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Posts Tagged ‘Elephants’


This is an amazing sculpture of Shiva as Gajasamhara murthy ( gaja - elephant), samhara ( vanquish) ins sanskrit or Yaani uri porthia murthy ( yaani - elephant, uri - skin, porthia - cover or clad in) in Tamil. This beauty was brought from Darasuram to Tanjore museum.

yaanaiuri4

We have seen many sculptures of this episode before, so whats so great about this one? you might ask. Well when i met one of my mentors Shri. Kudavoil Balasurbramaniam, i asked him about his favorite pieces. ( incidentally the same one was picked up by master sculptor Sri Umapathy in our recent interview - will post it - he is trying out a new form of showcasing these beauties in plates !!)

sir umapathy's plate

Well, K Balu Sir explained to me the splendor of this creation. At first glance, i did not pick the amazing details of this sculpture. There are many repetitions of this pose in later chola temples and also in other places, but the chola style is unique. Here is one from Chidambaram.

yaanaiuri chidrambaram

Chandra of course will pick the Pullamangai sculpture we saw earlier as his pick - since its a miniature and the delightful baby skanda jumping off parvathi’s hands.

pullamangai yaaniuri.jpg

But the beauty of this creation - standing at almost 6 feet, the sculptor really used the proportions to bring out at sculptural marvel.

Inorder to fully appreciate the greatness of this magnificent piece, i requested my good friend Mrs. Lakshmi Sharath who was going to Tanjore to get me some closeup pictures. ( Kathie also helped with her snaps!!!)

We have already seen the episode in detail in the earlier post, however the dynamic post, quote from Sri Vidya Dehejia’s book - Art of the Imperial Cholas

Also from Darasuram is a dynamic relief carving of Siva’s jubilant dance of triumph after killing the elephant demon Gajasura. Having flayed the elephant, Shiva held its skin in his outstretched hands and danced a tempestuous dance. The exaggerated twist of his body dramatically conveys his frenzied movement. One cannot but appreciate the sentiment of Saint Manikkavachakar, who described Shiva as a madman:

i shall call you
madman draped in elephant skin
poison throated madman,
madman dancing
amid the trees
of the burning ground,
madman clad in tiger skin,
madman who enslaved
even me.

But the beauty of the piece needs more elaboration. He has four hands on each side - look at how his fingers have torn into the elephant hide and protrude out. Oh! such splendid detailing.

Darasuram yaani uriporthia murthy
darasram yaanai uri sculpture

Look at the ornamentation on the hands, legs, neck. The elaborate headdress, flowing locks forming a crown held back by a Skull shaped diadem, his knotted waist cloth swaying in the power of his dance. Exemplary art. But what is his lower left hand doing, its pointing the viewer towards the extreme left of the sculpture ( right as you view it).

yaanaiuri2

Well well well, we see Parvathi in a kind of sidewards stance - her right shoulder is slightly pushed up, as though she is shielding someone, Oh!, there he is, baby skanda, cocooned by his mother, who doesn’t want him to witness the gory scene.

Paravathi with skanda

Here lies the magnificence of this sculpture. As you bend down and look upwards from the position of baby skanda, parvathi’s body would block the action of Shiva totally. But we return to the face of Shiva now, for the final flair of the artist, as a singer would finish off his masterful composition with a delightful alapana. Look closely at the face of shiva.

single fang
yaanaiuri1
closeup of Shiva
angry side
normal shiva

The side facing away from Paravathi and Skanda - the right side ( left as you view it) - eyes brows are arched in anger, while the other side is more gentle


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I had asked this question in the original post - What is the inspiration for a sculptor ? True Mallai abounds with animals - the great penance panel with its whole forest / zoo of animals, the Govardhana panel with its cows etc, but this is a very unique sculpture, as it depicts no divine legend, no god figures - no puranic myth.

spectacular.jpg

It would have taken the sculptor months of hard work - to sculpt such a realistic natural scene. But why did he do it. Doubt if the King would have commissioned him to do such a work. It is also not a causal fling, like a half hour sketch by a caricature artist.

This line of thought made me try to come up with some other reason, to explain the sculpture.

Here it goes: consider this - the sculptors of mallai were experts, clearly the work in mallai is not that of novices. So it couldn’t be like some finishing school, the degree of perfection in form is much too advanced. Their stone craft could not be mastered by common people and would have called for years of study under expert teachers - most probably, right from childhood, these sculptors would have been exclusively tutored in stone craft, with single minded devotion. Whether there was the system of father teaching son or established gurukulam like - we don’t know. But one thing is clear, to achive this kind of mastery over any art, the heart soul and everything else had to be devoted into the work.

Keeping the above in mind, my interpretation of the panel is :

The sculptor is the monkey

In sculpting the visibly joyous, frolicking , happy elephant family, he depicts what he has missed - loving family life, for he would have had to be in sculpture school at a very young age, missing the years of fun and frolic which a normal
kid would have got, which he is lost when he decided to pursue his passion.

spectacular.jpg
the baby elephant.jpg
the mail elephant.jpg

The peacock could be his lady love - again am sure these guys would never had time to lead a normal family live, most probably would have been geeky nerds with single minded approach to sculpture. Even if they married, they wouldn’t have spent much time in the pleasures of it.

the peacock.jpg

Now look at the monkey again in the sculpture, he is visibly sad, has a sense of great loss but is also having a kind of searching / questioning face. He is looking at the viewer,as if asking, if all his sacrifices were worth it. what do you say, was it worth it

monkey.jpg
the monkey.jpg

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