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Posts Tagged ‘mallai’

The ancient port town of Mamallai is the uncrowned King of stone sculpting but it has eclipsed quite a few masterpieces in its glory. In our continuing quest to bring out such stunning yet forgotten works of art spread across our land, today we see the 7th C CE cave shrine of Sri Ranganatha Perumal in Singavaram, situated 4kms to the North of Senji in Villupuram district.

Please do read Saurabh’s indepth post .

An unique later day tall Mandapa greets visitors to the site while the actual shrine is atop a small hillock and is serviced by a long flight of steps. As you pass through into the main shine, you are welcomed by a set of matched pillars and pilasters have been hewn into the rock to form the entrance hall or Artha Mandapa. Only then do you realise that the structural temple has built over the cave shrine complete with its own door guardians.( sadly they have been plastered and painted over - we will never get to know how they would have looked in their pristine beauty)

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A fantastic Sayana perumal – the sleeping form of Vishnu, all of 24 feet, has been fashioned from mother rock and is a sight to behold.

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The scant visitors that the shrine receives however do not realise that there is another treasure just nearby. The Thayar shrine which has been added later has a small window to its side from where visitors can get a glimpse of a spectacular relief sculpture of Durga or Kotravai as her form was known in those times.

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Kotravai in Tribanga - Singavaram

In classic sculpting tradition the composition achieves an aesthetic grace with increased flex ion, as compared to a school class group photo attention pose. You can see how the sculptor has stylistically slanted her body three times – the Tribanga and superbly offset the shift of the legs by having her place her right leg on the severed buffalo head – called Urdhvajanu in iconographic texts and counter balanced the same with the lower left hand slightly raised and resting above the hip. The early date confirmed with the Prayoga chakra on the upper right hand and her Conch on the upper left. The kneeling devotee to the right is thankfully not offering his head but only cutting his hand ( symbolic bloodletting) while his companion’s pose mimics that of holding a flower for her.

Considering that the cave has no inscriptions of the Pallavas and hence we cannot have a definite date for it - It would be an interesting exercise to arrange the similar compositions in stylistic order - all executed within a span of 100 years. The logic would be very simple, you would learn to crawl before you walk and once you walk you wouldn’t want to crawl. You can see the superior effect of the Tribanga over the Sama Banga postures of the ones in the Draupadi Ratha and the Varaha Mandapa and also how the left hand rests lower on the hip, the classical Kati Hasta, giving Singavaram a slightly later date than them.

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Durga in Sama Banga – Draupadi Ratha

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Durga in Sama Banga – Varaha Mandaba

In contrast, the multiple armed Adivaraha cave Kotravai has the sculptor striving for more aesthetics, using his artistic license in sculpting her with slightly exaggerated ( elongated ) legs, standing on the severed head of Mahisha, with the right leg coming entirely behind the left giving the entire composition a stylistic grace. Hence we would give it a post Singavaram date.

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Durga in Tribanga – Adi Varaha cave.

So the chronology should be Draupadi/Varaha/Singavaram/Adi Varaha. Do you agree?

Surely Singavaram must find its place in the must visit list of the tourist and pious alike.

Images: Mr Ashok Krishnaswamy, Mr Arvind Venkataraman and Mr. Saurabh Saxena

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Friends who would have been following the earlier posts know the influence Dr. Gift Siromoney on the genesis of this site.

The Mystery behind the horns of Pallava door guardians

I wrote thus

” Friends, i am writing about a man who changed the course my life’s pursuits. Its a tale of selfless service, the reach of the net, information sharing,knowledge assimilation, leaving a lasting impression on the generations to come. I read that Einstein once said ” If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants”, thereby acknowledging the contributions of the scholars before him.

To start with, i have never met this person. For, he passed away in 1988, long before i even knew where i was headed in life.

The posts he had graciously left behind on the net, quality content, absolutely free, easily accessible, spurred me, 20 years after his death, inspiring me to use the advances in technology, the power of the net and its networking capabilities to tap on the potential of friends, to create a site, with powerful content with an unique visual appeal, absolutely free - that even a chance encounter of a casual visitor, will make him sit up and take notice, of the treasures that our great land bore out of its intellect, help protect and preserve them for future generations. Like the legendary Ekalavya, i try to follow his effort. This effort, hopefully will outlast my human existence, and pray will inspire atleast a few like me, long after i am gone.”

