Quantcast

Posts Tagged ‘madurai’

300 … Its been a fascination journey of discovery and many joyous friendships therein. “poetryinstone” has been a labour of love and along the way have been touched, tutored, supported,helped by countless individuals - boys, youngsters, relatives, family, friends and Scholars. Yes, Scholars - many of whom shared their countless pearls of wisdom with a novice like me without any reservations, encouraging me to plough on - so far its been an eye opener and yet just a scratch on the surface !

Today, one such amazing individual - a scholar par excellence, a well wisher in the truest sense - Kadalodi Sri Narasiah Sir honors the site with an unique guest post.

What is your first response on seeing the images below?

madan1
madan2
madan7

Photos courtesy: Flickr: Pigalle

“Some of the better maintained Nayak temples in South India??” read on to know more about the remarkable tale of these stones and their journey. Why i request Sir to take this as a subject was it was this discussion that started our serious interaction, almost 6 years ago, in a egroup - he posted these lines:

” There is a temple called Madanagopalswami temple in Madurai which historically dates to 16th century. There in front of the temple now, is a road lined up with shops on either side. There was in this place a full fledged Mandapam with sculptures. This entire mandapam ……………………………..In the meantime this lady passed away and her family members, Susan Pepper Gibson, Mary Gibson Henry, and Henry C. Gibson , procured the material and presented the lot in memory of Adeline Pepper Gibson to the Art museum at Philadelphia. Now the whole lot is housed in Gallery No. 224, second floor of the museum re-erected as a mandapam”

Imagine him with an incredible array of accomplishments:

Profession: Retired Chief Mechanical Engineer of Vizag Port.
Former Consultant to the World Bank for the Emergency rehabilitation Programme of Kingdom of Cambodia.
Former ADB consultant, Visiting Faculty AMET University for MBA Programme. (Terminal Management and IMO related subjects)
Education: Marine engineering. I. N. S. Shivaji Naval Engineering College Lonavla
Writing: over 100 short stories in Tamil (9 as Muthirai kathai in Vikatan.)
3 collections of short stories published, first one for 6 years as non-detailed study for UGs in Madura College. Second won 2 awards. Third won TN State award.
Non fiction. Kadal Vazhi Vanikam a treatise on sea trade from 3rd century BC –won TN State award.
Madrasapattinam the story of Chennai from 1630 to 1947. Won TN State award and Chidambaram Meyyapan award
Sadharana Manithan Biography of Chitti Sundararajan.
Madras (Tracing the history of Madras from 1369) in ENGLISH
Overcoming Challenges the story of 125 years of the Port of Chennai with S Muthiah (English)
Author of the book on the history of Madurai (Aalavai)

……interacting with a novice blogger like me. But his dedication shone through as he remembered and immediately confirmed to this guest post. readon…

madan3
madan4
madan5
madan6
madan6
madan8
madan_purusha

Photos courtesy: Flickr: Pigalle

For what is preserved in the Philadelphia Museum (USA) from the pieces picked up from the temple of Madanagopalaswamy in Madurai, we must thank William Norman Brown(1892-1975). He was the first curator of Indian Art in the Museum appointed in 1931. He established the first academic department of South Asian Studies in the United States in 1947, when he was serving as chair of Sanskrit at the University of Pensylvania.

Before going into this detail we must remember Stella Kramrisch, whose name I stumbled upon when researching for the Lettered Dialogue, as this lady seemed to have invited Mathuram Bhoothalingam (Krithika) to the US.

Stella Kramrisch (1896- 1993) an Austrian born art enthusiast, was originally trained as a ballet dancer. While in Vienna with her parents at very young age she came across a translation of Bhagavath Gita, and was highly impressed by it. That induced her to study Sanskrit and thus earned her doctorate in Anthropology and Indian philosophy. When she was invited to speak at Oxford, Rabindranath Tagore heard her and impressed by her knowledge invited her to join Shantinketan in Calcutta. This happened in 1922. From Shantiniketan, she went to Calcutta University as a professor of Indian Art and served there from 1924 to 1950. Director of Philadelphis Museum of Art, Fiske Kimball persuaded Dr. Stella Kramrisch to join the Museum and assume the curatorial position. Thus she was responsible for opening a new section for Oriental Art in the Museum. Kramrisch expanded the Museum’s holdings in Indian and Himalayan art. In addition to bequeathing her personal art collection to the Museum, Kramrisch also endowed the curatorial chair of the department to which she had devoted nearly 40 years of scholarship and service. (Darielle Mason was the first to receive the new independent appointment in 1997 and it was from her I received much information when I was researching for Madurai)

