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Archives by Month: September, 2011

People have been pointing fingers for long and the inferences from them seem to be infinite. Imagine trying to infer intent from a pointed forefinger of a stone sculpture ! Yes, ideed, a pleasant chat on one such, lead to a wonderful lesson on Iconography. Take a look at these beautiful door guardians from Thakkolam ( thanks to kathie for bringing them up for discussion and Arvind and Varalaaru.com team for photographs and Mrs Subhashini for the sketches)

thakkolam+doorguardian+left
thakkolam+doorguardian+right
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thakkolam05

There are myriad of hand poses, but today the question is centered on two different hand postures - Hasta mudras, which look very similar - the Suchi and Tarjani.

suchihasta
tarjanihasta

We turn to Elements of Hindu Iconography by Sri Gopinath Rao for assistance.

“Suchi-hasta has been misunderstood by some Sanskrit scholars to mean the hand that carries a suchl or needle. ……………………….. But, like the Tarjani hasta, the Suchl-hasta, also denotes a hand-pose, in which the projected forefinger points to an object below, whereas in the tarjani-hasta the forefinger has to point upwards, as if the owner of the hand is warning or scolding another”

Let us take a closer look at the two door guardians.

tarjani+hasta
tarjani+hasta+1

Its really sad that such magnificent masterpieces in stone cannot be cleaned and maintained properly - infact one of the doorguardians seems to be pointing at the cockroaches troubling him while the other seems to point away from the ungainly intruders.

look+otherway
tarjani+hasta

This seems a positive identification of the Tarjani hasta. How about the famed doorguardians of the Tanjore Big temple?

tanjore+DG+L
tanjore+DG+R

The distinction when comparing them to the sketches, seems a bit vague.

mudra1
mudra2

Are they pointing or warning or both?

We head back to the book to refer - Suchi hasta where the forefinger points to an object below

Let us try this on some classic examples.

The famed Kalarimurthy of Kodumbalur Moovar Koil.

Kalarimurthy+moovarkoil
suchi+hasta

Positively Suchi !

How about the famed Sculptural Monalisa - Darasuram Gajasamharamurthy?

gajasamharamurthy+darasuram
suchi+hasta+2

Again its Suchi.

Now comes the trickier parts. These two exhibits from the V&A Museum London.

dakshinamurhty+vnaMuseum
vam

Obviously both are in the process of giving a discourse and we cannot take it as a threatening or warning gesture. Returning to refer again from the book, this interesting mention caught my eye. The description is of the famed Umasahita panel from Ellora

ellora+panel
ellora+umasahita


“Siva is herein holding in one of his left hands the upper part of the garment of his consort and keeps one of his right hands in the suchi pose and the other appears to be carrying a book. He is evidently giving out to Uma one of the puranas…….”

Now, the hand is evidently not pointing downwards. Now is Siva warning or scolding or just pointing out to his consort? Why is he holding her garment - maybe she is not attentive and he is….

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Thanks for the overwhelming support for the first part of the post. Before we begin the second part, must thank Mr. K.Srinivas of The Chroma Academy, for enlightening us about the first person to have discovered this amazing fragment of Pallava art. He shared the relevant extracts from the book ‘Art I Adore’ by Shri Amal Ghose - ‘A book on art based on interviews with K. Ramamurty’

The account starts with an artist proudly showing off a receipt - a receipt for a fine fresco painting of the seventh century origin, copied by an unemployed artist, just four years after India achieved Independence. It read as below

” This is to certify that his Museum purchased from Shri K. Ramamurti, artist, a copy of the mural painting of the Pallava period from the temple at Panamalai. Mr. Ramamurti was the very first artist to copy this interesting mural. - Superintendent, Government Museum, Madras. ”

The account of how he found the amazing work is heart rendering. Mr Ramamurti chanced on a newspaper (The Hindu) article about a foreigner camping at Pondicherry Ashram throwing a hint that there were faint lines indicating a vanishing Fresco on the temple wall in a temple he visited in Panamalai hills.

Panaimalai_Vimaanam

He saw his chance to discover a piece of history and set himself on the task. He had to pawn his wife’s jewels to undertake the journey, but when he landed there - the priests and local had no knowledge of such a fresco. He did not deter and went ahead to search every inch of the temple, sleeping there itself. On the 15th day of his search, he found a faint line in one of the inner shrines. Was it indicative of a head? He painstakingly started removing the layers of plaster that had been put on the original painting to reveal the Umai of Panamalai.

meditant.eu-panamalai-3971
meditant.eu-panamalai-3974

He then remembered the wet process his Guru Deviprasad had taught him, for mastering the water color. Applying the same process slowly but accurately, he produced the marvelous Panamalai Parvati for proper preservation for Posterity’s immense happiness.

Many years later when he was asked if he remembered anything more about the discovery he says

” Nothing but the heavenly joy I tasted at those unforgettable moments of the discovery of the Panamalai fresco has remained fresh in my heart.’ He was Kora Ramamurti

I am not sure where the said reproduction exists in the Madras Museum. It would be great if we can find it. In order to truly appreciate the greatness of the artist - i take you closer to view how the artist has used the shades of green to provide the contour of the face and then the clear highlight to bring out the nose.

colors+face
colors+shades

A big salute to the discoverer and a bigger salute to the master artist, we continue our own effort at recreating the masterpiece.

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Smt Subhashini the artist, talks of the challenging task

Recreating Panamalai Umai was a wonderful experience. Starting with what was available and slowly discovering the lost pieces turned out to be an enjoyable process. Especially when you have Mr Vijay helping with required references and hi resolution images, everything falls in place perfectly.

detailing
meditant.eu-panamalai-3971

When arrived at the first complete sketch of umai the amount of happiness we had can never be explained with words. But the best part of it was when I started painting. This time, I have used acrylic paint on canvas. Starting from the textured background and slowly revealing her layer by layer was like opening a very special gift wrapped in many layers.

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Everystep was a discovery and it did have some guess work. And making this guess work look authentic was challenging.

Yes+painting
almost+finished
detailing

On the whole, you see the development stage by stage here and I hope you will enjoy this as much as we did making it.

A feast for our eyes. The completed work.

completed+portrait
meditant.eu-panamalai-3974

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