Archives by Month: August, 2011

Prasad is no new comer to us, we have seen his gifted art in our pages many times. But today he takes on a new avatar and coinciding with Janmastami - the birthday of Krishna, he teams up with Ashok, who has been kind enough to share his wonderful pictures of an amazing Bronze, to create a post on the famed Kalinga Nardhana of Oothukadu.


There is no introduction required to the immense and sublime brilliance of Chola artisans of the tamil country. Fully knowing that words cannot capture the essence of my experience, I shall try to lead the readers towards having this divine experience themselves. I shall today humbly attempt to describe, share and perhaps motivate some of you to enjoy this immense wealth even more keenly. I begin with an invocation to the almighty and pray to him to bestow upon me the power to describe what I feel as something that can be better experienced than described.

Today we shall see a sculpture of kalinga Mardhana Krishna, an epic dance to subdue a snakes arrogance captured most exceptionally in metal.


Let us look at the sculpture first as a whole, he is represented as performing his divine dance atop the head of Kalinga, evidently teaching a lesson to the monstrous snake about humility and at the same time showing to the world who he really is. The chola artist are masters in capturing action, its force and also encapsulating a story into it. They are so good at it that one look at the sculpture and the ensuing sequence of actions is completely captured in minds eye.

kalinga nardhana perumal.jpg

So let us follow an aarthi starting at the sculptures right foot., only in the opposite direction in which an aarthi it is generally performed. Let us start appreciating the mastery of the sculptures by looking at it not just as a static pose. It is actually a part of the sequence of actions and the perhaps captures the force of the moment most magnificently.

Observe the raised foot, can you now visualize how the foot will land on the head of the snake in a few seconds? Can you feel the immense pressure that step is going to exert, not a death blow but something that will send strong message to the arrogant snake.


Perhaps this is how it might land on the snakes head.


Let us now observe the left hand, grasping the tail of the snake ever slow elegantly. Please try to imagine how your hand will be when you are trying to hold something heavy (wriggling uncontrollably) at shoulder height, Imagine how stiff and strained the muscles will be, imagine the discomfort, but what do we see here?

A bent hand, holding the tail of the snake as if it were a piece of silk, can you now vizualize that this very posture indicates child’s play. To him this snake is no big deal, all he needs to do is hold this giant snake’s tail like a small piece of cloth. However, when you see the whole composition in context, you will understand the complexity of depiction vs actual modelling dynamics.


Next we observe the face. The bewitching smile indicates that he is not intending to hurt the snake nor does it show an ounce of arrogance, anger, strain or pride, all it radiates is pure child like glee. Also observe that he is not looking at the snake nor is he looking at anything specific, his gaze spans the whole universe. His face is slightly bent, here again we need to visualize the force or the grace of his dance. His head sways gently behind before he stamps his foot again on the head of the snake.


How the classical dancer’s body moves, the slight sway of the head.


Finally let us rest our eyes upon his abhaya hasta. It is often said that the eye sees what it wants to see. To his cowherd friends it conveys the message not to worry and that he is in control. To the innumerable saints and gods it tells them that he is there to protect. To the arrogant snake and those who seek to destroy peace and harmony it shows a sign of warning! (ready to slap them). To the family of the snake it shows that he has heard their pleas and granted mercy. And thousand more meaning that I am unable to elaborate simply because my language inhibits me.


The dynamics of this unique bronze upon closer scrutiny lends upon the viewer the fact that there is small gap between his left feet and the head of the snake - so the entire weight of Krishna is on the hand holding the tail - a lasting memory of the bronze craftsmen and his amazing craft.

I now complete this post with a faith that I have been able to express what I experienced when I saw this sculpture. Also I wish to take the liberty to put forward a honest plea to the readers. Our heritage is EXTREMELY precious, to have survived the innumerable invasions, greed of men and the force of nature by itself is a miracle. I urge all the readers to henceforth make a determined effort to look at the idols in altogether new angle. Each sculpture has so many things to reveal, each sculpture is abound with energy, pain, toil and passion of the ancient sculptors. To preserve them is not only our responsibility but our sacred duty.