In 1931 the Museum appointed W. Norman Brown (1892-1975) as its first curator of Indian art. Brown, who established the first academic department of South Asian Studies in the United States in 1947, was at that time serving as chair of Sanskrit at the University of Pennsylvania. Brown held honorary degrees from the West Bengal Government Sanskrit College, the University of Madras, India, the University of Michigan, and the University of Pennsylvania. We learn a lot of his effort from The personal papers of Professor W. Norman Brown, that contain lecture notes, drafts and completed papers, and materials related to research, archeology, travel, and letters.

His small (88 pages) but highly valuable book his findings in Madurai is titled A pillared hall from a temple at Madura, India, and is published by the University of Pensylvania press 1940. In this book he narrates the way he went about to establish the place of origin of this art pieces found in Philadelphia.

government service.

madan_book

II
PILLARED HALL FROM A TEMPLE AT MADURA IN THE PHILADELPHIS MUSEUM OF ART
BY NORMAN BROWN
Printed at the University of Philadelphia Press 1940
PREFACE
The only Indian stone temple ensemble in America is the pillared Hall (mandapam) from Madura belonging to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and now installed in a gallery on the top floor of the south wing of eh main building at Fairmont. It consists of a number of monolithic pillars with corbels, Lion capitals and some ornamental frieze slabs, all apparently carved in the sixteenth century. These originally constituted part of the temple until at some unknown date they were defaced and the temple badly damaged or razed, possibly by a Mohammedan conqueror in the eighteenth century. No other museum anywhere can show such a large grouping of integrated architectural unit from a single building of India. The nearest approach in America is the small carved wooden room from a sixteenth century Jain sheine of Putan, Gujarat, in western India which is now set up in the Metropolitan Museum of Art New York. The unit in the Philadelphia Museum so rare outside of India illustrates so many aspects of India Architecture, sculpture and iconography that it has seemed worthy of description in a small monograph, especially since the dimension produces explanation of numerous points not heretofore treated in any publication.

The pieces constituting the pillared hall were originally acquired in Madura in 1912, by Adeline Pepper Gibson who died in France January 10, 1919, in the military service of the United States Base Hospital 38, American Expeditionary force at Nantes. They were presented to the Philadelphia Museum of Art in August 1919 in her memory by Mrs. J. Howard Gibson, Mrs. Norman Henry and Mr. Henry C. Gibson.

Shortly after the pieces were presented to the Museum, they were installed in Memorial Hall Fairmount Park, and the installation with a pageant called “The Building of The Temple” which was given daily on April 19, 20, 21 and 23, 1920. They remained in Memorial Hall until 1938 when it was possible to remove them to the India Gallery in the Fairmount building and commence to install them there with the aid of Federal Works Progress Administrative grant.

In 1934-35, aided by the late Mrs. Robert G. Logan, the Museum made it possible for me to examine the site from which the pieces had come. The mani purpose of my visit to Madura was to secure information that might assist in the future installation of the pieces at Fairmount. I went to Madura at the end of November and spent five days in intensive investigation, taking with me as interpreter and consultant Mr T. G. A. of the Government Museum Madras.who is mentioned frequently in the book. In the hope that additional pieces could be securd, Mr. J. Noraman Henry and Mr. Henry C. Gibson then generously gave a fund which they also graciously permitted to be drawn against the preparation of this book and for assistance in the final installation of the temple.

The main purpose of this work is to determine the site, date, and the significance of the elements comprising mandapams. To do so it has been necessary to develop some points in the history of Madura architecture showing that features described by Jowean Dubreil to the Madura period appear actually to have been known inn the latter part of the preceding period, that is the known one as Vijayanagara. In the iconography many types have received description which are without printed explanation anywhere.

A mirror point elsewhere has been to discuss the mandapam with enough attention to the back ground for a non-Indian visitor to the Museum to understand the meaning of the Indian terms employed and the cultural significance of the ensemble. To this end I have included the two very summary introductory chapters, which contain almost no new material and have throughout tried to treat the mythology with enough fullness to be intelligible.

