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Archives by Month: September, 2009

Why is the genius of the Pallava sculptor not recognised despite numerous examples which stare right at us. Take for example, these two sets of sculptures from the Arjuna Ratha of the famous Five ratha complex ( whoever came up with these fancy names for these rathas!!), we have already seen a masterpiece in the other wall. We take two more such from the other two walls. Each a gem on its own.

While we were discussing the evolution of the Ardhanari image, we postulated on how the sculptor had brought in the Bull mount to balance the composite form. But was it just a freak moment of sheer brilliance or was it an evolution. Today we are going to see that it was not just a convenient introduction but a masterful confluence of two forms of Shiva.

Lets look at the this form of shiva - rishabandhika - Shiva with his mount. This is from the Arjuna Ratha in Mamallapuram.

rishanbandaka shiva arjuna ratha closeup

These sculptures are classic Pallava styling with minimalistic ornamentation, pleasing body lines but spectacular styling.

I know some of you are already asking, whats so great about this sculpture.It looks pretty normal if not falling short. There seems to be something wrong with his torso and especially his chest. Did the sculptor make a mistake or ….?

Ok, Let me explain.

First of all, its a monolith, carved out of living rock, second its a relief sculpture and lastly, it carries the hall mark of Pallava craftsmanship.

arjuna ratha
arjuna ratha 2
closer look at shiva

Take a look at this angle, you will understand what i mean.

rishabashiva arjunaratha

For Shiva is sculpted not facing you but half turned in profile. See how the master sculptor has made use of the available canvas - since he didnt have enough space to sculpt Shiva facing fully out, he has made masterly use of the depth available to sculpt him in profile

bottom view to show depth

Though this is not a good angle ( thanks Ashok for the picture, you always come with different angles! ), but i am showing this to demonstrate his amazing use of depth and perspective. You can also see the angle of shoulders indicating how the torso has been angled to show a sideward pose. How he managed to visualise it in stone and managed to deliver is mind boggling.

Now, you will be able to better understand the Ardhanari evolution as a confluence of this image mingling with the Ardhanari.

As another example of the Pallava sculptor’s superlative stonecraft, we visit another spectacular pose from the other wall of the Arjuna ratha.

arjuna ratha royal couple

For a second, you forget that this is stone.

the other angle

Not that angle, view it from this angle.

closeup of royal couple
the right angle

Look at how he has sculpted the Royal couple, the lady is calling her beloved who turns his head to answer her. Just close your eyes for a second, visualise her voice. ” My dear lover, “.. He turns around ” What is it sweetheart ….”

did u call me

Breathing life into stone, that’s what the Pallava sculptor did!! It just needs some patient viewing and tuning to his frequency and wavelength.

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How much would you give in for your better half ? Sorry to disappoint you, but we are still talking sculpture here.

We had seen in the previous post how the Ardhanari image evolved including and highlighting stylistic elements of the male and female portions and the necessity of the sculptor to bring in the bull ( Nandhi) to balance the image. We stopped with stone sculptures with a promise to bring similar study into metal/bronze images.

Chola bronzes are really stunning creations of sublime beauty. The lure of such pieces are so great that once you are caught in their timeless charm, its difficult not to fall in love with them. So how better to start this discussion on the evolution of Ardhanari form from stone to metal, but to showcase a stunning bronze - not any bronze but a very very special bronze. ( collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio)

Once again a few line drawings ( tracings) to take you through the stylistic aspects

A closeup first.

ardhanari bronze

Some interesting questions. Note Shiva’s side has two hands while Umai has only one. Read somewhere that its to show the male dominance - how ridiculous. This entire concept is based on showcasing the equality of the two sexes! Why then are the two hands for Shiva? Well lets step a bit back and see the larger picture

ardhanari bronze 2

The exaggerated curve of the waist for Umai , the tribanga ( triple flexion) all follow the styling in stone to the T. ( lets compare the two)

ardhanarai vridhachalam
ardhanari bronze 2

Notice the splendid work on Umai’s hands. Picture her delicate fingers gently holding a lotus by its stalk! Compare it with Shiva’s hand holding the Ax. They balance out each other in terms of composition. So now to our pet theory.

Lets for a second take out the Bull and the additional hand and see the image for arguments sake.

ardhanari bronze without nandhi

You can see the torso leaning awkardly to the right, for want of a better example - in a crowded bus, imagine you reaching out to the conductor to buy a ticket - thats the pose. Jokes, apart, is shiva giving into Parvathi’s might or is Parvathi being swayed / pulled by shiva? Anyway, the second hand of Shiva resting on the bull is purely to balance the tilt.

Arvind raised an interesting question. The flexing of shiva’s leg.

Quote: “does the bent knees and the posture of the lower limbs on the male side indicate a longer limb (as much as it does muscular limb, which is pronounced in certain sculptures and visually identifiable).
Given the bend of the limb and also the lean of the hip, though I get a feel of longer limb on the male side”

Welcome viewers views on this. We will study this in similar bronze sculptures of simple ( not composite ) forms in an other post.

Hey, but this was introduced as no ordinary bronze. Whats so special about this bronze?

ardhanari bronze3
chola bronze

Its an unique style - a composite icon formed with half a male, half a female, a bull all framed into a Trident. Wow!! If this is not poetry, what is!!!

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