This site has been an eventful journey. For, getting inspired is one thing, but quite often to nurture the spark to ensure that it stays alive is the toughest part. Maybe for me, the flame that lit the spark was so powerful that it still provides the energy to keep pushing ahead on the chosen path. What better to write on to celebrate the remarkable journey as a 200th post, than about the flame itself !! Udayar Sri Raja Raja Chola, and to his chosen brand he will always be ArunMozhiVarman - a lasting legacy - remembered, revered, impacting us and continuing to lead in his footsteps to sing the glory of his splendid land. Its not just vain praise that i seek or promote my senseless idol worship of him via this post professing my love and adoration for this special person, for i am not alone in this select band, who have felt his presence. The big temple evokes different reactions from different people, some are in awe at this size stuck by its imposing proportions, some others by its architectural beauty and technology beyond its times, some others for its sheer sustenance, others for its epigraphical richness, but for us - the select tribe, its a sense of coming home, of returning to his fold, under his loving embrace.
i edit Shakespeare’s text into this context!!
The love I dedicate to your lordship is without end; whereof this “site”, without beginning, is but a superfluous moiety. The warrant I have of your honorable disposition, not the worth of my untutored lines, makes it assured of acceptance. What I have done is yours; what I have to do is yours; being part in all I have, devoted yours. Were my worth greater, my duty would show greater; meantime, as it is, it is bound to your lordship, to whom I wish long life “and after”, still lengthened with all happiness.
We travel back in time, exactly 1000 years ago.
(Yes, 1000 years have since passed - Inscriptional which documents Sri Raja Raja donating gold for making the top filial - kalasam or pot- ceremonially the final work to be completed - and it corresponds to 275th day of his 25th year of reign. its ironical that He, who was destined to such greatness, was not even first in line for the throne - but fate deemed otherwise - for those who want to know how we date his year of ascension to 985 AD see first comment)
The temple bells are clanging - the noise resonates through around the granite walls of the sanctum, the pillars offer temporary respite absorbing the ding dong, but against them a horde of musicians and percussionists are drawn into a fair battle, the air is filled with a myriad of scents - the aroma of burning camphor, to melting ghee to the freshly ground sandalwood paste, but wait there are some more exotic fragrances that seem to drop from above - yes, indeed - an impressive line of dancing girls, their hair done up with rows and rows of sweet smelling jasmine - seem to frozen in time - like a fawn caught in a lion’s gaze, their practised eyes on their teacher, whose eyes are on the door - as is everyone else, waiting for the arrival of he - the Lord of Lords.
They have all seen him before, on many occasions, be it his radiant armor shining as he rode to battle on his magnificent chariot, or in his regal attire as he gracefully sauntered along on top of the royal elephant in the ceremonial victory procession - but today was different. He was coming to them, to see them perform, to see the fulfillment of his dream - the consecration of the big temple - the tallest edifice on the planet, a work of devotion built to last, to sing the praise of their clan for the millenniums to come. A sudden hush descends, the royal entourage passes through the massive door frame, for a minute the light from the doorway is blocked by a big frame, and then as the rising sun shines through, you see him - he has shed all his royal insignia today - just a flowing garment of the purest white is his dhoti, another matching white garment goes around his towering frame - he has smeared ash over his forehead and his mighty arms and chest, and it seems to show in more glory than the golden vest which he just left behind - on seeing him the trusted aide starts the legendary invocation - a queer sonnet that rid the hearts of his enemies with dread, but his subjects with pride… his prasithi -
Swasthisri ( Hail propserity)
Thirumakal pol perunilach selviyum
thanakkeyurimai poondamai manakolak
Immediately, his eyebrows arch, the right hand starts to go up, instinctively the aide stops in mid sentence - the protocol being broken, his trusted bodyguards make a move to encircle him, but then the eyebrow hasn’t gone up fully - its breaks into a curve to compliment the smile that has just born to make his face look even more benevolent - if it were ever possible.
“My praise fades before my lord, i am but his humble servant - for i am no longer Raja Raja or ArunMozhi but Siva Paadha Sekeren here”
On hearing this, the big drums beat, the bell ringers take the clue and another round of acoustic symphony fills the air - just then - from above come the sound of 400 pairs of anklets - and their ankleted feet - complementing the expert call of their guru - “Tha”
Like a child who has seen his wish fulfilled, the eyes of the greatest king light up in glee, as he stands in front of Peruvudayar - he calls for the man who made it possible - the chief architect Kunjara Mallan
“May it be written that henceforth you shall be known as Raja Raja Perunthachan, and let it also be known that no longer will your clan prefer to remain anonymous - let you name be sculpted along with mine in stone on the very walls of this great temple, forever interweaving your name with mine and your greatest creation till the Sun and the Moon shine - proclaiming this achievement of ours. “
Eyes moist the master sculptor looks lovingly on his benefactor -” Its this greatness in you that makes us your servants for eternity, but pray in this moment, i forget to show you something that will make your heart swell more. I have brought in some expert artists to paint your favorite act of valor of siva on the walls of the ambulatory. “
So, this is the reason why you have not been allowing me to go around , wanting to surprise me. Lets us see.
