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Posts Tagged ‘balramar ’

Ever since i read Dr. Kudavoil Balasubramanian’s wonderful article i had wanted to translate it into English for a wider audience to fully enjoy it. Thanks to friends Mr. Sps and Satheesh, i am doing that today. Enjoy this masterful post. picture credits to various sources on the net ( the stitched image thanks to Lakshni prabhala/flickr..The artist rendition/sketches thanks to the British Library archives.

The great Pallava dynasty has left behind numerous sites of artistic excellence, prominent amoung them and a pinnacle of their artistic expression is found among the architectural marvels of Kadal ( sea) Mallai, more popularly known as Mamalla ( great wrestler) puram ( town), a UNESCO world heritage site on the onskirts of chennai ( Madras). The artistic brilliance of the Pallavas, transformed small hillocks into the Pancha (Five) Rathas (chariots).

Mamallapuram%20-%20Five%20Rathas_06.jpg

They envisioned a naturally found rock as a reclining Vishnu, and carved it in the form of Thirumal (Vishnu – part of the Hindu Trinity – The Protector) and with flowing designs erected a temple for him. They added to the beauty of this structure by sandwiching it between two Shiva (Hindu trinity – The destroyer) temples, forming the ageless aesthetic poetry of the shore temple.

nature adding to the beauty.jpg
true scale.jpg

A hillock in the centre of the town was transformed by their chisels into numerous cave temples. Thus the honor of converting the town into a virtual treasure trove of artistic expression and a living museum of south Indian temple architecture solely rests with King Rajasimha ( Raja – King – Simha – Lion) who called himself in numerous inscriptions ( stone edicts) as Atyantakama – king of unlimited fancies.

Mamallai has the ability of attracting art connoisseurs from world over and leaving them spell bound by its charm. The style of temple architecture popularly known as Thoonganai Madam ( also referred to as Gajaprishtam – temple resembling an elephant) is intelligently exhibited by carving a temple of this style out of natural rock and alongside sculpting a beautifully proportioned Elephant.

ok we go nearer.jpg

They left their unique signature in the tiger cave by carving a stage inside a tiger’s mouth and let divine damsels to dance on it.

what beauty.jpg

The artists did not stop with just the cave temples on the hillock, but virtually filled every possible nook and corner with their sculptural masterpieces, thereby converting the entire town into a scintillating gallery of sculptural masterpieces. On one side, you see the celestial Ganges descending to the Earth, flowing as a river from the top of the hillock into the underground ( underworld). This panel is popularly referred to as Bagiratha ( proper name) prayatana ( Penance or effort). The rainwater that percolates from the top of the hill flows down through a natural fissure formed in-between two rock faces. That this spot was chosen to depict the penance of Bagirtha and the descent of the Ganges, shows the unmatched imaginative genius of the artist.

Penance panel long shot

The subsequent efforts at conserving this panel by people who did not understand the true significance of the sculpture nor the imagination of the artist, has led to damming of the rivulet via a brick wall, thereby redirecting the rainwater away from the panel. If we were to witness the unobstructed flow, we would be able to visualize the rampaging current of the mighty celestial Ganges descending from the heavens, forests and temples are carved along its shores, while animals and birds dot the landscape. We also see realistic portrayal of not only celestial beings, humans, but also Nagas from the netherworld swimming up towards the surface to witness this divine spectacle. Its truly an awe inspiring site to the art enthusiast.

