War Trophies are always controversial. There have been many such famous trophies - the Vatapi Ganapathy by Narasimha Pallavas commander Paranjothi, The Srivijayan Victory arch brought back by Rajendra chola - Today we are going to see another such. The famed Chalukya door guardian of Darasuram currently housed in the Tanjore Art Gallery. ( images courtesy Satheesh and Sriram)

tanjore art gallery door guardian

Its indeed a very beautiful work of art, but why would a Chola King want to bring back a Door guardian as a war trophy ? Well one this is for sure, it was a war trophy for he himself inscribed it in its pedestal

the famous inscription

The Tamil inscription at the base of this sculpture, seized by the imperial Cholas in 1045 from their Chalukya enemies, reads: “This is the door guardian brought by Lord Vijayarajendradeva after burning (the Chalukya capital) Kalyanapuram.” Institut Francaise d’Indologie, Pondicherry. Courtesy of Richard H. Davis.

its features are characteristically chalukyan

chalukya door guardian
rich ornamentation and drapery
the left hands
the right hands

But there are some intriguing depictions near its base.

a monitor lizard
interesting features

The first is a monitor lizard, but what is a mouse doing underneath the uplifted feet of the door guardian. What is it that is next ( to the left of the mouse as you view the image) - like a tail ??. and what is the animal to the extreme left.

Thanks to http://picasaweb.google.com/gildubs/IndeDuSud2008# for the closeups

a cat toying with a rat

Well, its a cat toying with a rat !! and what is the other??

a snake swallowing a rat

Well well well, its a snake eating a mouse. This does remind us of something which we have seen earlier connected to the big temple

Big temple intro post

Lets refresh our memories

tanjore big temple
tanjore big temple door guardian
the lion, snake, elephant and lizard

Zoom in

elepant eaten by snake n crocodile

Now, we have Raja Raja Chola’s masterful edifice in stone portraying a prancing lion, a snake swallowing an elephant ( see the earlier post and the interesting hypothesis to visualise the Vimana as Mount Kailash itself) and a crocodile / large lizard.

Against this, the chaluykan version has a cat playing with a mouse, and a snake swallowing a mouse plus a mouse underneath the door guardian’s feet. Was this an attempt at ridiculing Chola’ sculpture and as an act of retaliation, was this brought back as a war trophy !!

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Category: Sculpture

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009 at 15:45 and is filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

9 Comments so far


Must say the kings played a great game of the cat and the mouse..enjoyed this post thoroughly

December 2nd, 2009 at 16:03

one statue, so many stories (kalaikul kathai)

fascinating !!! glad to know our ancestors are great grandfathers of speilberg !!!

December 2nd, 2009 at 16:26

அருமையான கற்பனைதான், எதுக்காக எடுத்து வந்தான் என்று தெரியாட்டியும் இப்படியும் இருக்கலாமோனு யூகிக்க வைக்கும் பதிவு. சிற்பத்தின் நளினமும், எழிலும் சொக்க வைக்கிறது.

December 3rd, 2009 at 13:04
Kathie B.

That’s a brilliant hypothesis. Very convincing.
Don’t know how I missed photographing that exc. Calukya figure when there, oh well. . .
Thanks too for reminding me where the similar animals are on Than. gopuram: under that left guardian’s feet.

December 3rd, 2009 at 15:30
Kathie B.

’scuse me, correction: ‘proper right’ guardian.
Do you have a photo of the Ganapati you mention?

December 3rd, 2009 at 15:49

hi kathie . yes ` right’

The Ganapthy ( vaatapi) is controversial - as to where it is now.


Incidentally there is another Chaluyka Ganapathy that was brought back by RJC…


December 3rd, 2009 at 15:52
Srinivasan V

Fantastic post.
Great Blog.
Salutes to your efforts on these blog posts.
Very interesting & inspiring.
God Bless you.
Perth, Australia.

May 13th, 2010 at 10:27

thanks for ur nice words mr srinivasan.


May 14th, 2010 at 12:24

dear sadhasivan

K Balu sir has been traveling last couple of weeks. am sure he will be able to respond this week. Its a fantastic book and a must read.

Please let me know if you are still not able to get it, will try to assist


July 5th, 2010 at 10:20

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