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Posts Tagged ‘Pandya’


Its been a long pending wish of mine to do this post on a truly remarkable site - Sittanavasal. For today, even a die hard enthusiast will return back with a negative feeling from a visit to Sittanavaasal - the general opinion is, its not worth the effort ?. What is there? The right question to ask is what was there? But first where is it

Its located at a distance of 58-km from Trichy is Sittanavasal, a site of an ancient Jain monastery - rock cut cave ( pandyan), couple of Jain beds, a rare inscription..and the subject of this post.

Ok ,what was there. I am not going into depth into the history of this place, but just want to showcase what we have lost out. Thanks to Sri Swaminathan and Mr. Mohandoss Ilangovan, read on for the first part of the Sittanavaasal series. Now, i see some of you already googling for information, rest a bit. There is very little on the net about what we are going to see today. Why?

Not many people recognise the name of Sittanavasal. Even fewer look at it as a art location. The minuscule number who claim to know about it, know of it from literary references or form some catchy films tunes. Apart from this not much is known of this amazing treasure trove outside of this small and shrinking band of people. It is after a dying or as of now a dead breed. When the whole world is going ga ga over modern art, its sad that no one cares for this small cave rich with art - 1000 years old. Sadder still is the fact that these stood the test of time for a thousand years, seen innumerable conquests , winds of change sweeping over the plains which they overlook, seen the British come and go, sadly, they have been ruined by the hand of man - to be true the very hands of the men from its own soil in the last 40 years. Yes, what you see is what has been left of these spectacular frescos. The paintings on the pillars of the rock cut cave are two heavenly damsels - we will try and see one of them today.

They must have been the crowning glory of south Indian art,some of the earliest frescos of South India, comparable to the beauties in Ajanta, yet they have been neglected, not just neglected but ravaged.

sirigiyacelestials

The amazing ladies of Srigriya have managed to live on despite all the ethnic conflict around them, while these have been destroyed. Maybe we are not worthy of being bequeathed such an inheritance - Not fit to savor these treasures.

I am going to split this post into parts and focus on the main paintings - and today we are going to see just one painting, or rather what is left of the painting.

sittanavasal dancer1
sittanavaasal dancer 2
sittanavaasal dancer3

This is what greets you now. Can you make out. can you make out anything.

closeup of sittanavasal dancer
this is what is left - sittanavaasal dancer

Hmm, do you see the scratch marks - yes, the hand of man or rather vandals.

We are left with no authentic pictures even - just been left with a few line drawings of some great men. This rare black and white photograph gives you just an indication of what it used to look like. A couple of line drawings illustrate the great loss.

How did it look before. Catch you breath, if you have seat belts put them on. Here goes, line drawings of these amazing dancing women is what is left for us.

line drawing
sittannavasal_dancer02

I tried to work some colors to imagine how she would have looked in her prime.

a recreation
some experimentation

The grace with which she is dancing, her fluid yet confident movement rendered masterfully by the artist - such aesthetically appealing work, such perfection of form is remarkable. The sensuousness of the moment has been brilliantly captured - the slightly pouting lip, the eyes that drown you with an avalanche of emotions, the youthful grace of the maiden.

Sadly, we have allowed it to be destroyed - i thought of using the word lost, but what is lost can be found, but this is dead beyond resurrection. Shame on us.

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Happy Pongal wishes to all readers ( our harvest festival)

One of our avid readers Kavitha had placed a request for sculptures from Avudaiyar temple - and my friend Sivaram Kannan had been good enough to send me his photos of the temple while on assignment in the US. So thanks to them we are going to see some wonderful sculptures.

Before we go into the sculptures as such, there is an interesting story associated with the temple which gains prominence in today’s context ( Satyam Computers 7000 Cr scam) - this temple could also technically qualify as such. Though how much has not been quantified, the fact that temple, in the 8th Century, was built out of state funds misused by a minister is startling.