Just as the damming of this amazing spectacle has deprived the viewer of an opportunity to witness the artists inspired creation, another later construction has hid a masterpiece of artistic expression. This has occurred under the Vijayanager rulers. The beauty of this embodiment of bakthi has been marred by this act. However inorder to truly appreciate this intricate panel, one has to dwell deep into Krishna’s ( an avatar or incarnation of Vishnu) history and master the descriptive hymns of the divine Alvars (Vaishnavite saints)

guy walking out with fiancee
pillars obstructing free view
pillars obstructing full view
the bull
the pillars - later additions

Krishna grew up amidst cow herds in a village called Ayarpadi. Once the villagers got together to celebrate a festival honoring the Indra ( A God, King of the Devas), they failed to follow the norms laid down for a sacrificial ceremony. This angered Indra and he ordered the destruction of Ayarpadi by a hail of stones. In the ensuing pandemonium cattle, cow herds and herdswomen ran helter shelter trying to flee the wrath of Indra. It was at this time that Krishna came there and lifted a mountain called Govardanam with his hand and held is above his head as an umbrella. This mountain acted as a shield against the hail and protected Ayarpadi. With the Lord holding up the mountain as a shield, normalcy returned to the terrified residents. Even though the hail was unrelenting they went about their tasks under the shelter without fear. The cows gave milk, lovingly caressing their calves, while the herdswomen started suckling their infants. Some of the elderly women churned the curd to make butter, hawked the butter milk, while the herdsmen milked their cows. Everyone went about doing their normal chores. If not for Krishna holding up the hillock as an umbrella that day, the hail would have annihilated the entire village.

This spectacular scene is praised in the immortal Gita and finds mention in tirumangaialvars beautiful tamil hymn below:

Indiranukku enru ( for indra) aayargal eduttha ( by cow herds)
Ezhil vizhavil ( beautiful function) pazha nadai sei ( traditional guidelines)
Manthira vithiyil ( code of mantra recital) poosai ( pooja) peraathu ( did not follow)
Mazhai pozhinthida ( it rained) thalarthu ayar ( cow herd got greatly distressed)
Entham odinar ( ran helter shelter) aanirai thalaramal ( thus not tiring)
Emperumal ( vishnu) arul ( grace) ennna ( what)
Antham il varaiyal mazhai thaduthanai ( he stopped the rain)
Tiruvalkenik kandene ( i see him in triplicane)

The same is described by Perialvar as

Aayanar koodi amaitha vizhavai amarartham konaark kozhiyak
Govarthanathuch seithan malai.

Further the Tirumangai king sings the praise as :

Kadungal (heavy) maari ( rain) kalle ( stone) peiyya ( fell), alla emakku enru
Kadungal neeye saran enru ( we have no other refuge)aayar anja (the cowherds fear)
Anjamugan ( he who has no fear )nedungal kundram ( stone hillock) kudai ( umbrella) onru ( one) yendthi ( lift/hold)
Niraiyai ( fully) siramathal ( inconvenience) nadunga ( shiver) vannam kaatthan ( saved)
namam namo narayaname ( the lord)

where he beautifully describes the furiousness of the hail and the grace of lord saving the villagers.

The Pallava sculptors chose a small hillock in the centre of mallai town to depict this scene, as a long bas relief panel. However, later construction of the outer mandabam by Vijaya Nagar rulers ( though the intention was to protect the sculptures from nature’s fury) - the pillars erected in front of the panel do obstruct the views and overall composition of this bas relief.

If one were to stand couple of paces away from the rock and take away the outer mandabam and the pillars in the mind’s eye, we can fully appreciate the powerful portrayal of Krishna, who majestically holds aloft the mallai hillock in his outstretched arms.

govardhana panel stiched

The amazing panel even inspired a British artist to sketch it in the early 19th C.

british artists rendition early 19thC
british artist's rendition early 19th C v2
Krishna
count the number of cows in the background
majestic krishna

Next to him is a delightful depiction of Balarama, whose nonchalant arm lovingly placed on the shoulders of an elderly cowherd, who is in all humility with folded arms.

another angle
balaramar
compare the stance of balarama with that of the man

Around them the entire village is depicted, with cows in the background and a majestic bull along with its calves etc.

majestic - see the various shapes of the horns

There is a lovely cow sculpted with splendid horns, portrayed along with its calf - the motherly instinct has been brought into stone, by the cow lovingly licking its calf. The man squatting down to milk the cow and the his action reflecting in the cows slightly upheld tail ! simply superb.

