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Posts Tagged ‘lingothbhavar’

The most common request from enthusiasts pertains to dating sculptures. Fortunately dating stone sculpture is easier as most of them are found insitu and in larger quantity and readily available for study. Quite often we do get foundation inscriptions that allow us to precisely date them. The same cannot be said about bronzes though, as the ones under worship are not open to study for obvious reasons and the ones in museums are far removed from their original settings. We shall take up the study of stone sculptures of a single form – the Lingothbhava, for it’s the most common and easy to spot – found in most temples on the circumambulatory right behind the main sanctum – ie usually the sanctum faces east, the western side kosta will feature the Lingothbava. We shall pick six distinct examples and try to trace the form’s evolution from Pallava through early Chola and later Chola periods.

Kanchi Kailasanathar – Rajasimha Pallava (700-728CE)

kanchi+kai

The first one is a typical later Pallava creation ( meaning they have moved on from excavations to structural temples) from the Kailasanthar temple. It is important to notice the ornamentation, especially how the thick sacred thread – the Yagnopavitha passes over the right hand, a very unique Pallava feature. Shiva’s body is a bit stocky but there is no body builder like chest muscles. The pillar of light has not yet taken the form of a linga and the emergence of Shiva is almost like a geometrical rhombus shape. The importance given to the Trishul and its unique shape, the beautiful crescent of the moon and the thin slightly longer upper body of Vishnu and Brahma on the sides as compared to the lower body etc are all pointers. With experience you will get to notice the round shape of the face, thick set nose and the not too muscular chest giving them an almost young adult profile. Notice the Thorana on top of the sculpture as well. Where is this sculpture found in the shrine ? is an interesting question to readers…

Thirumayam - Satyagiri Shiva Cave.

Around the same time or even slightly earlier in Pudukkottai - this wonderful site which has been variously credited to Pallava ( Mahendra) - Pandya and Mutharaiya origins is this masterpiece.

sathyagir+cave

The Lingothbhava murthy is simple yet stunning. If you notice there are flames emanating from the side of the pillar and they have been sculpted in a natural manner burning upward. Shiva is portrayed with only two hands and stands in Sama Bhanga, his left hand is held in Kati Hasta on is hip, while the right hand is graceful in Varada Hasta – the boon bestowing pose. The pillar has a perfect oval cleft revealing Shiva.

tirumayam+side

The sculptor has masterfully used the depth of the panel to show the right hand’s bend at the elbow giving it a very natural grace. The face of Shiva is radiates calm, the thick set nose and lips lifelike, while his tresses are stylistically bundled up over his head to form the Jata Bhandam. Iconographical texts state that the height of this must be one face length above the hairline and they have been followed perfectly here. The ornamentation is very simple, the most prominent being the rather thick Udara Bandana – the belt that is worn above the belly button. The lower garment though worn ornately, has no ornamental gem set strings and lacks the lion face belt buckle - simha mukha clasp.

The most interesting aspect to note in this masterpiece are the Yagnopavitha,the sacred thread is thick and single stranded and goes over the right elbow is the classic Pallava Nivitta fashion, and the very natural torso – not the bulging chest of a body builder, but a slender beauty of an ascetic. The shoulders and arms however are portrayed with great strength and muscle volume. The iconographical features and minimalistic ornamentation would give this sculpture a late 7th C CE - early 8th C CE date and the presence of fragmentary yet famous Pallava granta inscriptions affirm the same. But it is a great mystery as to why the sculptor did not depict Vishnu and Brahma - either as a boar and swan nor their forms outside !!

Pullamangai – Parantaka Chola I ( 907 – 955 CE)

It is a tough toss up between the next stage in the progression as we step into the 10th C CE between Punjai Nalthunai Eswaram and Pullamangai - Brahmapureeswarar.