Now i consider it my good fortune that a chance interaction with his wife Mrs. Rani Siromoney and her generous introduction to Dr Michael Lockwood, has given me chance to relive their discoveries. I was overjoyed when he started with the words ” It was Dr.Gift Siromoney who introduced me to the magic of the Mamallapuram monuments,”

We are grateful to Mr Lockwood for allowing us permissions to use his photographs and articles. So here we are seeing a young Mr Lockwood , as he sent me the picture with this footnote - The picture of me was taken in 1969 (when I was 36 years old!). As I said in my earlier e-mail to you, the picture was taken when Gift and I (and Prof. Dayanandan) visited Vallam (2 miles east of Chingleput).)

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it registered that I wasn’t even born then !!

Read more of him in this Hindu article

Dr. Lockwood

I was overjoyed with the introduction and rushed out many of my Pallava posts to him and he patiently replied to all. One such post was an intriguing one about a visit to Tirukazhukundram in search of the Somaskanda for the Somaskanda evolution series.

Tracking the evolution of the Pallava somaskanda

There in the outside corridor we had found relief sculptures of Rajasimma and I had noted one as Shiva on Rishbavahanam, little realising that it was part of a larger debate many years earlier. Mr Lockwood pointed it out with his references and also advised that there were a mirror-set on the inside of the Sanctum, but photography was not allowed.

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It was while reading his references ( part of his work Pallava Art) that i realised that the debate considered a small relief sculpture in the shore temple cylindrical shrine.

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The relief sculpture inside is identical to one in Tirukazhugukundram. Thanks to Ashok for the excellent photographs

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Now, if someone had told me that it was not just Shiva , not just Rishabantika Shiva, but a Veenadara - ok, i would have accepted. But Dr Lockwood identified it as an Ardanari as well. Before, we go on, we need to know that Rajasimha had some stunning iconographic signature sculptures and most of his themes are repeated in either the Olakkaneshwara or shore temple or the Kanchi Kailasanathar temple.

Olakkaneshwara doesn’t have this and so we need to look in the shore temple and Kailasantha temple. We will return to the Shore temple shortly. The Kailasanthar temple has a Veenadara Ardhanari icon and another Veenadara.

Thanks to Saurabh and Krishnamurthy uncle for the photographs

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We have already seen in the post on Ardhanari evolution about how the two ` halves’ are differentiated.

Tracing the refinement of the Ardhanari Image

Now, lets study the sculpture in Kailasanthar more closely

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differentiation
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Now that we are sure that it is an Ardhanari image, lets focus on the Veena.

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The Veena is more like a fret but the thing to note is the resonator. It resembles an inverted cup and is held against the breast. This tradition seems to be very much in vogue , as we see examples in Pudukkottai - A Bhairva Shiva ( Image Courtesy - Kathie), Badami ( Ardhanari again - Image courtesy - Picasa albums), Nepal ( Saraswathi - Image courtesy- Kaladarshna)

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Now, the current day Veena has made the top resonator redundant.

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But would be interesting to find out if we do have a variant of the earlier Veena with the reverse cup. The player would have felt the music closer to his/her heart for sure !

Ok, back to our question of identification of the Icon as Veenadara Ardhanari rishabantika shiva - Mr Lockwood supports his with two more clinching evidences. Study these two sculptures.

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photoB

I quote Dr Lockwood now

Photograph A is of a sandstone image which [was] found in the courtyard of the Kailasanatha temple, Kanchipuram, and is remarkably
similar to the one in the much larger Tirukkazhukkunram panel. The figure in this photograph, like those of Tirukkazhukkunram and
Mamallapuram, is also seated on Nandi.

Photograph B- Veenadhara Ardhanarisvara seated on a plain throne – not on Nandi. This panel, carved on one face of a four-sided block of granite, was,
at the time the picture was taken, in 1969, located in the forecourt of the Shore temple. The figure in this panel is almost identical in
attributes and pose to the Tirukkazhukkunram, Mamallapuram and Kanchipuram images. Yet, as there is no bull in this panel,
obviously, this figure cannot be called Vrishabhantika-Siva

Further he adds, on the Kailasanatha sculpture - it is of a figure of Veenadhara- Ardhanarisvara, also seated on a plain throne. It is carved on the west side of the outer wall of the vimana of the Kailasanatha temple, Kanchi.

Now, the proof rests with the three sculptures - one is inside the Garba Graha of the Tirukazhukundram shrine - maybe we can get an expert artist to visit and sketch insitu. or get some very closeup shots of the Photo A and Photo B. But then the post script

Postscript 1997:
Pallava Art Photograph A was taken by me in the late ’60s. ThisVïnädhara Ardhanärïvara carving has, at some later time, been removed from Kanchipuram and is presently being exhibited, along with the carved block (Photograph B), in the A.S.I.’s site museum at Mämallapuram!

Postscript current day: can someone help us find these two ?

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