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Posts Tagged ‘Hanuman’


We watched the tamil movie Vaaranam Aayiram last night - ok, i know all of you are asking why i have jumped from sculpture to feature films. Well we are talking sculpture today as well, just that i found the choice of names for this film to be Unique. Literally translated it means a thousand elephants.

Its from a famous verse of the great devotee Aandaal sung on Vishnu - loosely translated - She envisions Vishnu coming surrounded by a 1000 elephants, the villagers noticing this gather water in golden pots ( auspicious welcome) and string garlands all over the town. Maybe the name created enough interest and inorder to explain the title the director made the hero’s mother - explain it at the very end - to every women her man is such….

But it reminded me of another man, he too linked to a thousand elephants - not surrounded but the strength of a thousand elephants - the legendary Bhima - . His culinary skills ( and consumption) apart, his strength forms part of many a folklore.

Being the son of Vayu ( the god of wind) he was born strong, yet there is another story of how he got his superhuman strength. Once while with Droupadi, a fabulous scent fills the air and both are drawn to it, Bhima goes in search of the source, a divine flower deep inside a forest. Enroute he stumbles across a monkey that is lying in his path. Drunk on his strength, Bhima abuses the monkey and asks it to give way, else he threatens to pick it and throw it away. The monkey doesn’t even bat an eyelid and asks him to first try lifting his tail. Amused Bhima tries to move the tail but to his astonishment finds that he can’t even nudge it. Realising his folly, he humbly seeks the true identity of his opponent - he is none other than the mighty Hanuman ( his half brother). Hanuman had come to hear of Bhima’s vain nature and ego on is strength and this was a lesson in humility. Having thought the lesson he embraces Bhima - who at once realises a supreme energy flowing through him….Hanuman has reinforced Bhima’s strength with the embrace.

Ok, now the sculpture. The amazing Halebid complex throws up this beauty. ( pl click on the image for a good view)

Bhima panel halebid.jpg

In the centre is the mighty Bhima rushing at an oncoming elephant - holding it by its trunk ( sadly broken) and ready to strike it with his mace. There are two soldiers behind the elephant in heavy armor - sword, shield.

Kaurava soldiers.JPG
bhima takes on another elephant.JPG

But the highlight of the sculpture is what is depicted extreme left ( or right of the panel)…a pile of dead elephants and their mahouts.

pile of dead elephants another angle.jpg
pile of dead elephants.JPG

A delightful composition.

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The story sculpted in this pillar from the Srirangam temple is quite unique. Have not come across similar depictions anywhere else. In order to appreciate this pillar sculpture we got to go and read the Ramayana.

Indrajit,the evil but extremely talented son of Ravana, hurls a magical missile at Laxmana ( Rama’s younger brother). He is mortally wounded and as per expert medical advise sought on the battlefield, the only cure is a rare herb Sanjeevani, that only grows off in a far off mountain. Hanuman jumps across the ocean in search and since he couldn’t identify the specific plant, he uproots the whole hill and brings it back ( refer to the comment by Kathie on the post on Narthamalai)

This story is known to most of us, but what other troubles did he encounter in this trip. This is what is portrayed in this pillar.

hanuman croc srirangam.jpg

Having heard from his spies of Hanuman’s quest for the herb, ravana speedily dispatches one of trusted lieutenants - his uncle Kalameni, a demon to the foot hills of the hill. He disguised as a sage, welcomes Hanuman and since the mountain is very pure, requests him to go take a bath in the nearby pond. ( which is bewitched by a gargantuan crocodile). On stepping into the pond, he is swiftly swallowed by the crocodile. Hanuman uses his strength then to split the crocs belly and emerge, when Lo - the crocodile carcass disappears and there stands a beautiful maiden. She is Dhanyamaali, a heavenly nymph, who was cursed by dhaksha. Having heard all this, hanuman is red with rage that the false sanyaasi who delayed his quest, goes to him, drags him by his hair and kicks him - which launches him into high orbit and he flies and falls dead in the throne room of Ravana.

False rishi and Hanuman.JPG
hanuman srirangam.jpg
take this - hanuman.JPG

This is what is being depicted in this pillar. Look closely - to the left you see the sage ( just coming into the picture) pointing to the pond, then you move right to see hanuman emerging from the croc’s belly and then Dhanyamaali thanking him. Switch back to the left, lower panel - you see hanuman dragging the false sage and spanking him.

What an amazing piece of work, such detailing of the crocodile’s body, its feet, the majestic form of the emerging Hanuman ( remember this is part of the same series of pillars which we analyzed is so much detail earlier with regard to the horse rider - this is a similar pillar - you can see the hind legs of the horse coming into frame with its anklets etc)

There is another legend of someone emerging from the belly of a crocodile which is also depicted in sculpture, which we will see in the coming posts.

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