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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Category: Sculpture

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This entry was posted on Monday, August 22nd, 2011 at 15:40 and is filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

18 Comments so far


Very nice and lovely photos.

August 22nd, 2011 at 16:22

the word is ‘mardana’, but K looks to be only humbling Kaliya, not killing him

August 22nd, 2011 at 18:31

wonderful post..was glued to the pics after reading it

August 22nd, 2011 at 19:30

Ashok’s Photography ..should i say more


August 22nd, 2011 at 19:45

Lovely snaps and comparison :)

August 22nd, 2011 at 20:40

Excellent post!!

August 23rd, 2011 at 8:32
R. Muralidharan

My appreciation. Wonderful photos

August 23rd, 2011 at 14:41

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.

I simply repeat this.

August 24th, 2011 at 14:18

thanks Ashok - friends enjoy Ashok gift by scrolling to the end and see the new addition to the above post


August 25th, 2011 at 20:03

I have heard so much about this beautiful work of art, but havent been fortunate enough to go and feast my eyes on it! THanks so much for this wonderful post with such a detailed description!

August 25th, 2011 at 20:10

I thought the name is kalinga nardhana krishna..not “mardhana” .. Purana says that krishna did not kill the kalinga as his kith and kin prayed to krishna not to kill him. Oothukkadu venkata kavi wrote most of his songs in praise of this deity ( the most famous of all is alaipaayudhe kanna.. that even made it into a recent movie!)

August 29th, 2011 at 4:00

thanks kannan. have amended


August 31st, 2011 at 13:53

Wonderful to see Him un-draped. Thanks, VJ and Ashok!

September 8th, 2011 at 4:36

Ashok, many thanks for this marvel… a feast on Janmashtami along with the sweets !

September 22nd, 2011 at 12:25

Wonderful as usual. Regarding the usage of the word Mardana, it does not mean killing but crushing or grinding or paining.

October 12th, 2011 at 22:07

thanks vijai once i went to this temple and enjoy kalinga narthanam. But the temple is in poor condition venkatakavi sannadi fully collapsed

October 27th, 2011 at 13:16
Ashok Krishnaswamy

Glad to see many of you enjoy reading the post on my favourite deity. Thank you Vijay for a wonderful write-up.

October 30th, 2011 at 13:27

இதில் காலிங்கம் எனக் காட்டபடுபவன் கலிங்கநாட்டை ஆண்ட கரவேலன்= கண்ணடமிருந்து கைப்பற்றிய பிந்துசாரன். இவனும் கரவேலனும் சந்திரகொற்றனின் ஆசைமனைவி ஹெலன் என்ற சத்தியவதிக்குப் பிறந்த பிம்பிசாரனும் முதல் மனைவிக்குப் பிறந்த கரவேலன் என்ற கண்ணனும் ஆவர். பிம்பிசாரனை வரலாற்றில் அசோகன் என மாற்றிவிட்டனர். இதனை கரவேலனின் உதயகிரிமலையில் அகத்திக்கும்பாக் குகையில் உள்ள பொறிப்புக்களிலும் காணலாம். கரவேலனே மகதத்தின் உண்மையான வாரிசு; சந்திரகொற்றனை ஏமாற்றி அலெக்சாண்தனுக்கும் அடிமை ஆரியன் செல்யூக்கஸ்நிக்கந்தன் என்ற பிரகத்தன் என்ற சம்பரனின் மனைவிக்கும் பிறந்த ஹெலன் என்ற சத்தியவதியைப் புணாவைத்து; அப்பெண்ணுக்குப் பிறக்கும் புதல்வர்க்கே ஆட்சியுரிமை எனக் கட்டாயப்படுத்திப் பிம்பிசாரன் பிறந்தவுடன் சந்திரகொற்றனையும் நாடுகடத்தினர். அதற்கு முன்னரே கரவேலனை நாடுகடத்திவிட்டனர். மாபாரத மாந்தர்கள் அனைவரும் தமிழர்கள் என்பதை எனது வலைத்தளத்தில் விரிவாகக் காணலாம்.

March 26th, 2014 at 20:47

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