Known as Tiruperunthurai in ancient times, Avudaiyar Koil, situated in Pudukottai, is 45 km from Pudukottai via Aranthangi. The story goes thus, An young boy, Vadhvuraar from the town of Thiruvadhavur near Madhurai exhibited amazing intelligence and mastered all by the time he was sixteen. The Pandya Kind Arimarthana Pandiyan heard of his fame and promptly took him in as his minister - naming him Tennavan Brahmmaraayan. In due course he grew in ranks to become the prime minister. All was well, when the King heard of a shipload of excellant Arabian Horses destined for a Chola port - the King desirous of having the steeds in his stable, sent his Prime Minister with a huge cache of gold to secure them.

Enroute Vadhuvurar reached Tiruperundhurai, a miracle happened and he saw Shiva sitting in the form of a shaivite sage under a tree elucidating the pupils. Immediately he was taken in by the site and all his senses were immersed into shiva - he sung his first verse hymns to the Glittering Feet of the Lord offering his body, belongings and soul - his first thiruvAchakam song shivapurANam starting n^amachchivAya vAzka ). Shiva heard the songs and blessed him with the name mANikka vAchakar ( Maanikka - Gem, vaachakar - speach). He then ordered mANikka vAchakar to build an abode and disappeared.

The divine sanction was enough for the devotee, who (mis) used all the Kings Gold and built this splendid temple for the Lord. (The temple has no Lingam in the sanctum. Instead it only has the base, (Avudayar), which has a metal cover placed on it. This represents formlessness, the absolute ultimate. Swami’s name is Atmanathar. This is a south facing temple ( which is very rare )the legend is Brahma was taught the Gayatri Mantra here by Atmanathar, when all the four Vedas appeared before Him. Hence, this place is also called `Chaturvedapuram”.In south indian historical texts and manuscripts this place is called Chatur veda mangalam.

So lets see how the King’s gold was spent ( what happened when the king came to know of this misappropriation is more interesting and we shall see that in a subsequent post) but since it bore the supreme’s assent it is money well spent ( apologise for the reference to current Satyam Debacle but its just of topical interest) - there are some interesting threads from this - did God want the funds to be diverted away from military pursuits towards a spiritual cause and the fact that there was active trade between the middle east and south India in the 8th C ( while it may surprise some of you, the trade has been on from much earlier - infact there are Greek accounts of trade with India as early as the 3rd C BC)

For a more topical sculpture post on the episode check

Before we go out and see the actual sculptures, i wanted to present to you some of my favorites - the lesser ones, often neglected, going unnoticed, yet would have required the masterly skill of the sculptor. Even stone in this temple is a treasure trove of stone craft, very unique to this temple. Some of the structures dwell on the realm of impossibility, only a magician could have even attempted to sculpt them, but when they stand in front of us, we have to believe. Ok, dont want to keep you all waiting any longer. Here come the magnificent stones of Avaudaiyar Koil.

Lets start with this long short of a corner ceiling - can you make out something ( vaguely similar to thalakkad), ok, lets go closer. Yes, its a fantastic snake carved complete with its undulating coils into the ceiling stone.

ceiling innocuous
the corner snake - watch its coils
the snake carved into the ceiling
the snakes coil
corner of ceiling snake

Ok, we have seen similar before, so whats so special about this? you may ask. Hang on, see this - a ceiling sculpted, well - let me give you the photos first. Watch the rods and the variety in them.. Well they are stone. Cant beleive, see this twisted rod - How on earth did they even try to visualise something of this scale and complexity. Seems the sculptor wanted to showcase this as a veritable explosion of his skills. Wait that’s not all

Check the stone rod - 4 sided
anther view of the stone rods ( a bit damaged)
check the stone rod - 8 sided
how on earth
see the diff kinds of rods - stone mind it
the diff rods
twisted rod of stone
wow rods again

Here come the crowning pieces in the ceiling and the pillar and ceiling decorations.

a long shot of this magnificent work
another ceiling
ceiling decorations
check out the ceiling decoration
closeup of celing
lintel decoration
pillar decoration

Stumped. hang on for the piece de resistance…
Here they come - a ceiling, sculpted into stone - with hanging chains.

stone chain part of ceiling
stone chains from ceiling
the masterpiece
wow, no words
a long shot of this magnificent work
how on earth did they sculpt this

Sorry, i got to take a break now and catch my breadth.

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