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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20 Comments so far


So, _that’s_ where her left hand goes in the original…

“the most beautiful of maidens in all of land south of the Vindyas.” That’s not even an exaggeration!

August 19th, 2011 at 12:28

எத்த​னை ​கோடி இன்பம் ​​வைத்தாய் இ​றைவா!!இந்த அற்புத அழகு வடிவங்க​ளைக் காணும் ​பேறு கி​டைத்தால் அ​தைவிட பரவசம் அளிக்கக் கூடியது என்ன உள்ளது. இந்தப் பதிவின் ​தொடர்ச்சி​யை ஆவலுடன் எதிர்பார்க்கி​றோம்.

August 19th, 2011 at 13:06
Sivaram Kannan

Beautiful. Still regret missing out that trip. Atleast I could enjoy a bit reading about it.

August 19th, 2011 at 13:12

Dear Vj = Pl add the year also in posts so that people can undertsnad the antiquity. Rajasimha 700-729 helps us to undertsnad that it is 1300 year old painting.

August 19th, 2011 at 14:34

Lovely paintings recreated!! i am jealous! :)

August 19th, 2011 at 14:35

hi Shankar,

Thanks - infact the previous posts on Kanchi kailasanthar and even the shore temple dwelt much on the antiquity - and since they are hyper linked presume new readers might also be in the flow - trying to keep the size of posts down for online reading !!!


August 19th, 2011 at 14:45

thanks shash, siva - we knew the circumstances, that you could come to meet and send us off was itself a nice gesture, shri - wait for the next part ….


August 19th, 2011 at 14:46

பனை மலை - தாள கிரி
சுவாமி திருநாமம் ‘தாளகிரீசுவரர்’

பதிவு வேறொர் உலகுக்கு அழைத்துச் செல்கிறது.

பணியில் ஈடுபட்டோர் அனைவருக்கும் ஆசியும், பாராட்டுகளும்


August 19th, 2011 at 19:12

Dev sir,

The tamil virutal university refers to the spellings as cited in the post. Are your wrong as well?


August 19th, 2011 at 19:22

Still hoping to see that hidden Umai to compare w this one. Beautiful job of reconstruction in the sketches, Subhashini. Maybe I’ll get there someday.

August 19th, 2011 at 19:42

in western guidebooks ‘Sengi’ is usually spelled ‘Gingee’, in case there’s any confusion

August 19th, 2011 at 19:47

விஜய் சார்,

சரியான பெயர்கொண்ட உங்கள் பழைய பதிவைப் (24/01/2011) பாருங்கள் -

ஒன்றுக்கொன்று சம்பந்தம் இல்லாத சித்திரங்கள்தான் ..ஆனால் !

சிலர் இயற்கையாகவே நேரில் இருப்பதை விட புகைப்படங்களில் பல மடங்கு அழகாக காட்சி அளிப்பர். அவர்களை ஆங்கிலத்தில் போடோசனிக் என்று அழைப்பார்கள். அதைப்போல ராஜசிம்ஹ பல்லவரின்
மல்லை கடற்க்கரை கோயில், *பனைமலை தாளகிரீஸ்வரர் ஆலயம்*, மற்றும் காஞ்சி கைலாயநாதர்
ஆலயம் - புகைப்படங்கள் எடுப்பதற்கென்றே கட்டி விட்டார் போலும்.


விழுப்புரம் வட்டத்தில், விழுப்புரம் - செஞ்சி செல்லும் சாலையில் நேமூர் என்ற ஊரிலிருந்து கிழக்கே
7 கி.மீ. தொலைவில் உள்ளது எசாலம். இவ்வூருக்கு அருகே பிரம்மதேசம், எண்ணாயிரம் என்ற வரலாற்றுச் சிறப்பு மிக்க ஊர்கள் அழகிய திருக்கோயில்களுடன் விளங்குகின்றன. மேலும் இவ்வூருக்கு அருகில் பல்லவர் கால குடைவரைக் கோயில்கள் மண்டகப்பட்டு, தளவானூர் ஆகிய ஊர்களில் உள்ளன.
பல்லவர் கால ஓவியங்கள் உள்ள *பனைமலை தாளகிரீசுவரர்* கோயிலும் அருகே அமைந்து இப்பகுதி முழுவதும் வரலாற்றுச் சிறப்பு மிக்கதாய் விளங்குகிறது.



பனை மரம் - தால(ள) வ்ருக்ஷம்
ஓலைச் சுவடி - தாள கோசம்
பனை மலை - தாள கிரி

‘தாள முத்து’ என்றும் பெயர் உண்டு

’வரலாறு’ வலை மனையிலும் ’தலகிரி’ என்று தவறாகப்

இணையத்தில் வெட்டி ஒட்டும் திருப்பணி மிகுதி; தவறாகப் பெயர்களைப் பதிவு செய்தால் அவை நிலைத்து விடும் அபாயம் உண்டு; சரியான பெயர்களில் தேடுவோருக்கும்
உங்கள் அரிய முயற்சிகள் தென்படாமல் போகும்.
அதனால்தான் திருத்தம் செய்கிறேன்.

தவறாக எண்ண வேண்டாம்


August 19th, 2011 at 23:01

thanks Dev sir, no issues. we are all learning and blessed to have people like you to guide us. will amend


August 20th, 2011 at 8:00

Dear Vijay,

The region of NarasimhavarmanII (Rajasimha)
is 700-728 only. one of the friend in the above named sankaranarayanan mentioned 700-729 but it is wrong.

August 23rd, 2011 at 0:59

hi Ragavendar

Noted. Reigns of rulers are very unclear - more their last year of reign. Do note that Parameshwara II starts from 728 CE - but would you like to share how the dates of reigns of Narasimhavarman II been computed.


August 23rd, 2011 at 7:58
Alexander Shechtman

Can you please write how Talagirishwara temple can be reached. The Google map does not give the location of Panamalai lake, only Gingee.

Thank you

September 7th, 2011 at 10:02

Dear VJ,
As per your question for the region of
Narasimhavarma -II refer the book of (Pallavar varalaaru) by Maa.Raasamanikanar a great writer,history researcher and well educated person.He entirely researched the histoy of pallavas by their Copper plates and inscriptions and concluded the region of Rajasimha is 700-728.This has been accepted by many other researchees and scholars.

December 26th, 2011 at 13:54

Thanks, all, for the dates

May 1st, 2012 at 19:50

This is amazing. Just happened to come across this through my friend Subhashini.
I have just published my book on Bharata’s Karanas- with the 108 drawings of the Karanas and I am inspired to recreate the Karanas in the next book based on these frescoes.

February 15th, 2015 at 17:51

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