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The ancient port town of Mamallai is the uncrowned King of stone sculpting but it has eclipsed quite a few masterpieces in its glory. In our continuing quest to bring out such stunning yet forgotten works of art spread across our land, today we see the 7th C CE cave shrine of Sri Ranganatha Perumal in Singavaram, situated 4kms to the North of Senji in Villupuram district.

Please do read Saurabh’s indepth post .

An unique later day tall Mandapa greets visitors to the site while the actual shrine is atop a small hillock and is serviced by a long flight of steps. As you pass through into the main shine, you are welcomed by a set of matched pillars and pilasters have been hewn into the rock to form the entrance hall or Artha Mandapa. Only then do you realise that the structural temple has built over the cave shrine complete with its own door guardians.( sadly they have been plastered and painted over - we will never get to know how they would have looked in their pristine beauty)

doorguardian1
doorguardian2
doorguardian_2
dorrguardian_1

A fantastic Sayana perumal – the sleeping form of Vishnu, all of 24 feet, has been fashioned from mother rock and is a sight to behold.

Singavaram_sayanaperumal

The scant visitors that the shrine receives however do not realise that there is another treasure just nearby. The Thayar shrine which has been added later has a small window to its side from where visitors can get a glimpse of a spectacular relief sculpture of Durga or Kotravai as her form was known in those times.

singavaram_durgai

Kotravai in Tribanga - Singavaram

In classic sculpting tradition the composition achieves an aesthetic grace with increased flex ion, as compared to a school class group photo attention pose. You can see how the sculptor has stylistically slanted her body three times – the Tribanga and superbly offset the shift of the legs by having her place her right leg on the severed buffalo head – called Urdhvajanu in iconographic texts and counter balanced the same with the lower left hand slightly raised and resting above the hip. The early date confirmed with the Prayoga chakra on the upper right hand and her Conch on the upper left. The kneeling devotee to the right is thankfully not offering his head but only cutting his hand ( symbolic bloodletting) while his companion’s pose mimics that of holding a flower for her.

Considering that the cave has no inscriptions of the Pallavas and hence we cannot have a definite date for it - It would be an interesting exercise to arrange the similar compositions in stylistic order - all executed within a span of 100 years. The logic would be very simple, you would learn to crawl before you walk and once you walk you wouldn’t want to crawl. You can see the superior effect of the Tribanga over the Sama Banga postures of the ones in the Draupadi Ratha and the Varaha Mandapa and also how the left hand rests lower on the hip, the classical Kati Hasta, giving Singavaram a slightly later date than them.

draupadi ratha

Durga in Sama Banga – Draupadi Ratha

durga_varahamandaba

Durga in Sama Banga – Varaha Mandaba

In contrast, the multiple armed Adivaraha cave Kotravai has the sculptor striving for more aesthetics, using his artistic license in sculpting her with slightly exaggerated ( elongated ) legs, standing on the severed head of Mahisha, with the right leg coming entirely behind the left giving the entire composition a stylistic grace. Hence we would give it a post Singavaram date.

durga_adhi_varaha

Durga in Tribanga – Adi Varaha cave.

So the chronology should be Draupadi/Varaha/Singavaram/Adi Varaha. Do you agree?

Surely Singavaram must find its place in the must visit list of the tourist and pious alike.

Images: Mr Ashok Krishnaswamy, Mr Arvind Venkataraman and Mr. Saurabh Saxena

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Category: Sculpture

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This entry was posted on Thursday, October 25th, 2012 at 14:58 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.

7 Comments so far

  1  

அருமையான பதிவு.
நன்றி.

October 25th, 2012 at 17:37
k. maniyarasu
  2  

dear sir
i am very happy to see your site.your research works are excellent.
i am k.maniyarasu film director, making documentary about draupadi, pormannan
with research .
thanking u
k. maniyaraeu

November 15th, 2012 at 15:25
  3  

Dear Mr Maniyarasu,

Many thanks for leaving your comments and good luck to your documentary.

anbudan
vj

November 15th, 2012 at 15:37
AYyampet J.Balachandran
  4  

அன்பு நண்பரே!
பல்லவர் கொற்றவையை பார்க்கும்பொழுது புள்ளமங்கை கொற்றவை நினைவுக்கு வருகிறது.
Ayyampet J.Balachandran

January 13th, 2013 at 20:24
Ayyampet J.Balachandran
  5  

அன்பு நண்பரே!

தங்களது படைப்புகள் அனைத்தும் டி.வி.டி. வடிவில் கிடைக்குமா? தயை செய்து விவரம் தெரிவிக்கவும்.
Ayyampet J.Balachandran

January 16th, 2013 at 22:52
ப.டேவிட் பிரபாகர்
  6  

செஞ்சிக்கு அருகில் பல்லவன் கட்டிய பனைமலையில் (தாளகிரிஸ்வரர்) உள்ள கொற்றவை சிற்பமும் இவ்வகையில் குறிப்பிடத்தக்கது. கண்டு எழுதுக.

January 18th, 2013 at 22:56
  7  

vanakkam ப.டேவிட் பிரபாகர், here you go http://poetryinstone.in/lang/ta/2012/10/29/a-hiddern-cavern-with-a-pallava-beauty.html. anbudan vj

January 19th, 2013 at 2:27

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