When Dakshin put up this fantastic photographic capture from the Madurai temple and titled it as Boothagi, the first question that came to my mind was ` Wasn’t she a demoness who was hired as an assassin by Kamsa to kill Krishna?’


Our conceptions or misconceptions of Boothanai were driven not only by graphic depictions of her in our story books, but also in sculpture. This early chola depiction in Pullamangai in stone and this sudhai from from the Tanjore Big Temple ( Photo courtesy: Arvind) added to our visions of an Ugly demoness who was sucked dry by Krishna.


So who else could the beautiful maiden sculpted in Madurai be. Some references identify her as Chandramathi the wife of the legendary Harishchandra cradling her dead son Lohidasan. But then something didnt quite feel right. The great King Harishchandra being reduced to penury, had sold his wife into slavery. The sculpted figure even after discounting the ornamental excesses of the Nayak style, does sport an impressive amount of ornaments. But her face seem to show a variety of emotions, at once a bit sad, a bit like that of a demoness - but definitely not that of a loving mother. Plus the Baby seems very well endowed, very much alive and in one angle seems to be puckering his lips to suckle at her breasts. So it cannot be Yashodha and Krishna for sure.


If only we could spot something about the two that could help us with the identification ! After some frantic requests to friends, Mr Raman obliged by making the trip and getting us the required photographs.

This is going to be a really tough one - the request to him from me was very simple. Get me a good shot of the right chest of the baby. Why ?

Remember this post about the mole that adorns the chest of Vishnu - Srivatsam . Keep the last image of that post in your memory.


The Ornamentation of the baby is rich as well , compare with those of known krishna sculptures. Problem is Sambandar also seems to share the same fashion / wardrobe.

Dancing-Balakrishna Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University
krishna auckland musuem
sambandar sin musuem

Lets study the baby more to find more clues and why I wanted a closeup of the right chest. Please do keep in mind the position of the baby and how difficult it would have been for the sculptor to be able to sculpt any detail on the baby’s right chest.


You can see that he has not made the clear demarcation of the chest on the right side compared to what he could show in the left - where he has shown the shape of the chest clearly. I have marked in white where the right chest should have been shown.

Now lets, demarcate where the jewelery is sculpted on the chest.


Now, if you have followed closely you would see a small indentation on the right chest.


and if you can sit a bit back and focus on the same place, you can see the triangle emerge.


Compared to the standing icons of Vishnu where the Srivatsam mark is more pronounced and more towards the outer half of the chest, due to the position of the baby closer to the lady - the sculptor is forced to center it more. Compare with this

chola vishnu stone
closeup of srivatsam

If we can fix that this is indeed the Srivatsam mark - then the question of Boothanai’s description arises. Boothanai is said to be kind of a contract killer - paid assassin, who would kill by having young children suckle at her breast ( two accounts - either her milk itself was venom or she applied a deadly poison on her breasts). This she does as she is under the grasp of the evil Kamsa. So when Kamsa wants to get rid of Krishna, the first person he turns to is Boothanai. She goes in the guise of a beautiful maiden and Yashoda allows her to suckle her baby. Kishna knowing her ploy anchors his teeth on her breasts and sucks the life blood out of her. She is either shown as falling dead regaining her ugly form or sucked bone dry as per varying accounts.

So having touched Krishna and smitten by his good looks, being a mother herself, is it the anguish of trying to kill a toddler that is shown on her face or the realisation that her end is near and a bitter happiness that she is to going to be liberated by him ?

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28 Comments so far


Bhuthana or Bhuthaki actually a lady assistant working for Kamsa and there was a general opinion that she is of Rakshasa race. Not like that.
The sculptor has shown exactly the way how he should expose. Great collection Vijay!! And thanks for that Periazhwar padal most suitable. Keep giving such.

February 15th, 2011 at 16:47

பூதனை பற்றிய சிற்ப அற்புதத்தைக் கண்டு ரசித்தேன். நன்றி விஜய்.

February 15th, 2011 at 16:58

Beautiful text and pictures Vijay, thank you.

February 15th, 2011 at 18:09
Kathie B.

what about the chest-crossed mala, like Kumara? Her great headdress is similar to one of those male=Devi dancers of Karnataka, don’t know name. But those goddesses have fangs. Just presenting other possibilities. . .

