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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
thakkolam04
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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This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 21st, 2011 at 15:45 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.

11 Comments so far

dev
  1  

தமிழில் ‘ஆள்காட்டி விரல்’;
ஸம்ஸ்க்ருதத்தில் ‘தர்ஜநீ’
தர்ஜநம் என்றால் அதட்டுதல்.
தமிழ்ப் பதமே பொருத்தமான பொருளைத் தருகிறது என்பார் காஞ்சிப் பெரியவர்

தேவ்

September 21st, 2011 at 23:42
drtv
  2  

Now is Siva warning or scolding or just pointing out to his consort?//

அது ஒரு விஷயத்தை வலியுறுத்தி சொல்வதாகவும் இருக்கலாம் என்று தோன்றூகிறது!.

September 22nd, 2011 at 7:48
injavaven
  3  

What I’d noticed about the Takkolam Dvarapalakas was that they both have trisulas behind their heads

September 22nd, 2011 at 18:30
Liesbeth Pankaja
  4  

In the system of dance, based on Bharata’s Natya Shastra and Nandikeshvara’s Abhinaya Darpana, there is only suji or suci hasta. In the practice of Bharata Natyam generally the Abhinaya Darpana is followed, and suci is one of the 28 single mudras. It denotes, among other meanings, direction, time (the past for instance) ordering, ‘go’, listen!, etc. I understood in iconography other rules are followed.

September 23rd, 2011 at 15:17
Anandhi Natarajan
  5  

It is awesome.One more interesting piece of information, I would like to share with you.In earlier times, the head of the family, wore a silver ring in the index finger which was called ‘Dargini’, it indicated his rights to be the sole decision maker in the family.

September 29th, 2011 at 16:23
  6  

Thanks Anandhi, Liesbeth,Kathie and Dev

rgds
vj

October 4th, 2011 at 7:39
Ramachandrasekhar
  7  

Hello Vijay!
Great post. I suppose you should refer to Natyashastra to see the application of Suci (btw NS doesnt recognise tarjani as a seperate hand gesture). Iam only translating the text (Natyasastra of Bharata, IX.65-77)- Sucimukha’s representation include disc, lightning, banner, bunches of flower, ear-ornament, …..number one….ideas like ‘it is good’….
hence for the icons of dakshinamoorthy etc we may assume that it represents ONEness/Monoistic ideas. For Ellora one it may be taken as appriciative gesture.
Thanks again for showing such grt images.

October 12th, 2011 at 21:58
  8  

thanks Sri Ramachandrasekhar. Sculpture derived from natya - so no surprises there

rgds
vj

October 18th, 2011 at 10:12
bharathi
  9  

silaikalin vativam mannar atchiyin varalaru ennum pathivugam thevai tamilarkalukku…………

November 1st, 2011 at 9:40
Karpagam
  10  

இன்று தான் தங்களுடைய வலைப்பதிவை பார்த்தேன். இவ்வளவு நாள் தெரியாமல் போய் விட்டதே என்று வருந்தினேன்.ஏனென்றால் நான் போன வருடம் கோயில் கலையில் பட்டயம் பெற்றேன்.மிகவும் அருமை நல்ல முயற்சி. உங்கள் முயற்சிக்கு என் வணக்கங்கள்.

December 28th, 2011 at 15:47
  11  

மிக்க நன்றி கற்பகம்,

கண்டிப்பாக அனுப்பவும். தனி மடல் அனுப்பி உள்ளேன்

நன்றி
விஜய்

January 5th, 2012 at 7:28

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