The book has VI chapters.
I. The age of importance of Madura
II. South India temple architecture
III. The architectural units in the Mandapam. 16 simple columns 8’ 2” average height. 5 of one variety and others different; 14 compound columns 8’ 4” to 8’ 8” in height, 12 of one variety and one of different variety. 12 corbels; 12 lion capitals; 8 frieze slabs.When purchased in 1912, they were all lying in the compound of Madana Gopalswamy temple. When presented to the museum someone felt that the pieces do not belong to this temple but are from Perumal temple (Kudal Alagar Madura.)
Norman feels that the items might have come from other temples also. They may have been kept here.

Leave a comment »

When Dakshin put up this fantastic photographic capture from the Madurai temple and titled it as Boothagi, the first question that came to my mind was ` Wasn’t she a demoness who was hired as an assassin by Kamsa to kill Krishna?’

mystery+sculpture+from+madurai

Our conceptions or misconceptions of Boothanai were driven not only by graphic depictions of her in our story books, but also in sculpture. This early chola depiction in Pullamangai in stone and this sudhai from from the Tanjore Big Temple ( Photo courtesy: Arvind) added to our visions of an Ugly demoness who was sucked dry by Krishna.

Boothanai+pullamangai
boothanai+bigtemple

So who else could the beautiful maiden sculpted in Madurai be. Some references identify her as Chandramathi the wife of the legendary Harishchandra cradling her dead son Lohidasan. But then something didnt quite feel right. The great King Harishchandra being reduced to penury, had sold his wife into slavery. The sculpted figure even after discounting the ornamental excesses of the Nayak style, does sport an impressive amount of ornaments. But her face seem to show a variety of emotions, at once a bit sad, a bit like that of a demoness - but definitely not that of a loving mother. Plus the Baby seems very well endowed, very much alive and in one angle seems to be puckering his lips to suckle at her breasts. So it cannot be Yashodha and Krishna for sure.

baby+puckering+its+lips
mystery+sculpture+from+madurai
who+could+she+be

If only we could spot something about the two that could help us with the identification ! After some frantic requests to friends, Mr Raman obliged by making the trip and getting us the required photographs.

This is going to be a really tough one - the request to him from me was very simple. Get me a good shot of the right chest of the baby. Why ?

Remember this post about the mole that adorns the chest of Vishnu - Srivatsam . Keep the last image of that post in your memory.

baby
baby+closer
smiling+baby

The Ornamentation of the baby is rich as well , compare with those of known krishna sculptures. Problem is Sambandar also seems to share the same fashion / wardrobe.

Dancing-Balakrishna Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University
krishna auckland musuem
sambandar sin musuem

Lets study the baby more to find more clues and why I wanted a closeup of the right chest. Please do keep in mind the position of the baby and how difficult it would have been for the sculptor to be able to sculpt any detail on the baby’s right chest.

right+chest+not+sculpted
smiling+baby

You can see that he has not made the clear demarcation of the chest on the right side compared to what he could show in the left - where he has shown the shape of the chest clearly. I have marked in white where the right chest should have been shown.

Now lets, demarcate where the jewelery is sculpted on the chest.

baby+ornaments+left+chest

Now, if you have followed closely you would see a small indentation on the right chest.

smiling+baby+chest

and if you can sit a bit back and focus on the same place, you can see the triangle emerge.

smiling+baby
smiling+baby+chest
smiling+baby+chest+mark

Compared to the standing icons of Vishnu where the Srivatsam mark is more pronounced and more towards the outer half of the chest, due to the position of the baby closer to the lady - the sculptor is forced to center it more. Compare with this

IMG00014-20090818-1431
chola vishnu stone
closeup of srivatsam
srivatsam
vishnu

If we can fix that this is indeed the Srivatsam mark - then the question of Boothanai’s description arises. Boothanai is said to be kind of a contract killer - paid assassin, who would kill by having young children suckle at her breast ( two accounts - either her milk itself was venom or she applied a deadly poison on her breasts). This she does as she is under the grasp of the evil Kamsa. So when Kamsa wants to get rid of Krishna, the first person he turns to is Boothanai. She goes in the guise of a beautiful maiden and Yashoda allows her to suckle her baby. Kishna knowing her ploy anchors his teeth on her breasts and sucks the life blood out of her. She is either shown as falling dead regaining her ugly form or sucked bone dry as per varying accounts.

So having touched Krishna and smitten by his good looks, being a mother herself, is it the anguish of trying to kill a toddler that is shown on her face or the realisation that her end is near and a bitter happiness that she is to going to be liberated by him ?

Leave a comment »

 Page 1 of 3  1  2  3 »