Sir, its a bit dark there, let me get some torches. Hey, you there, don’t go very near the walls with the torches, every inch is being covered with paintings.
“Your excellency, since you chose to show so many Tripura vijaya sculptures in stone in the vimana sculptures, we guessed that it was your favorite and chose it for this painting.”
‘ Wow, you do know me well, yes, Tripurantaka story was my favorite - though my aunt Sembian Madevi always recited the Sundar or Chandeshwarar legends, my elder sister told me the Tripurantaka so many times that the valor of Shiva has continued to inspire me since. So how have you shown the story, is it like a story board like you do in sculpture, showing one scene after another in sequence?”
‘” Oh, we are blessed to have Kundavai pirattiyar to have molded you since young. No, your highness, we have chosen a novel and unique manner to show the entire legend in a single panel”
” In a single panel - interesting, how would you do that - meaning - there are atleast 6 key acts with the tripurantaka legend?”
” Sir, thanks to the richness of talent in our land, take a look at the painting now ”
‘ Wait,let me get Madurantakan also to see”
‘ yes sir, he looks exactly like how you were 20 years ago
“Yes, but amplified 20 fold for battle. Rajendra see this master painting. Remember, the story of Tripurantaka - of how the three demons Taarakaaksha, Kamalaaksha and Vidyunmaali - sons of Taraka - with their boon from Brahma and being Shiva devotees - tormented the earth. They had their cities which could fly in the air and could be destroyed only by Shiva. The power got to their head and they tormented the people and when the devas appealed to Shiva, he could not go against his own devotees. So he sent Vishnu as Buddha to lead them out of the faith and then summoned all the devas, concentrating all the powers of the Gods - the earth became his chariot, the Sun and the Moon the wheels, the very Meru mountain his bow, Brahma as his charioteer and Vishnu the arrow. Am i right Perunthachan”
” Ofcourse Sir, the chariot was crafted by Viswakarma himself who we trace our lineage from. We have painted Brahma here - as the charioteer”
” Father, but why is brahma shown as though he is speaking to Shiva rather than facing the enemies?”
‘ Yes, my son - this is an emotive panel - the painter is trying to tell a story in a single panel”
:Sirs, you can see Vishnu on top seated like Buddha with the demons worshiping him. you can also see Ganesh on his mouse mount, Muruga on his peacock and Devi on her Lion accompanying shiva into battle along with a host of Ganas.”
” Yes, the demons look really cruel - can you ask you man to take the torch nearer - i can see something here, which i think is what you want to show me - Rajendra can you find out?”
‘ Remember hearing the two thevaram verses refer to this incident - very contrasting references. One verse says he was angered and another verse says he smiled.
” That is fantastic, you have been concentrating on reading the verses as well. My guru interpreted it - that as Shiva in all his war attire, accompanied by all the devas - confronts the army of the Tripura asuras, he is red with anger, eyes bulging out - your dancer friend would be able to tell you the correct name - i think it is called Raudra drishti in Natya Sastra of Bharata. In depicting this pitiless sentiment, the eye balls should be lifted up, rough, and reddish in line. The eyebrows should be kept crooked.”
” Father, do we have to bring her into this conversation !! Well, yes i can see the painter has depicted that emotion here - Shiva is fully red with rage like you when you get angry.”
‘ son, you seem to have turned a bit red now as well, why? but do you notice something different in the face of Shiva’
” Father, i do notice something more different in the way he is shown holding the bow. The bow is facing inward and not at the enemy”
‘ son, that is the greatness of the painter. to continue to story, there are two versions. One says, the devas grew a bit arrogant and their ego made them think that Shiva needed their help to destroy the demons- while the other version says that Brahma asked Shiva, why he needed the assortment of weapons and entrouge of ganas for this fight. Anyway, at that point, Shiva bends his bow holding hand curling it inwards and just smiled - the next instant - the asuras were burnt to ashes”
” Now, can you see the smile of Shiva - masterly portrayed by the artist. One half of the face he has shown rage and the lower portion a childish smile”
Oh, great work father, i cant wait to see the rest of the works”"
Photos courtesy: I am indebted to Dr Kudavoil Balasubramaniam for his guidance and support. This post just scrapes the surface of these fantastic paintings. Please read his masterly work on the Big temple. HIndu paper article on sir’s book release
Thanks for support of REACH Chandra and all others.
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