February 15th, 2011 at 18:21

thank you for this neat one vj. its the ‘dead man walking’ look.

February 15th, 2011 at 18:32

dead woman’s walk…exactly.tks rhoda

February 15th, 2011 at 19:14

dear kathie

this is different to the channvira worn by kumara. this is more an ornament rather than the warriors cross chain belt. further the srivatsam mark is a defn clincher.


February 15th, 2011 at 19:16

@ Malathi. seeing you after a long time..pl keep visiting


February 15th, 2011 at 19:17

many thanks for all the help Geetha Madam


February 15th, 2011 at 19:18

dhivakar sir, paadal podalaina vida maateengale..


February 15th, 2011 at 19:18

What an eye for detail Vijay..
Dont know how you keep spotting such marks, which will surely escape a common man’s eyes..
Great Work..


February 15th, 2011 at 19:44
Ayyampet J.Balachandran

Dear Vijay,
Your think is something different regarding “Boothaki”. How nicely critic the stone marvel of Pullamangai.

February 15th, 2011 at 21:54
Kathie B.

ok, I’m convinced

February 16th, 2011 at 7:34

dear Mouli

Must thanks my informed friends - who assist me with such remarkable photos


February 16th, 2011 at 7:47


One of the media persons toruing darasuram temple, took this pic and said that these are gargoyles, influenced by european sculptures.
is that the case? are these kirthimukhas or gargoyles inspired from europe. your expert opinion appreciated. thanks.

February 16th, 2011 at 11:18

hi Vithobha

European sculpture is a very broad range. It is quite true that there are magnificent sculptures elsewhere that predate the earliest known icons in our land. you may read this for more info


The worship of shiva seems to go hand in hand with the depiction of numerous Ganas - the early depictions of these are really funny and cheerful - and as such cannot be called gargoyles.

regarding the image - Keerthi muka is different concept. Normally represented on the sides of the Gopuram - seen in madurai here : http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=472389&l=a63433c99d&id=1806006874 - the legend of an Asura who ate himself up that only his head remained.

Traditional water spouts are splendidly fashioned in this form and hence the mouth wide open is more a utility related feature than of iconographic value.


February 16th, 2011 at 11:56
Pradeep Chakravarthy

superb and through analysis Vijay!

February 21st, 2011 at 13:00

thanks Pradeep

February 21st, 2011 at 15:11


It looks like kunthi before leaving karna. Sad face of mother.

February 25th, 2011 at 17:31

What a wonderful and interesting way of looking at the story….. and your detailing of the sculptures is just amazing!

March 2nd, 2011 at 11:01

A very enjoyable read. To a layman like me who is unfamiliar with many nuances, of the sculptures, your details are most welcome - and clear.

March 4th, 2011 at 14:28

Thank you Raji madam


March 4th, 2011 at 14:34
Pavithra Srinivasan

VJ - great post. Loved the take on a character that’s usually just brushed past, in epics. What a fantastic sculpture.

February 17th, 2012 at 16:58

எல்லா நேரங்களிலும் நன்றி என்ற வார்த்தையை மட்டுமே பயன்படுத்த முடிகிறது. மிகவும் மாறுபட்ட பார்வை. பூதகியை ஒரு அரக்கியாக பார்த்தே பழக்கம் செய்தமையால், தாயாக பார்க்க தவறிவிட்டேன். நன்றி.

April 1st, 2012 at 21:44

thanks ஜெகதீஸ்வரன்

April 3rd, 2012 at 11:16
rajagopalan J

Dear Vijay,
It is great to visit your site. It gives a great insight. Thanks to Jeyamohan and Dinamalar (Chennai edition). Yours is a great combination of a scholar, sculptor and reader. I read all the posts and will keep sending you my opinions. My respects.

Rajagopalan j,

August 31st, 2014 at 17:44

thanks for the nice words.


September 9th, 2014 at 9:59

Dear Vijay,
A totally different view of Bhuthaki. Wonderful analysis.
I have seen a similar sculpture of mother & child in Thiruvanaikkoil. The mother with her hair spread out as if in despair, but the child smiling innocently. My problem is, that I don’t know how to attach the photo in this comment box.

September 28th, 2014 at 21:01

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