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Posts Tagged ‘Murugan’

Today, we proceed to another wonderful site in Mahabalipuram ( mallai) - we have already been there twice so far - taking in the splendor of the two masterpieces of Pallava relief sculpture - the Reclining Vishnu Panel and Mahishasuramardhini panel. Most visitors would just turn back after seeing these, but there is one more relief panel in this cave that needs to be seen. Its a wonderful and unique Somaskanda panel.

This is one of the largest Pallava Somaskanda panels and occupies the entire back wall of the sanctum. Its important to note that none of caves assigned to Mahendra Pallava have somaskanda panels.

somaskanda+mahishasuramardhini+mandabam

Before we get into analyzing the uniqueness of this sculpture, we need to understand that there is always this issue of dating the sculptures in mallai and also on its authorship. The mahishasuramardhini cave does us no favors, in that it doesn’t have any inscriptions in it to give us any clues. There are also some confusing addons ( later additions - take overs - as per experts). We have already seen the Somaskanda in the shoretemple earlier on in this series and being a structural temple carrying inscriptions of Rajasimha Pallava, we will start our study with that image and try to date the current one as earlier or of later date.

shoretemple+somaskanda

At first glance they seem to be very similar, stylistically. Lets look at them side by side by side, with highlights to do a comparison.

side+by+side

The key things to see in the Mahishasuramardhini somaskanda are marked here.

somaskanda+mahishasuramardhini+mandabam+detail

Its a fantastic composition, with some classic postures. The pose of baby skanda, almost jumping out - the grace of the seated parvathi, how she rests her weight on her left hand, the calm poise of shiva - with Brahma and Vishnu inside the panel - fantastic work by the sculptor. ( notice the parasol above parvathi as well)

the+trinity
baby+skanda
parvathi
parvathi+styling+hand
shiva

The major differences between the two sculptures are are the Lion styled legs of the throne, the nandhi in front and the female devotee by his side replacing the vase. The lion comes in to replace the Bull standard of the Pallavas during the period of Narasimha Pallava. It also enters Pallava pillars ( but that’s the subject of another post - evolution of Pallava pillars - to start soon)

lion+banner+as+throne+leg
lion+banner+as+throne+leg+marked
nandhi+devotee
the+lion+legs

Now, coming back to our question, which of these Somaskanda’s are earlier. Lets study the smaller details.Look into the dress of Shiva and its detailing.

dress+style

its quite obvious that both these images - gross proportions are similar, styles are similar. Then how can we propose a solution. Lets analyse the two side by side figures one more. Notice the left leg of Shiva ( he is seated in sukasana - for those who want to know the tech terms) - in the panel from the shore temple, its position corresponds to the centre line of the shiva sculpture - whereas in the panel from the Mahishasuramardhini mandabam - you notice that its moved off centre, to its left - to accommodate the Nandhi - seamlessly integrating into the frame as a foot rest for divine couple.

notice+offcentre+leg

To understand this better, let me attempt to digitally morph these two sculptures to show how the leg moves to the left to create space in the composition for the nandhi.

Based on above, i would assign a later or at least contemporary period for these panels but one thing for sure - the shore temple somaskanda panel cannot be earlier to the mahishasuramardhini somaskanda panel. What do you say.


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Today we are being treated to an excellent travelogue by Arvind - on a little known attraction in the well visited Kanchipuram environs. Arvind is a Software professional with a fanatic interest in sculpture :-) and is currently working on bringing out an online catalogue of sculpture. He is a enthusiastic and voracious reader on sculpture apart from many other interesting passions…Read on…

Visiting Kancheepuram was a long pending item on my to do list. Though I made few visits in my school and college days, I had not visited this treasure trove for long.

The interest to visit was rekindled during my conversations with a good friend. Finally last week, made an impulsive decision to visit the place. I also gave myself the whole weekend to visit as many places as I could.
My good friend Gopinatha Srinivas readily accepted to join me for the trip.

As we were temple hopping, drunk in the beauty of the sculptures, battling the heat, we could cover Kailasandhar Kovil, Katchepawarar Kovil, Kamatchi Amman kovil and Ulagalantha Perumal Kovil on Saturday. We called it day then.

Next morning we wanted to cover as many as possible by the time the temples closed in the afternoon. We started with Ekkamabareswarar Kovil and moved on to Vaikunda Perumal Kovil. Ekkambareswarar Kovil, though huge did not have as many interesting sculptures proportionate to its size. While Vaikunda Perumal koil, was a riot. Every panel there is exquisite and was forcing us stay put.

Interestingly there are panels with Huang-San, replica of Mahabalipuram shore temple (in the Nandivarma Pallavamalla’s ascend to the throne). The panels on the praharas were filled with various coronations of the Pallava Kings. The priest there was kind enough to tell us the other temples we need to visit in the vicinity.

Mathengesawar Temple is just 200 meters away from Vaikundaperumal Koil. This should be the most well hidden temple I had come across.

strange+surroundings

The directions given to us was to take the 2nd right from where we had parked at Vaikunda perumal koil, the second right was a small lane, as we entered it, we could see a gopuram and our eagerness soared, but there was no approach from the lane we had taken. We reversed and went the next right, which happens to be a main road. As we moved along the road looking for the temple, it never came to our sight. We parked our car and started to walk back to check again, if we had missed the temple.

As we retraced our route, we caught the little ASI board and an adjacent narrow lane, which was the entrance to the temple. This lane is about 30 feet, leading to open clear space. The whole temple complex should be less than 4000 sq.ft. There is single shrine which is well elevated from the ground level. There is a nandhi opposite to the shrine and a banyan tree adjacent to it. From the looks of it the Banyan tree attracts more visitors than the temple.

mathangeshwara kanchi
nandhi+sacred+tree
nandhi

10 steps lead to the corridor of the shrine, which are quiet steep.

mathangeshwara

Central shrine houses the linga with a backdrop of Somaskanda panel, which is exquisite. Which styling is this?

somaskanda+mathangeswara
the+main+shrine

The three walls of the the shrine on the outer has some brilliant sculptures, the sandstone had lent itself for some intricate carvings.

Small and very beautiful temple, the sculptures here stays in my eyes now, and hope it would for ever. If not, I can go back to these photographs or back to Kancheepuram to see the beauty again.

Wait for part 2 - for more beauties from here and more history about it….

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