Quantcast

Posts Tagged ‘Pallava’

The most common request from enthusiasts pertains to dating sculptures. Fortunately dating stone sculpture is easier as most of them are found insitu and in larger quantity and readily available for study. Quite often we do get foundation inscriptions that allow us to precisely date them. The same cannot be said about bronzes though, as the ones under worship are not open to study for obvious reasons and the ones in museums are far removed from their original settings. We shall take up the study of stone sculptures of a single form – the Lingothbhava, for it’s the most common and easy to spot – found in most temples on the circumambulatory right behind the main sanctum – ie usually the sanctum faces east, the western side kosta will feature the Lingothbava. We shall pick six distinct examples and try to trace the form’s evolution from Pallava through early Chola and later Chola periods.

Kanchi Kailasanathar – Rajasimha Pallava (700-728CE)

kanchi+kai

The first one is a typical later Pallava creation ( meaning they have moved on from excavations to structural temples) from the Kailasanthar temple. It is important to notice the ornamentation, especially how the thick sacred thread – the Yagnopavitha passes over the right hand, a very unique Pallava feature. Shiva’s body is a bit stocky but there is no body builder like chest muscles. The pillar of light has not yet taken the form of a linga and the emergence of Shiva is almost like a geometrical rhombus shape. The importance given to the Trishul and its unique shape, the beautiful crescent of the moon and the thin slightly longer upper body of Vishnu and Brahma on the sides as compared to the lower body etc are all pointers. With experience you will get to notice the round shape of the face, thick set nose and the not too muscular chest giving them an almost young adult profile. Notice the Thorana on top of the sculpture as well. Where is this sculpture found in the shrine ? is an interesting question to readers…

Thirumayam - Satyagiri Shiva Cave.

Around the same time or even slightly earlier in Pudukkottai - this wonderful site which has been variously credited to Pallava ( Mahendra) - Pandya and Mutharaiya origins is this masterpiece.

sathyagir+cave

The Lingothbhava murthy is simple yet stunning. If you notice there are flames emanating from the side of the pillar and they have been sculpted in a natural manner burning upward. Shiva is portrayed with only two hands and stands in Sama Bhanga, his left hand is held in Kati Hasta on is hip, while the right hand is graceful in Varada Hasta – the boon bestowing pose. The pillar has a perfect oval cleft revealing Shiva.

tirumayam+side

The sculptor has masterfully used the depth of the panel to show the right hand’s bend at the elbow giving it a very natural grace. The face of Shiva is radiates calm, the thick set nose and lips lifelike, while his tresses are stylistically bundled up over his head to form the Jata Bhandam. Iconographical texts state that the height of this must be one face length above the hairline and they have been followed perfectly here. The ornamentation is very simple, the most prominent being the rather thick Udara Bandana – the belt that is worn above the belly button. The lower garment though worn ornately, has no ornamental gem set strings and lacks the lion face belt buckle - simha mukha clasp.

The most interesting aspect to note in this masterpiece are the Yagnopavitha,the sacred thread is thick and single stranded and goes over the right elbow is the classic Pallava Nivitta fashion, and the very natural torso – not the bulging chest of a body builder, but a slender beauty of an ascetic. The shoulders and arms however are portrayed with great strength and muscle volume. The iconographical features and minimalistic ornamentation would give this sculpture a late 7th C CE - early 8th C CE date and the presence of fragmentary yet famous Pallava granta inscriptions affirm the same. But it is a great mystery as to why the sculptor did not depict Vishnu and Brahma - either as a boar and swan nor their forms outside !!

Pullamangai – Parantaka Chola I ( 907 – 955 CE)

It is a tough toss up between the next stage in the progression as we step into the 10th C CE between Punjai Nalthunai Eswaram and Pullamangai - Brahmapureeswarar.

The Chola revival spurs temple building all over Tamil Nadu and the artists expressed themselves to the fullest extent in the early stages. We move on to Pullamangai - assigned to Paranatka I

pull

Though the face of Shiva has been damaged, there are no greater stone sculptures than the Brahma and Vishnu on the sides of this magnificent Ligothbhavar. A span of two centuries and you can see that all the extra trimmings have been minimalized, with the central pillar of fire taking center stage, with Brahma shown flying to see the top and Vishnu as the boar burrowing underneath. The top of the pillar of fire is not seen and it has not yet become like a linga - the fire is shown emanating from the cleft.

brahma+pull
vishnu+pull

They are also sculpted on both the sides and their size is (only slightly) smaller than Shiva’s proportions. Shiva is shown with only two pairs of hands, the sacred thread falls straight over the hip and the attributes of the axe and deer are becoming more symbolic and smaller in size but still within the frame inside the pillar whose rather straight edges of the Pallava are now becoming more rounded. The important feature to notice is the very normal depiction of the body, thin waists and chest, with the face getting more naturally roundish oval - Ofcourse the cleft is larger now and more of shiva’s legs are visible but the body form is still slender.

Punjai around 955 CE

Though epigraphy dates Punjai to around Aditya II period ( 965-969 CE) the sculptural style indicates a date closer to first quarter of the 10th C CE - to Parantaka I.

punjai+long

The sculpture itself is crowned by a stunning thorana and we find the Boar ( vishnu - Varaha) and Swan ( Brahma) present. However, forms of Vishnu and Brahma are conspicuous by their absence on the two sides. The Linga is perfectly formed on top with a band of interwoven flowers near the top. The sculptor continues the tradition of flames emanating from the cleft.

punjai+lingo

The difference between the Pallava n Pallava transition period form of Shiva to the early Chola is very dramatic.- the more filled out chest and the almost circular / round face are clear to see. The Simhamuka belt clasp is very prominent !

Tanjore Brihadeshwara – Sri Raja Raja Chola ( 985 -1014 CE)

tanjore

Another century and the emphasis totally shift to Shiva while Brahma and Vishnu are shown in very low relief and much smaller proportion. The difference to note is also in the iconography of the pillar of fire, now depicted almost like that of a Linga. The difference in the shape of Shiva’s face and torso is also visible, with the chest broadening and filling out, as compared to the waist.

Tribuvanam – Kulottunga Chola III( 1178 -1218CE)

tribuvanam

Another century has passed we come to the last great Chola ruler Kulottunga’s temple in Tribuvanam. The art has become rigid, the pillar of fire is almost a linga now - with the height of the pillar vs Shiva is almost nil - ie there is no blank space in the pillar anymore and Shiva emerging from a perfectly formed oval opening occupies most of the pillar area. Brahma and Vishnu are portrayed slightly larger but overall we can see a drop in creative aesthetics and a certain conformational adherence to rigid standards in the sculpting.

thanks: Ashok, Arvind, Saurabh, Shashwath, Satheesh and Shriram

Leave a comment »

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

Leave a comment »

 Page 1 of 32  1  2  3  4  5 » ...  Last »