milkman 2
milkman, notice the tail
the cow licking its calf

There is herds women feeding her child on an other side, while a cowherd is playing the flute. The slant of the head as he his lost in his own composition !

man playing flute
women feeding her child with cows in background

Next is a lady who is sculpted balancing a rolled up mattress on her head and carrying on her other hand pot loads of curd and butter. The slant of her body and gait show that she is walking - an action pose.

another view of lady with matress n pots

To the extreme right, we see a older man carrying a baby lovingly perched on his shoulders supporting himself on a short staff, while his wife is holding a toddler in her left hand, while balancing a pot of buttermilk on her head.

lady holding child's hand
look at their poses
man with child
man with child another look

Surrounding Krishna ofcourse is a gang of wonder stuck girls. Despite the terrible hailstorm around these scenes show that the village carried on normal life thanks to Krishna’s benevolent act.

the group
group of ladies
lady holding child's hand
lady next to balarma n friend
look at their poses
another closeup
lady next to balarma n friend
same lady closeup
the group

Even the animals seem to be in merry mood. The other side, a young man seems to be intent on moving out of the protective umbrella and is held back by his lady ( or is it - the sculpture looks more like he is pulling the lady with him)

who is catching whose's hand
guy walking out with fiancee

The master pallava sculptor has converted the mallai hillock into Govardhanagiri. Drinking on each detail of this sculpture, lets see the depiction from Alwars once more - stretching up, he used the five fingers of his hand to hold up the hill as an umbrella - the photographic rendition can be seen in Periyalwars verse. He says the beautiful long sholders of the lord became the umbrella rod, his fingers became the spokes and the whole whole was inverted on top to from an umbrella.

sepparudaiya thirumaalavan ( krishna) than ( his)
senthaamaraik ( red lotus) viral ( fingers) ainthinaiyum ( all five)
kambaaga ( rod -) maduthu mani nedunthol ( beautiful broad /long shoulders)
kaambaakak( usage like the stalk of a flower) koduthu ( give) kavitha ( invert) malai ( hill)

Seeing this Perialwar goes on further, seeing the Lord in this pose, he is reminded of Aadishesha having spread his five heads as a hood lifting the earth.

padangal ( hoods) palavumudaiya (have many) paambaraiyan ( snake)
padar boomiyai ( the earth) thaangi ( hold up) kidappavanpol ( he who is)
thadangai ( hand) viralainthum ( all fingers) malaravaithu ( like a blooming flower)
damodharan ( another name of krishna) thaangu ( hold up) thadavaraithaan ( the hill)

Seeing the sights of this panel, with the children frolicking with the cowherds we are also reminded of the song of periyalwar

thaaimaar mor virkka povaar thagappanmaar
karranirap pinpu povar
ne aayarpaadi yilang kanni maargalai
nerpadave kondu pothi
kaaivaark kondrum ugap panave seithu
kandaar kazurith thirium
aiya unnai yarinthu konden unak
kanjuven ammam rtharave

(To one side is a magnificent seated bull - a depiction that is truly masterclass.

closeup of the bull down to the detailing of the nostril
realistic
splendid
the bull
the bull notice the folds of it skin
the majestic bull

and on the other we have a interesting composition of morphing lions - man - vulture)

the morphing lions

the beauty of ayarpaadi, the magnificence of Krishna holding aloft the govardhana hillock to protect against the hailstorm - all have been sculpted into stone by the pallava sculptor, not only that he has gone to great lengths to sculpt even the cows - their body forms, commissioning them to eternal life, singing the praise of the lifestock along with the Lord.

another cow
closeup of cow
closeup of the bull down to the detailing of the nostril
majestic - see the various shapes of the horns
milkman 2
the bull notice the folds of it skin
the cow licking its calf
women feeding her child with cows in background

