With the tools that google, wiki and the world wide web place on our hands, its very easy to make up a convincing article, but we must take care to ensure that we try and present our posts with utmost care. You may ask, why this sudden concern, but off late there is an overpowering outflow of emotionally charged writing on the net, and poetic license is being twisted to promote half baked theories and a hidden agenda to increase viewership by featuring titillating content. Religion and Castes are thrown in for good measure, with scant regard for communal unity, for they are subjects that we need to handle with caution and the clarion call is to be more responsible in what we put up on the net including contributions to every growing efforts like Wiki.
Couple of years back, an interesting discussion on Iconography, was punctuated by a certain person, who put up this photo of the magnificent Trimurthi or Mahasadhasiva Shiva from Elephanta. He obviously read that there were Hindu and Buddhist caves in the same vicinity and added for good measure that the entire site was an earlier Buddhist cave usurped by Saivites. He went on to showcase the Serene face of the main ( centre) form and its elongated ears and then as a final encore, asked everyone - if its Shiva where are the snakes?
This was the image he put up. I presume he had taken it from this site
Now, early readers would get easily influenced by this, hence we took on the task of answering his questions.
First of all, there was something wrong with the image. It didn’t look correct. Do you notice the large mustache of the face on the left of the sculpture ( right as you see it) - thats Rudra Shiva , its not supposed to be that way. The image he had ( the site and many more such sites) seem to have put up is a transposed image. ie. the sculpture is rotated right to left. Below is the correct view
The question on snakes was very easy to answer and its clear that he has never been to the site.
See this post and its photos
Do you notice what he is holding in his hand?
Pl navigate to the 12th image in the ASI website
Mr. George Michell has brought out a book titled “ELEPHANTA” and is a wonderfully illustrated work. I am showing some low resolution images from his book - for there is one more snake which i wanted readers to observe
Now, that we have settled the snake issue, lets take up the elongated ears.
Without getting too much into Agama / Iconography texts, ( for the more seriously inclined - please read the ref from Elements of Hindu Iconography by Sri Gopinath Rao - attaching relevant pages), the canons for Iconography were common for Jain, Buddhist and Hindu sculptures.
For, eg, I am taking an illustration from his book, which gives the proportions as per silpa text cannons for an ear.
Lets, compare this against our Elephanta sculpture and see how it measures up against the standards. ( This is not a research work done to scale, but just to give you an idea)
Interesting exercise, but would this ` Ear Test’ give sustained results on a definitive Shiva sculpture. So why not test it, not against any sculpture, but a chola bronze, not any chola bronze, but a dated chola bronze - Who else but our Rishabantakar.
Need to get a good straight shot of his ear, here we go!
How do they match up?
He went on to state that the sculptures in the Hindu caves are all converted from Buddhist ones. I wish he had at least went through the Wiki pages properly. These are monolithic sculptures carved out of base basalt rock. The below link gives you the detailed layout and the location of each of the icons.
1. Ravana lifting Kailash
2. Shiva-Parvati on Kailash
6. Wedding of Shiva
7. Shiva slaying Andhaka
East Wing Shrine
West Wing Shrine
Indeed a stunning location, sadly not a single inscription is there to ascertain its date. We are forced to assign a 8th C CE date and Gupta / Chalukya authorship for them.
The truth is out there !!