Archives by Month: September, 2009

Friends, thanks for following the posts and offering your encouraging words. Please note these are not thoroughly researched or expert opinions, but merely our path of learning which we are sharing with you. We do not want to say that this is correct, but this sharing is more to inspire many more to walk this path. We try and take care to make sure that we do not publish something that is grossly wrong, but if and when mistakes or another reading is there, we encourage readers to enlighten us as well. Why this long disclaimer for this post, you may ask, well the post is like that.

Today, we are to see part one of a series on the evolution of the Pallava Somaskanda icon. At the outset, we offer our thanks to Dr Gift, whose online resource is heavily relied on in this series.


This series is aimed at asking questions and find simple yet logical solutions, but the puzzle is indeed big. So without scaring you away, lets jump into the introduction of this series. The Pallava Somaskanda.

The basic argument which will be used in this series is evolution and see how the sculpture evolved into its current form. What is its current form? Borrowing these beautiful bronzes to show the form in its final evolved iconography


To study their features and compare we will also show you tracings ( copies) as line drawings

modern somaskanda front
modern somaskanda reverse

This is current day bronze. But do we have the first first / earliest or atleast earliest surviving prototype. Yes, we do have. Its in the upper tier of the Dharamaraja Ratha of the five ratha complex in Mamallapuram.

Somaskanda dharamaraja ratha
somaskanda dharmaraja ratha

Since this is an intro post, we just let it sink in. In the following posts of this series we will travel around the region, and try to find a logical sequence to the evolution of this image.

Photo credits:
Special thanks to www.Varalaaru.com and www.exoticindiaart.com for the images

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Thanks to a chance visit to the local museum along with Sakthis, we are seeing an amazing Chola stone sculpture - Vishnu. Working with granite is a true test for a sculptor, to bring out the soft benevolent grace of Vishnu into the hard stone - working with a iron chisel shaping his supple cheeks, hammering away at his immaculate ornaments, it must have been so fulfilling to him to come out successful in this test of his skill with zero place for error.

vishnu stone acm sin

Sadly, this museum exhibit has been subjected to some deliberate acts of vandalism - a nose cut would be inappropriate to use here, but such stone sculptures would have had to be scrapped and not suitable for worship !! Its a painful realisation of human need and greed , a human hand created such a thing of beauty while another destroyed it, Gold, God and Glory are indeed engines of great motivation and destruction.

Letting aside the disfigurement, the beauty of this sculpture doesn’t shed its secrets easily to a casual viewer. Leonardo da Vinci apparently said that ” There are three classes of people: those who see. Those who see when they are shown. Those who do not see”


What is there to see in this sculpture. Not wanting to go into too much depth, will take a perfect ( to be read as non disfigured one) later to discuss the different aspects.

One is his brilliant lion motif belt buckle.

lion belt buckle

The other is more interesting and one which we studied in the bronze cast figures. The Mole - srivatsam being represented here as a triangular projection.

chola vishnu stone

The sculptor took great care to depict this, for you have to watch a stone worker work to chip away with his chisel removing layer upon layer to create this effect or projection in stone.

closeup of srivatsam

Can we study this in comparison to the bronze and maybe check in other collections and see how this mark evolved!!

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