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Posts Tagged ‘pradeep chakravarthy’

Too much is too many…maybe it the bane of our heritage treasures. How else but to explain the sad plight of this delightful gem living precariously on the banks of the Tambraparani, its life blood slowly draining away, having stood for a thousand years, it makes a mockery of our grand visions of cultural renaissance and ingrained spirituality - The Ramaswamy Temple of Cheranmadevi. They called it the Nigarili Chola Vinnagar - Abode without parallel ! read on to see its pathetic state for surely it will not be long before the newspaper headlines lament its demise and pseudo enthusiasts will cry fowl.

The pillar sculpture of Hanuman, in all his humility, affectionately held by his Lord Rama seemed an regular rendition when we entered but as we finished and returned, the posture seemed to gather a new meaning.

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As we stepped in, there was nothing extraordinary about the front porch and it resembled any of hundred of temples we see in our villages.

entrance

But as we took the few steps towards the main shrine, what awaited us made us hold our breath.

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view

its not often you get to see a pristine pre 10th Century Vimana, a Pandya one at that.

Thanks to Pradeep, we had some inclination of what to expect and the introductions to the Priest had ensured that we could do our work unhindered.

For starters - the temple is unique for its one of the very few Astanga Vimana shrines - three tiered Vimana, with forms of Vishnu - Standing, seated and lying in the three sanctums lined one on top of the other.

At the entrance of the main sanctum, we were greeted by one of the most stunning bronzes - Rama group.

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ramar

When we wanted to climb to the upper storey, the priest asked us again - if we really wanted to go up ! Little did we realise why he did that, till we saw the narrow stairs and got swarmed by a colony of feisty bats whom we disturbed.

stairs

Restaurants with roof top gardens seem to be the fashion these days, but it was really heartbreaking to see a stunning edifice left to rot like this.

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vegetation
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As we turned towards the Sanctum in tier one, we spotted this.

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The central beam had cracked and the weight was being held by the wooden pillar. My heart filled with dread at the thought of what might happen if it gave way.

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And in the midst of all this, there he was seated ( please note he is not carved out of stone but made of stucco - and hence the fractures can be easily mended)

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The intricate stucco work and the faint colors seemed to remind us of his glory days. Even the walls seemed to have outlines of vestigial paintings.

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intricate+stucco+work
perumal

We willed ourselves to climb to the next tier and there he is, sleeping peacefully on the coils of his devoted sesha, his two consorts in attention, hoping against hope that some good still lived in the hearts of the people he loves.

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sayana+perumal

As we stepped out, we looked again at Hanuman - he seemed to asking us to help, but not wanting his master to know, for the Lord’s answer would be ” I have the entire universe for me !!”

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Friends, today we have a special guest post. Very pleased to have Mr Pradeep Chakravarthy , we have already seen a review of his book on Temple Vahanas

He has also authored a very successful book Thanjavur A Cultural History - - , and we will surely see more from this amazing person. I had requested him to do a guest post and we hope this is only the start of an insightful series. Over to him now.

Tirumeyyam is a well known pilgrim spot not very far off from Madurai. I wrote about it in The Hindu a long time back and have always visited it when possible.

Sayana+perumal.jpg

After reading Vijay’s posts on sculptures that bear a message of how the sculptor conceived movement and drama, I took a closer look at the stupendous moolavar – more than 10 feet and carved out of a cave. The additions are from the 7th century by Perumpidugu Perundevi a Muttaraiar chieftain’s mother. The structural temple temple complex built around this cave is from the 12th century and later.

Thanks to Ashok for splendid feat to capture the entire scene ( digitally removing the pillars - this is copyrighted work)

Tirumaiyam_Anantasayanam

The scene is of Perumal reclining in the coils of Adisesha with Brahma emerging from his navel.

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In this case, like the Gupta images, the sculptor has chosen a free style in showing the coils, not neat and arranged like in other temples. Already there is drama and movement –

The action in the scene is Adisesha spewing forth venom shown as streaks of fire that move towards your right.

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The heads of the serpent are backwards, as if they have just recoiled from one attack.

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Just in case you missed the direction, scores of divine nityasoories are all flying to the right. Just above the Lord’s face, the sculptor has left a natural indentation, this is possibly to indicate that the flying figures are much higher than you think and to remind you that even when they are flying, they are keeping their legs away from the face of the lord.

celestials

To the extreme left is Chitragupta and Garuda who some scholars think is actually the king who commissioned this image.

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Another cleft in the rock indicates a substantial distance between the deity and the two asuras

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The asuras are a little slanted to give us a clue that they eventually bite the dust

The temple is one of the few Vaishnavaite cave temples still in active worship and a modified image of this theme can be seen in Mahabalipuram as well.

As part of the relief there is a depiction a deer headed person next to Brahma - who could he be?

deer+head

Photo Credits : Flickr : lomaDI, Prof Swaminathan and http://senkottaisriram.blogspot.com/2008/04/thirumayam-near-pudukkoottai-tamil-nadu.html

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