The beauty and intricacy of sculpture lies in its detailing and form. It doesnt reveal itself easily though the free flow does captivate you on first instance, it continues to hold you in its sway every time you revisit …

I quote Sri Aurobindo to correctly capture its essence

A great oriental work of art does not easily reveal its secret to one who comes to it solely in a mood of aesthetic curiosity or with a considering critical objective mind still less as the cultivated and interested tourist passing among strange and foreign things; but it has to be seen in loneliness; in the solitude of one’s self in moments when one is capable of long and deep meditation and as little weighted as possible with the conventions of material life.”

The problem is just sitting in penance in front of a sculpture is not going to get you going at the start - the initiation has to be done and for that you need an expert guide or a guru to take you on your journey of discovery, unfortunately not many are privileged to have that. So we turn to the next best - books. Problem with books especially on sculpture and those that are authored by experts, is that they don’t start from the basics or rather, they expect you to have reached a certain stage before you pick them up. So how do you bridge that gap, from zero to a plane where you can confidently pick a work and start reading.

One good work, i would recommend is Sri Gopinath Rao’s Elements of Hindu Iconography. He has wonderfully illustrated much of his works which help novices like me to pickup what he is saying easily. for eg, lets take something as simple as an ear ring. Does Makara kundala and Patra Kundala sound latin to you. You do find repeated references to these in any description of a sculpture. What are these.

Take this fantastic chola bronze on exhibit at the National Museum, Delhi.


One can go into raptures, just describing the image but am restricting the narrative to the ear rings alone.

shiva nataraja delhi national musuem

You can see obviously that he wears different ear ornaments for each side.

makara kundala 1
patra kundala 1

The one he is wearing on his left is called a patra Kundla - literally patra or leaf - is a circular ornament which was inserted in the lobes and made ( atleast originally of the leaf of a palm tree).

patra kundala

The right ear has more complicated equipment on display. Its the mythological Makara Kundala. We have seen the Makara in depth earlier but chanced on this fantastic sculpture from Java


( btw, Makara is a marine creature - mythological - with the trunk of an elephant, the feet of a lion, the sears of a pig, the body of a fish, sabre like teeth turned outwards, eyes like a monkey and the list goes one - the best however is it fantastically elaborate tail)

Why did he come to wear this on his right ear - well got to do some searching for that. ( well there are more macabre ear rings - which we will see later)

makara kundala

So, that my friends is just an intro for the two earrings of Shiva.

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6 Comments so far


மகரகுண்டலம்=ஆண்கள் மட்டும் அணிவது
பத்ரகுண்டலம்=பெண்களுக்கான குண்டலம்

இது பற்றிய மேலதிகத் தகவல்களைத் தேடுகிறேன். அர்த்தநாரீஸ்வரர் திருக்கோலத்தில் இடக்காதில்பத்ரகுண்டலம் பார்க்கலாம், இதுவே பின்னாட்களில் பெண்கள் அணியும் ஜிமிக்கி, குண்டலம் என ஆகி இருக்கும்.

December 7th, 2009 at 17:18
rhoda alex

awesome post vj! and great comment Geetha in beautiful Tamizh.

December 8th, 2009 at 9:35

அழகுக்கு அழகு சேர்க்கும் குண்டலங்கள்… பெரிய சிற்பங்களைவிட மிகச் சிறிய சிற்பங்களில்தான் சிற்பியின் திறமையும் அவனது பணியின் நேர்த்தியும் தெரியும். இந்தக் கலையை இரசிப்பதற்கே மனமொன்றிப் பார்க்கவேண்டும் என்றால், அதை வடிப்பதற்கு எவ்வளவு தவம் வேண்டும்…

December 8th, 2009 at 17:41
V. Dhivakar

ஆடல்வல்லானின் ஒவ்வொரு அசைவும் உன்னிப்பாகக் கவனிக்கப்படவேண்டிய விஷயம்தான்.

>>சின்ன காதணிக்கே இப்படிக் கண்ணை கட்டுதே<<

அவன் தூக்கிய இடது பாதத்தைச் சற்று கவனித்தீர்களேயானால் பாதத்தின் பெருவிரல் சற்று தூக்கியபடி செதுக்கி இருக்கிறான் சிற்பி. இந்தப் பெரு விரலால் அல்லவா ஒரு சமயம் ராவணனுக்குத் தண்டனை கொடுக்க வேண்டி மலையை அழுத்தினார். அதற்காகவே அந்தப் பெருவிரலை மட்டும் பாதத்தின் மற்ற விரல்களோடு சேர்க்காமல் சற்று தூக்கவாட்டமாக செதுக்கினானோ..

மகரிஷி சொல்வது சரிதான்.. உன்னிப்பாகவும் உள்ளம் ஒன்றியும் கவனித்தால் மனம் எங்கோ லயித்துப் போய் விடுகிறது.


December 9th, 2009 at 14:50

Good book - Big joke. Gopinath Rao himself is a novice. One may come to the conclusion, if go through his book extensively.

December 31st, 2009 at 20:56

Dear Prabha

I would’nt want to discredit anyone - the sheer effort for taking up such an assignment is a noble effort. Further, i have spoken to some master sculptors, they do recommend it as a start point for an early reader.

I cant see any parallel work of this nature - the ones that are available are targeting a different reader base.

as regards terming someone as a “novice”, the art of sculpting itself is so vast, what has been lost is a bigger mass, and what is not disclosed - secretly transmitted in the blood line of the few remaining stapathi clan is an enigma. So i guess everyone is a novice as of now. No wonder we can never get to even copy the works of the past masters !!


January 6th, 2010 at 7:55

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