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Posts Tagged ‘mahishasuramardhini’

It actually happened during one of our extended tour / journeys - we had hired a tourist cab and an experienced driver. He was with us for 5 days at the end of which he literally gave up on us. He had been handling clients for 12 years in that area and was pretty confident that he knew every known attraction / street/ gully etc - till he met us. In those 5 days possibly he had to ask directions so many times that he would have been taken as a novice driver - not taking anything away from him, our interests were such. Most baffling to him was the fact that we would spend hours together on a ‘ small cave’ while exiting a large temple complex under 30 min. We tried our best to explain our iterated preference for offbeat locations to no avail - the last time i bid him goodbye in a train station he was still shaking his head, dismissing us as a group of nut cases !!

In our continuing quest to showcase the hidden gems of sculptural art, we are going to see one such best kept secret. 23 kilometers from Senji, in Panamalai is Rajasimha Pallava’s magnificent creation,the 8th C CE structural temple of Talagirishwarar.

Built on top of a small hill, the walls of one of its outer subshrines hold remnants of a rare dancing form called Alindhara Siva and a graceful Parvathi looking on. Sadly we have completely lost the Shiva except for a faint outline, however the Parvathi has survived. The sureness of the hand evidenced by the graceful lines combine fantastically with the brilliant ornamentation and use of color shading, especially the green show the mastery of not only the art , of human anatomy, expressions as well as handling of colors. View her here.

The temple gets very few visitors but even those few, miss the other attraction, for it is not found inside the confines of the structural temple, but at the base of the hill. We would have missed it too, had not the arduous yet exciting, exhausting but enlightening climb, virtually left us drained or rather wanting to drain…well, we had to relieve ourselves and boys being boys - and we being good boys did not want to do it on the holy mountain but chose the first opportunity that showed itself at the base. A few well worn goat trails led us around the hill and a short walk to the left of the stairs leads us to a naturally formed rock cavern. Deep inside this cavern, in such a confined space, in the fading light - we chanced on the beauty - that required the true genius of our expert Photographer - Mr Ashok - to bring to light - that the e Pallava sculptor has managed to carve a beautiful relief of Durga as Mahishasuramardhini.

panamalai_cavern

The Natural cavern with the relief

The great king Rajasimha Pallava had a particular fascination for the Lion, as can be seen from the profusion of them in all his creations, and hereto the strength of the mount of Durga is shown prominently with its muscled fore limbs dominating the composition.

mahishasuramardhini_panamlai

Mahishasuramardini relief

The eight armed goddess is a personification of feminine grace, as she strikes a casual pose, but the warrior attributes and strength are seen in the way her right leg is held up high and steady on her mount – Urdhava Janu and the sinuous curves of her hip break the straight lines of her right feet. The volumes of her wait cloth pass under her hand, held in Kati hasta, and fall gracefully alongside. She wears multiple bangles on all her wrists while the long bow is slung casually in front and the superb prayoga Chakra and a heavy straight sword are prominent amongst her various attributes. The interesting feature seen here is the presence of a three headed snake to the extreme right, though the snake is listed as one of the attributes of Durga we do not see this featured prominently as is done here. The Pallavas also seem to prefer having their sword scabbards on their backs instead of at the waist ? Here we see the goddess having a quiver and a scabbard on her back or is it two quivers? check out similar accessory in the Kanchi Kailasanathar kirata arjuna panel.

It should be mentioned that Rajasimha Pallava was not a King who would leave his creations anonymous, for he does make the task easier for historians to identify his creations, after all he embellished the entire base of his Kailasantha temple in Kanchipuram with his 244 Birudas ( Titles) not once – but 4 times, one below the other. He has forever stamped this cavve as his creation with his inscription, with his name and favorite birudas - Sribhara and Ranajeyah.

panamail_inscription_durga_cave1

Rajasimha Pallava Granta inscription.

Have we missed describing something more in the relief? double up and examine the panel closely and let me see if you can spot…..

Photo credits: Mr Ashok krishnaswamy, Mr Shaswath

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An interesting sculpture chat !! ( Thanks to N for allowing me to post bulk of the conversation with some minor enhancements)

N: Hi vj, visited Mallai yesterday

Me: just seeing ur album, thanks for the credits.

N: Please do put in your comments to the photos

me: will do. a trick question for u, since you have posted the trimurthi mandabam photos, can you identify the deities in each of the 3 shrines

Trimurthi cave

N: Brahma vishnu shiva

me: hahaha, pl look carefully and confirm sir,if it were so easy would i ask you

N: hmmm

me: how do identify a deity inside a shrine. In pallava times, you use two methods, if the deity is present - look for its attributes, if not present try and see the attributes of the door guardians. since both are present, check each shrine for this

N: i want to use Friend Help :-/ Can u tell me

Me: no sir, u try first, its important - for you to spend some time viewing

N: the middle one is shiva, where the linga is

shiva
shiva panel

me: s, you can see the Axe of shiva in his right hand. The left hand seems to be holding a rosary. The Linga seems to be a later implant !!

N: the lady outside is Mahishasuramardhini

durga relief sculpture
durga2

me: s, Durga. The ornate work on top of her is spectacular

the elaborate thorna above durga

N: the god with tall crown is vishnu
The other is one is Brahma

vishnu
vishnu 3
vishnu shrine2

me: hmm, Vishnu is simple - you can see the conch and discus. how do you say the other is brahma

brahma sasta shrine inside

N: Trinity is completed by Brahma .. That is y thrimurthi isnt it VJ

me: haha, mallai is full of puzzles. What is the most characteristic feature of brahma images?

N: 3 heads

me: can you see 3 there

the third shrine

N: no

me: what is the right door guardian holding in his hand ( left hand)

rishi left
rishi right

N: Not Clear

me: do you notice anything unique in the dress of the inner deity

closeup

N: X shaped belts

me: have u seen this anywhere for brahma??

N: and kind of lion cloth, No … i didnt

me: do you notice anything different about the crown

N: it has kind of horn

me: i think i can make this chat conversation into a post by itself

N: what is the peculiarity, tell me Vj

me: can i make this as a post, this chat conversation?

N: Yes
But dont disclose my name B-) ;)

me: N, doesnt disclose right!!

N: Yes, i dont want extra fame ;) it is pointed in form

me: haha, the right door guardian is holding a Shruk(a long handled laddle)used for pouring ghee in a sacrificial fire, connected to vedic sacrifice /ritual. The left holds a flower /bud. So the assumption of yours - that is denotes brahma is partly correct.The door guardians are rishis, elderly men with beards, all go well with the brahma concept, but inside the deity is not bearded, but a young one

N: yes, Tell me

me: further the conical head dress, the x belts - are features of a warrior god who is said to have taught the vedas to brahma

N: Skanda

me: Can you look closely at the photos and see what the two flying ganas are holding?

me: its skanda - in his brahma sasta form

N: brahma sasta form means

Me: I am no expert, but this wonderful article and photos will clarify the head dress and the X pattern.

Murugan research article - all credits to the site

“The deity is shown wearing a short conical basket-like head-gear (karanda-makuta) with a thick giralet of flowers (kannl) around the base. According to ancient Tamil tradition, kannl was the attribute of the warrior.8 The deity also wears the double shoulder-string (channavīra), another attribute of the warrior. Both the attributes, found mostly in the earlier sculpture of the Pallava period, emphasise the fact that Murukan was essentially a warrior-god. “

veeraraghavan-graph2
villuppuram

The site listed above is a fantastic resource of Skanda/Muruga and would recommend a serious read for everyone.

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