Darasuram forms the pinnacle of Chola art, a must visit in the golden triangle of middle chola art, Tanjore, Gangai Konda Cholapuram and Darasuram.
What you are seeing is a staircase leading to the hall,the humble handrail has been transformed into a splendid interplay of beautiful mythical animals – a delightful concoction of animal figurines ,called yaazhis ,..mythical beasts of gigantic proportions ,. Bulging eyes, horns, claws ,..the artist imagination is running riot here,.due to predominance of the elephant motif here, we will call it an elephant yaazhi which is set off at the bottom by his aquatic counterpart ,.a fish yaazhi,.if you watch closely you can spot the solider on top of the elephant yaazhi complete with as assortment of arms ..sword and shield ..and another one emerging from the mouth of fish yaazhi below!!
We are now looking at a similar flight of stairs ..but this has been crudely repaired by the powers to be !! you can compare the two side and by side and notice that the centre block just under the Yaazhi doesn’t fit.. its been crudely set into the composition, anyway lets look at what is depicted there,looks like some form of martial school, two people jesting in sport and another pair sparring with swords, in between the two pairs is the master..overseeing her wards,yes all are women fighters !!!
Thanks to my young friend Shriram, got better pictures of the rail and inlay panel.