Archives by Month: October, 2010

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?

transposed image

This was the image he put up. I presume he had taken it from this site

Temple net transposed photo

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

India Temple Blogspot post


Do you notice what he is holding in his hand?

Pl navigate to the 12th image in the ASI website

ASI site


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

closeup+of+ snake

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!


The ears


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.

Wiki layout of Elephanta

Main Hall

1. Ravana lifting Kailash
2. Shiva-Parvati on Kailash
3. Ardhanarishvara
4. Trimurti
5. Gangadhara
6. Wedding of Shiva
7. Shiva slaying Andhaka
8. Nataraja
9. Yogishvara
16. Linga

East Wing Shrine

10. Kartikeya
11. Matrikas
12. Ganesha
13. Dvarapala

West Wing Shrine

14. Yogishvara
15. Nataraja

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 !!

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As an ornament and fashion accessory, Rings have always held their sway over mankind. It needed minimum work, shaping or piercing and was easy to put on take off, if you add the digits in the toe, you could wear 20 ( yeah it was worn on the thumbs as well) - and add to it the tag of love - engagement, wedding, wealth , power - you get the larger aura surrounding a ring. In the age of emails and digital signatures, the value of the Emperor’s crust or the Clan’s standard could be easily and safely carried on person with the Ring. No wonder,its tradition goes back almost 4800 years ( thanks wiki !!) but then that would mean trying to fix a date for India’s two greatest Epics. Pending the verdict, wouldn’t want to dwell more on it, but to mention that the ring plays a vital role in Ramayana, with Sita identifying Hanuman as a messenger of her Lord on seeing his ring on him and also in the reunion of Shakunthala with Dushyant, who forgets his marriage and his own son Barath, due to the sage’s curse, and then reminded by seeing his ring from inside the belly of fish ….we the great lineage of Barath trace our antecedents. More recently, the impact of the Lord of the Rings triology, showcased the power of the rings in middle earth!!!

Well, today we go in search of one such a ring, as we try and merge two different fields - Ornaments and Bronzes, as we figure the answer to a complex problem - of fixing reasonably accurate dates for bronzes. Many thanks to Mr Raman, for once again taking time to provide us with quality photographs, which also reinstate our request for viewers to try and take many photos of bronzes from Museums world over.

It all began with the 1000th year celebration of the Tanjore Big Temple, and the thoughtful exhibition that was organised to go with it. Mr Raman had documented the exhibition extensively and one of his albums had this exhibit of Chola period ornaments. One struck our eye, for its not often you get to see actual exhibits of period ornaments, and there is very sparse written details on them.


Being avid enthusiasts, we started talking about the ring that was being exhibited there.


He had also photographed quite a number of bronzes that were being exhibited with some detailed closeups of their hands and rings !! ( Most of the exhibits were from the Chennai Egmore Museum, but out there there are inside glass cases that are a nightmare for photography).

So, logical progression was to check the bronzes to see, if he could find a matching ring.

For that we needed a good closeup of the ring, first up.


What a fantastic ring !!

First up, is this CE 10th Century, bronze Parvathi, from Kodaikkadu, Vedaranyam Taluk, Nagappattinam district.


Just too stunning a bronze, but lets focus on the rings for now.


The rings are pretty plain ones, almost like thick wires with some amount of artistic work done on them


Next up, we shift another Century, This CE 11th Century Bronze Parvathi with an assistant is from Tiruvengimalai, Trichy


Lets go a bit closer and study if the ring style / fashion has changed in this 100 years.


The fashion industry has definitely caught up, we see a more pronounced set stone in the center, with flower bud/petal like patterns around it.

Another example from the same period, the splendid Ardhanari 11th C CE, from Tiruvengadu , Mayiladuthurai.


The Umai ( left) side, has her delicate hand as we zoom in for the ring


The style here might be slightly before the previous Parvathi. Maybe this was early part of the 11th C, you can see the ring becoming more flattened at the centre and more definition in its design - shaping up like a ring now.

We might need to study a few more samples in the 12th and 13th C, but we met our result in the next exhibit. This Paravathi from Devarkandanallur, Tiruvarur District.


The date of this bronze is a bit unclear, as while she was in the Chennai Museum she was given a 14th C CE date, while the Tanjore Exhibition gave her a 15th C Date. ( will study the Catalogue and do a post on why she is given such a late date shortly !)


But, on the topic of this post, we did find the ring on her.


The Characteristic styling is pretty evident.


So now comes the tricky question. What is the date for this ring?

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