Door guardians are the least noticed even today and no exceptions for these mighty but neglected gentlemen and ladies in sculpture - infact it pains me to see men made to stand like statues in popular resorts mocking them !. They are a eclectic mix of emotion and styles and they are dear to me ( as to a few friends who helped this post come up). So was surprised when i came across a book reference in another book - what struck me was the title of the book - THE CULT OF WEAPONS. THE ICONOGRAPHY OF AYUDHA PURUSHAS, by Sri. V. R Mani.

We had been discussing door guardians and horned door guardians and its been my wish to bring out a dedicated series on them, so we rushed to grab a copy (me, satheesh and Arvind) - It was not a large book ( was a bit disappointed) - for if you leave out the plates, bibliography - it was just 45 pages. But the book more than made up for its lack of volume with quality of content. One particular focus on a Chalukyan door guardian, from Pattadakkal, caught my eye. We had earlier carried a series on the Pallava horned door guardians based on an article by Dr. Gift Siromoney, which was more like a theory or a postulate - saying the door guardians could be the personifications of the weapons - ayudha purushas. But this sculpture, a beauty at that, leaves us in no doubt. ( Thanks Kathie - cant imagine what i would do without your help for the image!!)

pattadakkal tirisoolanathar

A very very splendid relaxed stance, leaning slightly to his right, bending his right leg and balancing his weight on his club / mace. The snake on the mace is lively as well.

lets take a closer look at the head dress - our point of interest.

closeup of tirisoolanathar

He is four armed ( early Pallava door guardians were two armed - reminds me to do a post on Arvind’s visit to Kanchi for later Pallava door guardians !) , what he holds in his upper right arm is not clear , but his upper left arm is holding his own attribute - a differently shaped trident or trishool. His lower hand postures are relaxed and go with the overall composition ( again, reminds me to do a series on the hand mudras !!). But the major find for us is the trident sculpted behind his crown!

soolams illustration

However, this particular line in the book is a topic for further discussion.

” This depiction in addition to the trident held in his upper left hand, reveal his identity as trisulapurusha. The endowment of this new character to to the door guardian is a distinctly Chalukyan contribution to Hindu Iconography. In later examples from both Chalukyan areas and regions south of it , one can find the development of this tradition “

Now, no early pallava examples are studied in this work and the fact that Pattadakkal was constructed to honor the victory of Vikramadtya II over the Pallavas ( between CE 732 - 742 ), cast doubts on the above claim - and in most probability it was Mahendra, Mamalla and Rajasimha’s Pallava traditions that were worked on by the Chaluyan stylists - given the close stylistic resemblances to the Kanchi Kailansatha temple to the monuments in Pattadakkal, it must have been the same artist guild that was used ( taken ?) to construct them.

pattadakkal vimaana
pattadakkal vimaana 2

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8 Comments so far

V. Dhivakar

>>>>இதே சிற்பிகளை தான் சாளுக்கிய மன்னன் எடுத்துச் சென்று அங்கே உபயோகித்தானோ என்ற கேள்வி<<<<

When he won the war against pallavas, it’s natural that a winnier king takes all wealth of nation. Here (after observing Kailasanathar Temple), the Chalukya must have thought the actual wealth is Sculptures and the people who did.

In general, Sculpturists used to go places to places to show their skill.


November 17th, 2009 at 14:36

//நான்கு கைகளை கொண்ட சிற்பம் ( முற்கால பல்லவ வாயிற்காப்போன் சிற்பங்கள் இரு கைகளுடன் மட்டுமே உள்ளன -//
எப்படி நான்கு கைகள் உள்ள வாயிற்காப்போன்??? குழப்பமாய்த் தான் இருக்கு! :( வாயிற்காப்போன் தான் என்று நிச்சயமாகிவிட்டதா? திரிசூலநாதர்??? வாயிற்காப்போன்???

November 17th, 2009 at 15:15

Geetha madam, i will post shortly on two small Later pallava shrines from Kanchi - the Mathangeshwara and Mukteshwara shrines - the door guardians are all four armed.


November 17th, 2009 at 15:21


It is also pertinent to point out that a reverse travel of art motives from Tamilnad to Western region is seen at a much earlier period. The Pallava ruler, Rajasimha, 690 to 728 CE, built the great temple of Kailasanatha at Kanchipuram. Immediately after his death, Kanchipuram was invaded by the Chalukya ruler, Vikramaditya II in 732 CE. He took artists from Kanchipuram to his capital where his Queens built the Lokamahadevisvaram (Virupaksha temple) at Pattadakkal. Scholars have been pointing out close similarities between the Pallava and the Chalukya temples of this period.
Wars inflict human suffering and destruction. Historians have been focussing attention on such destruction and also on the vanity of the victors. There is another side to the wars namely the influence they exerted over the invader, in various fields, which may be termed “victory reversed”. A study of different ancient wars from this angle may be worth pursuing.


Rajasimha, the greatest lover of art on earth dies; his son Paramesvara-II comes to the throne. Immediately he has to fight and his rule was short. Nandivarman, it is stated usurps the throne of Kanchi. He himself is driven out of Kanchi by Vikramaditya-II and runs for his life. Vikramaditya inspects the Kailasanatha temple of Kanchipuram. He is wonderstuck with the beauty of the temple and loftiness of the king. He pays tribute to Rajasimha by himself donoting gifts to the temple, without destroying it. Catches hold of the great artists, like Sarvasiddhi acarya (33. F. H. Gravery and T. N. Ramachandra. The three main styles of Indian temple Architecture. Page 18==19.) and removes them to his capital and there at Pattadakkal comes up a temple on the same model of Kailasanatha temple. Nandivarman struggles throughout his life for the power

November 17th, 2009 at 15:22
Kathie B.

I’m with you. The TrisulaYudhaPurusa exists earlier in TN. I’m looking at one from Kanchi, on either Kailas. or Mukhtesvarar. Is it always the right hand guardian?
Another unusual feature of the Pattad. guardian: the big hair is in a snood.[a net]

November 17th, 2009 at 18:20
rhoda alex

the Narthamalai temple also looks very similar to the Pattadakal temple or lets say the Kailasanatha temple at Kanchipuram. I had visited the place recently and I checked the photos of the dwarapalakas and yes one of them surely has the trisul behind his head! Since my photos are not that great…here are some links to good ones from the net.
dont know whether this help in the argument..but i understand that some historians give the temple a Pallava origin.

November 23rd, 2009 at 19:50

thanks rhoda, for the lovely links.Narthamalai is a treasure trove. I had posted earlier based on Kathie’s travelogue


November 24th, 2009 at 11:15

Oops was doing a google search for horse training and came across this post. Not exactly what I was searching for but much more interesting lol! Oh well, gotta get back on the saddle so to speak…thanks, bp

November 27th, 2009 at 21:52

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