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This is the 100th posting on this site. A century in a short span would not have been possible without the support of friends, philosophers and guides - but the seed for this effort was sown by a few guiding lights. One such guiding light, who continues to enthrall not only me, but anyone interested in varied subjects from trivia to research thesis - whose sheer propensity to generate articles of interest to a wide audience spanning pre sangam to contemporary living, makes you think if he is a walking encyclopedia - well, How do i introduce this truly multi faceted master of writing - or does he need an introduction at all : yes, its Dr.S. Jayabarathi whose writings (in Tamil and in English) on Tamil history and culture have earned him the respect and affection of enthusiasts world over. He has this amazing ability to judge individuals, an interesting thread or even a small post in some forum and he would call you - clearing your doubt or correcting an error, offering not the answer but show you the path - for the journey is half the pleasure of the goal ! he loves to inspire people to join on this search to understand what a great land we hail from.

( incase there is someone who don’t know him, this is for their benefit :
An introduction
)

I kind of wriggled this post from him, or technically hijacked from his site, but again since we have showcased most of the other sister sculptures of this group, i sought Dr . Jaybee’s kind permission to use his - and he graciously consented. Pray for his long life, so that he can inspire many more like me.


Dr. Jaybee’s site link

bheema vs dury

This frieze is a panel from the famous group of temples at Bantei Seri. Bantei Seri is 15 miles north-east of Ankor Wat in Cambodia. Bantei Seri is acclaimed as among the most beautiful pieces of sculpture in the world.

“The lacy setting is superbly executed and the balanced rhythm and harmony of the scene itself cannot be surpassed in any work of man” - Reginald le May.

The above piece shows a scene from Mahabharatha. Its the one of the last scenes in the Bharatha War. Duryodhana lay exhausted and wounded, alone after losing everything. The Pandavas wanted to finish the war decisively and came in search of Duryodhana.

Since Duryodhana was alone and the Pandavas were five, he is given the option of fighting with any one of them. Among the five, all the others, except Bhima, were no match for Duryodhana who possessed the strength of ten thousand elephants. Bhima was similarly strong.

Both of them were exponents of warfare with the Gatha aayudham. Though exhausted, Duryodhana had better training and skill in fighting. So a duel of gatha weapons took place. Gatha is a huge mace which is very heavy. It was used to crush opponents, break armour, wreck chariots and kill elephants.

The Pandavas, Krishna, and his elder brother Balarama were watching. Both Duryodhana and Bhima had learned the art of gatha warfare from Balarama. It was a dvantha yuddham which was a fight to the finish. As the fight proceeded, Bhima got tired and became unwary. But Duryodhana still retained his skill and fought a cautious, careful, and alert fight.

At one instance, Duryodhana jumped up high above the level of Bhima’s head. From that vantage position, he aimed and swung his gatha at the head of Bhima in a downward stroke. But at that time, Krishna gestured to Bhima to hit Duryodhana on his left thigh, which was now at level with Bhima’s swing. The left thigh is Duryodhana’s vulnerable part. Duryodhana can only be killed by crushing his left thigh. Krishna knew this and gave the cue to Bhima. Bhima dealt a death-dealing blow which crushed the left thigh of Duryodana. Duryodana fell to the ground, mortally wounded.

When balarama saw what was happening, he swung his Haalaayudham the plough weapon with fury at Bhima for this frank breach of duel code of honour. But Krishna prevented him from harming Bhima.

You can see in the panel, the scene embodying all the dynamism and feelings fully.

At the right, the four Pandavas are seated.

The rest of the Pandava brothers

In the centre, Bhima and Duryodhana are fighting. Duryodhana is aloft if the air with a swing and an unswerving aim.

Bhima Vs dhuryodhana 2
An airborne duryodhana
Bheema about to strike below the waist

At the left, Balarama is about to hit Bhima with his Haalaayudham. He is being held back by Krishna who is depicted wth four arms.

Krishna stopping Balarama ( armed with plough)

This is a wonderful piece of sculpture. What is more striking is that THEY have it THERE and we don’t have it here with us.

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