Today we head back to Pullamangai - Brahmapurisvarar temple. A treasure trove of miniature panels and we are going to see a whole ….lost for the right phrase to describe it!! Want to say something that will sound - like when Steve Irwin lands up on a viper’s nest or a pool filled with crocs. Isn’t she a beauty! Crickey, she’s a fiesty one!! How else to describe these. One particular sculpture, where the master sculptor - the master creator that he is, has tried to create the creator likeness. Well, if a creator creates his creator’s likeness - who is the creator. Read on to understand why i say this.
A very important legend is sculpted into these panels. The legend of Shiva - the one without an end or a beginning, the omni potent and omni present, the legend of Lingothbhava. This is a very important sculpture and a concept that was entwined into later temple building canons to occupy a permanent position on the the Shivaite temple architecture - into the Vimanam, positioned on the rear of the sanctum.
The objective of this post is not to hurt anyone’s sentiments, but just a simple reproduction of the legend as required to explain the sculpture.
There are ofcourse umpteen things to notice in this panel.
To start with we see the whole composition from far. There are 4 different parts of this sculpture and we will take each one in detail to view and study.
The main Lingothbhava sculpture.
The legend first - For the uninitiated, Hinduism’s basic trinity play a big role here - The creator ( must be five faced before this episode) Brahma, The preserver Vishnu and the destroyer Shiva. The story goes thus, once there arose an argument between Brahma and Vishnu, as to whose role / job was bigger and thus who was numer uno. As they kept on arguing, a huge pillar of fire emerged in front of them and a heavenly voice declared that whoever can find the start or end of the pillar is the best. Brahma took the form of a Swan and flew upwards to reach the summit and Vishnu took the form of a Boar and started digging down to find the base. They continued for ages without any success, when finally Vishnu gave up. Brahma on the other hand, noticed a flower falling down. He asked where was it coming from and the flower replied that it was falling down for ages from the top, not wanting to give up, Brahma convinced the flower to lie and brought it as proof to Vishnu to state that he had won the wager and collected the flower from the summit. At this point, from inside the fiery pillar Shiva burst forth and plucked out the lying head of Brahma ( he became 4 faced henceforth), and since he had lied, made a ruling that henceforth he wasn’t fit for worship ( so you generally don’t see Hindu Shrines dedicated to Brahma in India). Incidentally the said flower was also made unfit for worshiping within temples henceforth.
Both Brahma and Vishnu accepted that their ego had made them not realise the obvious that it was Shiva in front of them and he was Aaadhi andan ( endless, no beginning , no end). Now we return to the sculpture to view the characters.
Brahma flying upwards, Vishnu as the Boar boring down. Shiva (sadly badly mutilated) bursting from inside the pillar.
To the left and right, of this main panel - we see amazing sculptures of Brahma and Vishnu.
The facial features of Brahma are so exquisite - despite the legend, the sculptor has not once missed to shape the creator’s likeness - So, if a creator creates his creator’s likeness - who is the creator
Hey, this is not a movie or play, to end with the title. We have more beauties to take notice and enjoy.
We have some spectacular miniatures below the main panel, which we will see one by one. The panels first
We have already seen the famous Chandesaanugrahamurthy sculpture from Gangaikonda cholapuram. He is a pint sized beauty of the same. Shiva is shown fondly bedecking a flower garland on Chandesa’s head.
The next is Vishnu lying down on the coils of Adisesha with Lakshmi and another attendant.
This looks like Shiva and Paravathi - The posture seems to resemble Shiva as Gangadhara
The other side, we have three attendants, heavenly beings or royal persons
Next to them, is a very interesting miniature again - Shiva as Maha Sadhashiva. or is it Brahma??
Down below, we come to the last miniature in the panel ( there are of course some lovely Yaali rows which we will see in another subsequent post)
This has Shiva and Parvathi , kind of sitting on a throne with one leg bent ( upto the Knee) and kind of casually put on the throne. Its so amazing that they could sculpt to this detail in this scale. There is a cute Shiva Ghana by the side as well. Well inorder to truly appreciate the greatness of this we got to give you our signature photo - a scale comparison.
Satheesh’s masterstroke …another miniature from the same temple but with a car key by its side.
Picture courtesy’s are for our inhouse specialist Satheesh and Varalaaru.com archives.