The Chola revival spurs temple building all over Tamil Nadu and the artists expressed themselves to the fullest extent in the early stages. We move on to Pullamangai - assigned to Paranatka I

pull

Though the face of Shiva has been damaged, there are no greater stone sculptures than the Brahma and Vishnu on the sides of this magnificent Ligothbhavar. A span of two centuries and you can see that all the extra trimmings have been minimalized, with the central pillar of fire taking center stage, with Brahma shown flying to see the top and Vishnu as the boar burrowing underneath. The top of the pillar of fire is not seen and it has not yet become like a linga - the fire is shown emanating from the cleft.

brahma+pull
vishnu+pull

They are also sculpted on both the sides and their size is (only slightly) smaller than Shiva’s proportions. Shiva is shown with only two pairs of hands, the sacred thread falls straight over the hip and the attributes of the axe and deer are becoming more symbolic and smaller in size but still within the frame inside the pillar whose rather straight edges of the Pallava are now becoming more rounded. The important feature to notice is the very normal depiction of the body, thin waists and chest, with the face getting more naturally roundish oval - Ofcourse the cleft is larger now and more of shiva’s legs are visible but the body form is still slender.

Punjai around 955 CE

Though epigraphy dates Punjai to around Aditya II period ( 965-969 CE) the sculptural style indicates a date closer to first quarter of the 10th C CE - to Parantaka I.

punjai+long

The sculpture itself is crowned by a stunning thorana and we find the Boar ( vishnu - Varaha) and Swan ( Brahma) present. However, forms of Vishnu and Brahma are conspicuous by their absence on the two sides. The Linga is perfectly formed on top with a band of interwoven flowers near the top. The sculptor continues the tradition of flames emanating from the cleft.

punjai+lingo

The difference between the Pallava n Pallava transition period form of Shiva to the early Chola is very dramatic.- the more filled out chest and the almost circular / round face are clear to see. The Simhamuka belt clasp is very prominent !

Tanjore Brihadeshwara – Sri Raja Raja Chola ( 985 -1014 CE)

tanjore

Another century and the emphasis totally shift to Shiva while Brahma and Vishnu are shown in very low relief and much smaller proportion. The difference to note is also in the iconography of the pillar of fire, now depicted almost like that of a Linga. The difference in the shape of Shiva’s face and torso is also visible, with the chest broadening and filling out, as compared to the waist.

Tribuvanam – Kulottunga Chola III( 1178 -1218CE)

tribuvanam

Another century has passed we come to the last great Chola ruler Kulottunga’s temple in Tribuvanam. The art has become rigid, the pillar of fire is almost a linga now - with the height of the pillar vs Shiva is almost nil - ie there is no blank space in the pillar anymore and Shiva emerging from a perfectly formed oval opening occupies most of the pillar area. Brahma and Vishnu are portrayed slightly larger but overall we can see a drop in creative aesthetics and a certain conformational adherence to rigid standards in the sculpting.

thanks: Ashok, Arvind, Saurabh, Shashwath, Satheesh and Shriram

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Today we head back to Pullamangai - Brahmapurisvarar temple. A treasure trove of miniature panels and we are going to see a whole ….lost for the right phrase to describe it!! Want to say something that will sound - like when Steve Irwin lands up on a viper’s nest or a pool filled with crocs. Isn’t she a beauty! Crickey, she’s a fiesty one!! How else to describe these. One particular sculpture, where the master sculptor - the master creator that he is, has tried to create the creator likeness. Well, if a creator creates his creator’s likeness - who is the creator. Read on to understand why i say this.

A very important legend is sculpted into these panels. The legend of Shiva - the one without an end or a beginning, the omni potent and omni present, the legend of Lingothbhava. This is a very important sculpture and a concept that was entwined into later temple building canons to occupy a permanent position on the the Shivaite temple architecture - into the Vimanam, positioned on the rear of the sanctum.

The objective of this post is not to hurt anyone’s sentiments, but just a simple reproduction of the legend as required to explain the sculpture.

