We return today with a fascinating legend, supported by three sculptures. Two from Darasuram and one from Krishnapuram. Thanks to Mr Arvind Venkatatraman for lovely pictures from Darasuram. we got an unexpected Bonus from Artist A.P. Sreethar, sharing this rare sketch of the Krishnapuram pillar by the legendary Artist Silpi as well.
While there are many different versions of this legend, am trying to give the simplest ( and less controversial one). More so, since this legend doesn’t appear in the main Mahabaratha, i am taking one that has just about enough information to support the sculptures exhibited.
Yudhistir is performing a great Yaga ( sacrifice). He is advised that inorder for it to be performed properly he needs the help ( milk of !! by some versions) Purushamriga - a half man half tiger ( or lion), which is a staunch devotee of Shiva. Trouble is the creature resides deep in a jungle and preys on almost anyone it sees. ( other versions bring in a Shivaite /Vaishnavite angle to this debate)
Bhima is selected for this task and wily Krishna gives him 12 stones ( lingas, rudrahsa by other versions) and asks him to use it when he is in trouble. Bhima sets off to find the Pururshamriga and finds it deep inside the jungle. By one version they agree to a challenge - kind of a running race, in other versions he chants something that upsets it. Well back to the story, Bhima is being chased by the Purushamriga and its catching up with him at a fast pace. Bhima decides to use the `stones’ and drops one. Instantly it turns into a Shiva LInga ( shiva temple in some accounts) - anyway the animal being a stauch shiva devotee has to worship the Lord, giving Bhima much needed time to put some distance between them. But the animals superior speed enables it to catch up with him once more and he uses one more of the stones. Thus he uses up all 12 ` help lines’ but he is still not out of the forest. He uses all his strength and just as he puts one leg outside the forest, his other leg is caught by the Purushamriga. An argument ensures and Yudhistr is called on to pass judgement.
Yudhistir being the just king that he is, rightly !! passes the judgment that the Purushamriga can have half of Bhima ( the portion within its territory). The impartial judgment makes the Purushamriga let go of Bhima and all is well.
OK, now to the sculptures. Two delightful panels from Darasuram. You can see in the first one you can see the chase. The Purushamriga seems to be hardly taxed and is about to grab Bhima.
The second panel, it has caught him and both are in front of Yudhistir ( who has a lady attending on him).
The Krishnapuram pillar sculpture is more elaborate and seems to be depicting a fight scene almost - maybe when the Pururshamriga caught up with Bhima. Both are holding small maces..
Now, we see the master strokes of Artist Silpi who has caught this pillar in his immortal work here.
Amazing sculpture and an inspiring sketch.
pl do visit Sri Raja Deekshithar’s wonderful site for more of these beauties. Sadly, sir left us this year. http://www.sphinxofindia.rajadeekshithar.com/