Posts Tagged ‘Door Guardian’

War Trophies are always controversial. There have been many such famous trophies - the Vatapi Ganapathy by Narasimha Pallavas commander Paranjothi, The Srivijayan Victory arch brought back by Rajendra chola - Today we are going to see another such. The famed Chalukya door guardian of Darasuram currently housed in the Tanjore Art Gallery. ( images courtesy Satheesh and Sriram)

tanjore art gallery door guardian

Its indeed a very beautiful work of art, but why would a Chola King want to bring back a Door guardian as a war trophy ? Well one this is for sure, it was a war trophy for he himself inscribed it in its pedestal

the famous inscription

The Tamil inscription at the base of this sculpture, seized by the imperial Cholas in 1045 from their Chalukya enemies, reads: “This is the door guardian brought by Lord Vijayarajendradeva after burning (the Chalukya capital) Kalyanapuram.” Institut Francaise d’Indologie, Pondicherry. Courtesy of Richard H. Davis.

its features are characteristically chalukyan

chalukya door guardian
rich ornamentation and drapery
the left hands
the right hands

But there are some intriguing depictions near its base.

a monitor lizard
interesting features

The first is a monitor lizard, but what is a mouse doing underneath the uplifted feet of the door guardian. What is it that is next ( to the left of the mouse as you view the image) - like a tail ??. and what is the animal to the extreme left.

Thanks to http://picasaweb.google.com/gildubs/IndeDuSud2008# for the closeups

a cat toying with a rat

Well, its a cat toying with a rat !! and what is the other??

a snake swallowing a rat

Well well well, its a snake eating a mouse. This does remind us of something which we have seen earlier connected to the big temple

Big temple intro post

Lets refresh our memories

tanjore big temple
tanjore big temple door guardian
the lion, snake, elephant and lizard

Zoom in

elepant eaten by snake n crocodile

Now, we have Raja Raja Chola’s masterful edifice in stone portraying a prancing lion, a snake swallowing an elephant ( see the earlier post and the interesting hypothesis to visualise the Vimana as Mount Kailash itself) and a crocodile / large lizard.

Against this, the chaluykan version has a cat playing with a mouse, and a snake swallowing a mouse plus a mouse underneath the door guardian’s feet. Was this an attempt at ridiculing Chola’ sculpture and as an act of retaliation, was this brought back as a war trophy !!

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To continue the thread on the Door guardians - we proceed today to a very innocuous looking temple lost midst all the developments in Kanchi. Arvind had a tough time spotting this temple and many thanks again for his untiring efforts to get us these images from the shrine - The Mathangeshwara Temple ( will feature its twin the Mukteshwara shortly as well).

mathangeshwara kanchi

The dating of this temple is not clear and we will discuss that more once we see Mukteshwara as well, however, stylistically it placed between CE 700 - 800 - in the reign of Nandhivaraman II Pallavamalla. A king with a very interesting ascension, rule n exile - who inspired the Nandhikalambagam to be sung in his praise.

Without diverting from our focus, lets step inside.

Pillars infront of the doorguardians

The lion pillars are obstructing our view of the door guardians.

mathangeshwara left door guardian
mathangeshwara right door guardian

how do they compare with the early Pallava door guardians - Mahendra style? They do look a lot more terrifying - the earlier ones had a mocking look on them. See for yourself.


mandagapattu leftdoor guardian
mandagapattu rightdoorguardian


the right door guardian.jpg
the left door guardian.jpg


the right outside door guardian
the left outside door guardian

We need to study Mathangeshwara more closely.

Left door guardian

mathangeshwara left door guardian
the left door guardian's horns
mace + snake - right side door guardian

The Horns seem a bit more horn and less prongs of a trident ( can’t spot the centre spoke !)

Right door guardian

mathangeshwara right door guardian
the right door guardian's head dress
mace + snake - right side door guardian
is it an axe blade on the crown
is it an axe blade on the crown ( see box)

Is this a variation of the Axe blade - earlier it was vertical and here it seems a horizontal blade !

The most important variation however is the additional two hands - both the door guardians are four armed.

So now comes the trichy question - Vikramaditya II invaded Kanchi around 745 AD, got inspired by Kailasantha Temple, took back the chief sculptors and went about building temples in Pattadakkal. The horns / trident were certainly Pallava features, but what about the additional set of hands of the door guardians ? Was it a Pallava variant or a Chalukyan Variant that reverse flowed into Pallava styling. For that we need to study the Mathangeshwara Icons ( including its twin Mukteshwara ) for stylistic dating comparing with say the Vaikunta Perumal temple - where we have clear timelines established.

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