Ligothbhavar panel pullamangai

There are ofcourse umpteen things to notice in this panel.

so much to see

To start with we see the whole composition from far. There are 4 different parts of this sculpture and we will take each one in detail to view and study.

The main Lingothbhava sculpture.

closeup of the panel

The legend first - For the uninitiated, Hinduism’s basic trinity play a big role here - The creator ( must be five faced before this episode) Brahma, The preserver Vishnu and the destroyer Shiva. The story goes thus, once there arose an argument between Brahma and Vishnu, as to whose role / job was bigger and thus who was numer uno. As they kept on arguing, a huge pillar of fire emerged in front of them and a heavenly voice declared that whoever can find the start or end of the pillar is the best. Brahma took the form of a Swan and flew upwards to reach the summit and Vishnu took the form of a Boar and started digging down to find the base. They continued for ages without any success, when finally Vishnu gave up. Brahma on the other hand, noticed a flower falling down. He asked where was it coming from and the flower replied that it was falling down for ages from the top, not wanting to give up, Brahma convinced the flower to lie and brought it as proof to Vishnu to state that he had won the wager and collected the flower from the summit. At this point, from inside the fiery pillar Shiva burst forth and plucked out the lying head of Brahma ( he became 4 faced henceforth), and since he had lied, made a ruling that henceforth he wasn’t fit for worship ( so you generally don’t see Hindu Shrines dedicated to Brahma in India). Incidentally the said flower was also made unfit for worshiping within temples henceforth.

Both Brahma and Vishnu accepted that their ego had made them not realise the obvious that it was Shiva in front of them and he was Aaadhi andan ( endless, no beginning , no end). Now we return to the sculpture to view the characters.

Brahma flying upwards, Vishnu as the Boar boring down. Shiva (sadly badly mutilated) bursting from inside the pillar.

closeup of flying brahma
flying brahma
vishnu as varaaham
shiva emerging from the pillar

To the left and right, of this main panel - we see amazing sculptures of Brahma and Vishnu.

vishnu - on the other side
Vishnu closeup
brahma -on one side
closeup of brahma
brahma closer
brahma - what a beauty

The facial features of Brahma are so exquisite - despite the legend, the sculptor has not once missed to shape the creator’s likeness - So, if a creator creates his creator’s likeness - who is the creator

Hey, this is not a movie or play, to end with the title. We have more beauties to take notice and enjoy.

We have some spectacular miniatures below the main panel, which we will see one by one. The panels first

the left side bottom row panel
the left side first row panels
the right side first row panels
the right side lower row panel

We have already seen the famous Chandesaanugrahamurthy sculpture from Gangaikonda cholapuram. He is a pint sized beauty of the same. Shiva is shown fondly bedecking a flower garland on Chandesa’s head.

miniature panels - chandesaanugraha murthy

The next is Vishnu lying down on the coils of Adisesha with Lakshmi and another attendant.

mahavishnu on adisheshan with lakshmi and an attendant

This looks like Shiva and Paravathi - The posture seems to resemble Shiva as Gangadhara

shiva paarvati - is it a gangadhara

The other side, we have three attendants, heavenly beings or royal persons

three attendants

Next to them, is a very interesting miniature again - Shiva as Maha Sadhashiva. or is it Brahma??

shiva - mahasadhashiva or brahma

Down below, we come to the last miniature in the panel ( there are of course some lovely Yaali rows which we will see in another subsequent post)

shiva parvathi and a ghana

This has Shiva and Parvathi , kind of sitting on a throne with one leg bent ( upto the Knee) and kind of casually put on the throne. Its so amazing that they could sculpt to this detail in this scale. There is a cute Shiva Ghana by the side as well. Well inorder to truly appreciate the greatness of this we got to give you our signature photo - a scale comparison.

to give you an idea of the size of these miniatures

Satheesh’s masterstroke …another miniature from the same temple but with a car key by its side.

Picture courtesy’s are for our inhouse specialist Satheesh and Varalaaru.com archives.

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