The beauty and intricacy of sculpture lies in its detailing and form. It doesnt reveal itself easily though the free flow does captivate you on first instance, it continues to hold you in its sway every time you revisit …
I quote Sri Aurobindo to correctly capture its essence
A great oriental work of art does not easily reveal its secret to one who comes to it solely in a mood of aesthetic curiosity or with a considering critical objective mind still less as the cultivated and interested tourist passing among strange and foreign things; but it has to be seen in loneliness; in the solitude of one’s self in moments when one is capable of long and deep meditation and as little weighted as possible with the conventions of material life.”
The problem is just sitting in penance in front of a sculpture is not going to get you going at the start - the initiation has to be done and for that you need an expert guide or a guru to take you on your journey of discovery, unfortunately not many are privileged to have that. So we turn to the next best - books. Problem with books especially on sculpture and those that are authored by experts, is that they don’t start from the basics or rather, they expect you to have reached a certain stage before you pick them up. So how do you bridge that gap, from zero to a plane where you can confidently pick a work and start reading.
One good work, i would recommend is Sri Gopinath Rao’s Elements of Hindu Iconography. He has wonderfully illustrated much of his works which help novices like me to pickup what he is saying easily. for eg, lets take something as simple as an ear ring. Does Makara kundala and Patra Kundala sound latin to you. You do find repeated references to these in any description of a sculpture. What are these.
Take this fantastic chola bronze on exhibit at the National Museum, Delhi.
One can go into raptures, just describing the image but am restricting the narrative to the ear rings alone.
You can see obviously that he wears different ear ornaments for each side.
The one he is wearing on his left is called a patra Kundla - literally patra or leaf - is a circular ornament which was inserted in the lobes and made ( atleast originally of the leaf of a palm tree).
The right ear has more complicated equipment on display. Its the mythological Makara Kundala. We have seen the Makara in depth earlier but chanced on this fantastic sculpture from Java
( btw, Makara is a marine creature - mythological - with the trunk of an elephant, the feet of a lion, the sears of a pig, the body of a fish, sabre like teeth turned outwards, eyes like a monkey and the list goes one - the best however is it fantastically elaborate tail)
Why did he come to wear this on his right ear - well got to do some searching for that. ( well there are more macabre ear rings - which we will see later)
So, that my friends is just an intro for the two earrings of Shiva.