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Posts Tagged ‘Door Guardian’

People have been pointing fingers for long and the inferences from them seem to be infinite. Imagine trying to infer intent from a pointed forefinger of a stone sculpture ! Yes, ideed, a pleasant chat on one such, lead to a wonderful lesson on Iconography. Take a look at these beautiful door guardians from Thakkolam ( thanks to kathie for bringing them up for discussion and Arvind and Varalaaru.com team for photographs and Mrs Subhashini for the sketches)

thakkolam+doorguardian+left
thakkolam+doorguardian+right
thakkolam04
thakkolam05

There are myriad of hand poses, but today the question is centered on two different hand postures - Hasta mudras, which look very similar - the Suchi and Tarjani.

suchihasta
tarjanihasta

We turn to Elements of Hindu Iconography by Sri Gopinath Rao for assistance.

“Suchi-hasta has been misunderstood by some Sanskrit scholars to mean the hand that carries a suchl or needle. ……………………….. But, like the Tarjani hasta, the Suchl-hasta, also denotes a hand-pose, in which the projected forefinger points to an object below, whereas in the tarjani-hasta the forefinger has to point upwards, as if the owner of the hand is warning or scolding another”

Let us take a closer look at the two door guardians.

tarjani+hasta
tarjani+hasta+1

Its really sad that such magnificent masterpieces in stone cannot be cleaned and maintained properly - infact one of the doorguardians seems to be pointing at the cockroaches troubling him while the other seems to point away from the ungainly intruders.

look+otherway
tarjani+hasta

This seems a positive identification of the Tarjani hasta. How about the famed doorguardians of the Tanjore Big temple?

tanjore+DG+L
tanjore+DG+R

The distinction when comparing them to the sketches, seems a bit vague.

mudra1
mudra2

Are they pointing or warning or both?

We head back to the book to refer - Suchi hasta where the forefinger points to an object below

Let us try this on some classic examples.

The famed Kalarimurthy of Kodumbalur Moovar Koil.

Kalarimurthy+moovarkoil
suchi+hasta

Positively Suchi !

How about the famed Sculptural Monalisa - Darasuram Gajasamharamurthy?

gajasamharamurthy+darasuram
suchi+hasta+2

Again its Suchi.

Now comes the trickier parts. These two exhibits from the V&A Museum London.

dakshinamurhty+vnaMuseum
vam

Obviously both are in the process of giving a discourse and we cannot take it as a threatening or warning gesture. Returning to refer again from the book, this interesting mention caught my eye. The description is of the famed Umasahita panel from Ellora

ellora+panel
ellora+umasahita


“Siva is herein holding in one of his left hands the upper part of the garment of his consort and keeps one of his right hands in the suchi pose and the other appears to be carrying a book. He is evidently giving out to Uma one of the puranas…….”

Now, the hand is evidently not pointing downwards. Now is Siva warning or scolding or just pointing out to his consort? Why is he holding her garment - maybe she is not attentive and he is….

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Many a time, after spending many hours working in gathering information, visiting a site, taking photographs, analysing them and presenting to them in a structured way, that you think would appeal to your target audience, you compile a post and beautifully illustrate it and then wait for that little bit of encouragement. Most of the times, its you who have to turn around and pat yourself on your back and carry on, for deep in your heart you know that hard work is done not expecting any reward. But then, sometimes, when you do get a result and in this case a solution to a pressing problem that you addressed in your post, that too from a person of authority, who you think cares a damn for these treasures, it dawns on you that after all your efforts have not gone to waste. Your voice has been heard !

Thanks to the friend who read my initial post why loot a door guardian, and notified me of the damage. If this is the case in a gallery then, thanks to the other reader who took on himself to send it to the concerned authority, and a thousand thanks to the good Samaritan who respected the concern in a blog post and took it on himself to get the problem addressed and in this case - cleaned the sculpture and restored the inscription.

chalukyan+doorguardian+cleaned
chalukyan+doorguardian+cleaned2
cleaned
pedestal+inscription
pedestal+inscription1

thanks finally to my dear friend for doing a followup and reporting that ALL IS WELL.

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