We take time away from Tamil Nadu into the delightful jewels of Hoysala land, into the Hoysaleshwara temple in Halebid, for a quick lesson on ear rings. But before embarking on the lesson let us pray respects to him guarded by his ever faithful door guardians.


Being used to hefty rock cut Pallava relief carved door guardians and the slightly more demure early Chola ones, the Hoysala ones must have had a better pay package ! Either the state paid for their Uniforms or their emoluments must have been simply awesome to afford such finery. But we must compliment them on their fashion and dressing sense.


Coming back to the topic, we have already seen the mismatched earrings of Shiva, here too we see his door guardian with a set of mismatched earrings.


On his left ear he had an exquisitely crafted Makara Kundala. Thanks to Sri Umapathy Acharya we now understand the Makara


But what interesting me was what he wore on his right ear. For the uninitiated - ear ornaments are generally called Kundalas.
Refering to Sri Gopinath Rao’s Elements of Hindu Iconography, he lists 5 different kinds of Kundalas. Patra kundala ( early palm leaf style - later replaced by gold leaf), the nakarakundala (same as the makarakundala), the Shankapatra Kundala ( a conch shell cut in profile to form a kind of spiral), a Ratna Kundala and a Sarpa Kundla.

The Sarpa Kundala is what interests us now. Normally the Sarpa or snake is a cobra as seen from the Garuda in Belur.


But what was interesting in this door guardian was the detailing of the multi hooded snake.


The work was so finely executed that you almost feel as if the central serpent has got a smile on his face.

Just on the topic of the intricacy of the carving, wanted to show you a piece of the ` head’ gear.


The Skulls have been carved hollow on the inside, considering the size and margin for error, cannot but salute these master craftsmen.


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Category: Sculpture

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15 Comments so far


This is why I shd travel with you ..what a lovely post

July 13th, 2011 at 16:39

Makara front part is elephant, is the hind part is tiger?

July 13th, 2011 at 16:43

Hi prasanna.

See the last image in this post http://www.poetryinstone.in/lang/en/2009/05/11/makara-thoranas-an-interesting-link-between-pallavas-and-cambodia.html


July 13th, 2011 at 16:46

Makaras come in so many shapes. Sometimes they have a bulbous nose, based on Mugger, I guess.
Great details VJ, I’d never have noticed

July 13th, 2011 at 17:54

Lovely article on ear rings :) I love the skulls more!

July 13th, 2011 at 18:46

haha sriram…there is one another sculpture - where the skulls have their tooth intact !!

July 13th, 2011 at 18:48

what a wealth of detail! am absolutely amazed, not just by the creator’s genius, but also your keen observation!

July 13th, 2011 at 19:05
karthik srinivasan

Superb …… Indeed they were master artists..
thanks vijay for bringing this heritage of our artists to layman like me.

July 14th, 2011 at 0:21
R. Parvadha Vardhini

You are just amazing… We really adore the way you are able to look at such minute details and explain to us. Thank you very much.


July 14th, 2011 at 14:36

Wonderful post Vijay. Your eye for details and lucid explanation makes one realise how little we see as mere tourists. My best wishes and congratulations for such a nice post.

On a lighter side, my wife spent a whole working day wearing mismatched ear rings and no one noticed it; and I got all the bricks for not noticing it in the first place!

July 15th, 2011 at 6:16

Sampath sir, it was a good one…forced to say..” same blood”


July 15th, 2011 at 13:40

Wonderful! The sarpa kundala and the detailed skull carvings are amazing. It is humbling to see the importance given to every small detail in these sculptures. Wonder how many months / years it would have taken for completion of these details.

July 15th, 2011 at 15:03

Wonderful… Sarpa kundala and the detailed skull carvings are amazing. It is humbling to see the importance given to every small detail in these sculptures. Wonder how many months or years it would have taken for completion of these details.

July 15th, 2011 at 15:03

interesting and highly informative

August 13th, 2011 at 20:33

Your article is Instant hit in my house. My children and wife are enjoyed the Vathalam’s sculptures. We are thrilled to see the live Vathalam like sculptures. This article changed my wife also to view your site articles.

Because of this loveable article we are planning to visit this temple during the quarter exam holidays.

Continue your good work

By K Lakshmikanthan

July 12th, 2013 at 18:49

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