the Deccan trap into a steep crescent-shaped hillside in a forested ravine of the Sahyadri Hills. After the late seventh century, the jungle took over and they lay unnoticed for centuries. These caves were only rediscovered in 1819, by a group of British tiger hunters.

http://www.grandeurmaharashtra.com

The caves at Ajanta not only contain sculptures, but remarkably preserved frescoes as well. The frescoes and sculptures of Ajanta are from the heavy period after the death of Buddha when the priests felt the need to give a representational form to their teachings, of Buddha to proliferate. Thus began the process of Buddhism acquiring some of the sensuousness of Hinduism. They are secluded and were discovered by accident only in the 19th century, which explains why the monuments escaped the depredations of invading armies.

The miraculously preserved paintings and sculptures that decorate 30 Ajanta caves cut into the basalt rock of a beautiful crescent-shaped gorge provide the most extensive idea of early Buddhist artistic traditions in India. They are also the sources for iconography and styles found in later Central Asian and Far Eastern Buddhist Art.

http://www.grandeurmaharashtra.com

The Ajanta caves date mostly from two periods: the second and first centuries B.C., then the late fifth century A.D., when the Vakataka rulers, especially Harishena, were energetic patrons. These caves contain the most impressive sculptures, ranging from votive images to narrative tableaus with many figures and an elaborate decorative motif.

Ajanta caves also have India’s only extensive series of Buddhist paintings of such virtuosity, quality, and wide range of subjects. The masterpieces retell the life story of the Buddha and reveal the life and culture of the people of the times, royal court settings, family life, street scenes and superb studies of animals and birds. The Jatakas relate the Buddha’s previous two births-showing the progress of the soul. Ajanta’s excavations are adorned with a swirling profusion with murals.

Over the period of seven centuries, the cave temples of Ajanta evolved into works of incredible art. Architectures continue to be awestruck by the sheer brilliance of the ancient builders and techniques, which, undaunted by the limitations of their tools, materials, and skills, created a marvel of artistic and architectural splendour. In all, 30 caves were carved, 15 of which were left unfinished; some of them were viharas (monasteries) complete with stone pillows carved onto the monks’ stone beds and others were chaityas (Buddhist cathedrals). All the caves with intricate sculptures and murals depict the many incarnations of Buddha.

The first to be excavated was Cave 10, followed by the first Hinayana caves (in which the Buddha is not depicted in human form), on either side. Later Mahayana caves were discovered, completing the spectrum of Buddhist development in India.

Time has taken its toll on many of the murals, and modern- day restoration projects have even contributed to the near- ruin of some of the work. Despite this, the paintings continue to enthral, and it’s hard to imagine the patience and profound sense of spiritual duty and devotion that led to the creation of this, arguably the best Buddha site in India, the voluptuousness of much of the imagery.

Please read more details about Ajanta & Ellora caves at http://www.grandeurmaharashtra.com and I will be happy to have your comments.

March 22nd, 2011 at 17:34
  19  

Hello, I enjoyed reading your articles on “Poetry in Stone”. You have taken great efforts to collect quite interesting information on Ardhanari.

Similarly you may find similar interest in Ajanta Caves in Maharashtra - one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites….

Among the most important monuments in India are the magnificent caves at Ajanta and Ellora, both featuring some of the world’s most exquisite rock carvings. At Ajanta and Ellora, statues and monumental structures were chipped out of solid basalt rock, where as at Ajanta, one can also see the most remarkable cave paintings which has survived over the centuries.

The caves are now like chapters of splendid epic in visual form, recalling the life of the Buddha, and illustrating tales from Buddhist Jatakas(fables). They are cut from the volcanic lavas of the Deccan trap into a steep crescent-shaped hillside in a forested ravine of the Sahyadri Hills. After the late seventh century, the jungle took over and they lay unnoticed for centuries. These caves were only rediscovered in 1819, by a group of British tiger hunters.

Please read more details about Ajanta & Ellora caves at http://www.grandeurmaharashtra.com and I will be happy to have your comments.

March 22nd, 2011 at 17:37
  20  

thanks Sandeep. Its long due to cover Ajanta n Ellora. Fortunately some of our team have visited and we are working on interesting posts.

rgds
vj

March 22nd, 2011 at 17:45
Chandramouli
  21  

Very interesting piece. Am still catching up in this domain.

I remember having seen the Hermaphrodite sculptor in the Louvre museum. Always wondered why the western architects resorted to a Top (Female) and Bottom (Male) composition against the Indian Left - Right approach.

Also the nuances in the Hermaphroide sculptor has not been this significantly carved out. The legs seem to be that of a woman’s. Do you have any comparisons between the Ardhanareeshwarar and the western equivalent form?

April 25th, 2011 at 17:47
  22  

Dear Mr Chandramouli,

Can you give the link for the Louvre sculpture you are talking off.

rgds
vj

April 26th, 2011 at 15:52
Chandramouli
  23  

Vijay,

Thanks for the follow up. I found this link-
http://www.louvre.fr/llv/oeuvres/detail_notice.jsp?CONTENT%3C%3Ecnt_id=10134198673225803&CURRENT_LLV_NOTICE%3C%3Ecnt_id=10134198673225803&FOLDER%3C%3Efolder_id=9852723696500817&bmLocale=en

I hope you find this useful.

Regards.

Mouli

April 26th, 2011 at 16:32
  24  

The link is not working - says under construction. Maybe you can send a screen shot instead

rgds
vj

April 27th, 2011 at 7:33
injavaven
  25  

brilliant insight on the addition of Nandhi in balancing & giving life to Ardhan. Where have yu found the earliest one of this kind? How often does the f side have only one arm as opposed to the m side’s 2 ? Another area for study.

October 14th, 2011 at 14:57
  26  

True, kathie..so much to learn

Normally the male Gods are shown with four hands and consorts shown with two. If the female form is a separate deity then she is shown the addnl arms / attributes

rgds
vj

October 18th, 2011 at 10:16
Krishnakumar T.K.
  27  

VJ,

I believe the reason for having Nandi on the side of Shiva is because Nandi is the vahan of Shiva. It need not be for the balancing act.

Also, in Shaktism Uma is given more importance and she is found on the right side instead of left side.

Regards,
KK

June 24th, 2016 at 20:27

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