Please appreciate these timeless marvels. Always remember that it is not a gift by your ancestors but a loan given to you by your children. We need to give it back to the future generations with accrued interest. :)

Special thanks to Mr Ashok and Ms.Neeraja Srinivasan ( Dancer) for allowing us the use of the photos.

As a special gift Ashok share this.


All the views above are purely based on intuitive feeling of the writer and may or may not agree upon with scientific and actual meaning according to shilpa shastra. The writer apologizes for any mistakes in the content and wishes to declare that they are solely his views and have been caused due to ignorance. Many thanks to Vijay for the providing an opportunity to express my views and a big round of applause for his commendable efforts to bring forth our rich heritage. May this initiative snowball into a big revolution. Vanakam.

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We were overjoyed with the overwhelming response we received for our attempt to recreate the Pallava Somaskandar Paintings in Kanchi Kailasanathar temple which we carried as three parts - part 1, part 2 and part 3. Thanks to the stupendous work of Smt Subhashini Balasubramanian for whom art flows in the blood, coming in the line of legendary artists Sri Maniam and Sri Maniam Selvan, we proceed to attempt another difficult project.

It was in 2009, when we led a team of Ponniyin Selvan enthusiasts up the small hillock near Sengi - Panamalai.


To catch sight of the brilliance of Sri Rajasimha Pallava’s stupendous creation - The Panamalai Talagirisvara temple.


There is something about the graceful symmetry of Rajasimha’s Vimana’s that give them a lasting allure.


But this one contained something more exquisite inside it. We have already seen how the great connoisseur King, had embellished his entire creation from wall to wall with stunning works of art - yes, every inch would have been painted, in the Kanchi kailsanathar temple - Panamalai was also similarly jewelled - with art. But sadly, only a few remain. But you will see, how even a single brush stroke of the Pallava artist has an unique brilliance in it.

There are hardly any remnants of the art work in the main Sanctum or Vimana, however, as you move around, just on the right side of the Vimana - there is, at a height of about 4 feet, a Sanctum, having a Shiva Linga. There are no steps and you have to brave the climb, for it holds the treasure.

the shrine from outside.jpg

Do not be fooled by the first casual glance, for the inside walls of this shrine hold possibly the most beautiful of maidens in all of land south of the Vindyas.


There is more to be seen, but we start with her today.


The Pride of Panamalai - Umai. She reveals herself to you, as you go near and words fail to even form, as the sensory overload stuns you.


Despite the ravages of time and human neglect, the perfection of the lines, the mastery over color, form, shade and the effects which their confluence create, the emotion that they bring out in so lithe a form.

umai panamalai

Much of the plaster had fallen off and what remained of the background was tough to decipher, except for the colorful Umbrella. For eg, the outline seemed to resemble a typical Pallava cave pillar ( to her left)


You would have noticed that Umai is on the right wall, the main back wall too has very faint lines.


On closer study, we realised that it was Shiva dancing his triumphant Alidhanrita dance after destroying the three cities ( Tripurantaka). We will try and see more in a subsequent post, but why we need to know that , is because a similar composition of Rajasimha exists in Kanchi Kailasanthar, not in paint but in Stone.


Here too, we see Umai or Tirupurantaki in a similar ( slightly different) posture


Armed with this knowledge, would it be possible for us to recreate this lost painting and try to show her in all her glory. Well, we let you judge. Over to Subhashini


The colors and texture being worked upon.


Its important to mention here that as with the previous attempt where we got help from Jagadeesh, this time, we got help from another unexpected quarters. For quite sometime, there were very few images of Panamalai on the net and the best were those of Mr Franck RONDOT. I wrote to him explaining our intentions with samples of the previous attempt and he readily sent us his original pictures. They are of immense value to us both for this and also our future attempt for the Alidhanrita, since his were taken many years back and could have more of the original lines and colors !

Our thanks also to PSVP team of Saurabh, Shaswath, Shriram and many others for making the trip and sharing their pictures.

and we start with here


To be continued..

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