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Posts Tagged ‘Raja Raja Chola’

April 9, 1931.

“Close upon the discovery of the Pallava paintings in the Kailasanathaswami Temple at Conjeevaram by the French savant, the indefatigable Prof. Jouveau Dubreuil it has been my great good fortune to bring to light the hitherto unknown frescoes of the Imperial Chola period, in the Brihadeswaraswami Temple, popularly known as ‘the Big Temple of Tanjore.’

“It was almost a year since I visited that noble fane [temple] one evening, in the company of my friend Mr.T.V.Umamaheshwaram Pillai, when in the dim religious light of a small oil lamp I felt, as it were, the existence of some kind of paintings on the walls on either side of a dark narrow circumambulatory passage around the sanctum sanctorum.

“But it was only yesterday I found it convenient to examine the place more thoroughly with the help of a ‘Baby Petromax’ whose bright light revealed paintings indeed but paintings of an undoubtedly very late and degenerate age, whose linear contortions and chromatic extravagances shattered in a moment all my wonderful dreams of discovering there the best and the only example of the art of Chola mural paintings.

“Still I chose a part of the western wall for close inspection and found the painted plastering there cracked all over and threatening to fall down. A gentle touch and the whole mass crumbled down, exposing underneath a fine series of frescoes palpitating with the life of other days.”

S.K. Govindaswami in The Hindu, April 11, 1931

Hindu article

Its taken 80 years for the above effort to reach its end, I would be wrong to say it as the end, for this is indeed a new Dawn. The famed Chola Frescos, hitherto seen only by a privileged few, with lesser mortals having to put up with the OOhs and AAhs of scholars and seeing low resolution faded prints in newspapers and magazines, have been given a new life. Thanks to the efforts by the TN Government, The Tamil University Tanjore, Mr Rajendran, Mr Thyagarajan , Mr Rajavelu, Mr. Chandru - we get to see them in new light.

book+release
cholar+kala+oviyangal

There has been lot of talk of such efforts earlier, and when Sri Badri of Kizhakku Pathippagam showed a sneak preview of the book on facebook, my pulse raced in anticipation, but somewhere there was a bit of dread - would the book do justice to the paintings, will the quality of photographs compare with international publications, would the presentation falter, would the quality of paper be compromised ( more so since the price was just Rs 500). Not wanting to take chance, I rushed through two sources to order the book. And 3 weeks ago, the books reached me, thanks to Sri Raman. Normally, i would finish a book of this size in a day or two, but then this was no ordinary work. It took me weeks to finish studying a page - Every inch of the Frescoes have been faithfully captured on Camera and not stopping with that - Artist Sri Chandru has faithfully drawn every line and curve as line drawings. I showed the book to Oviyar Sri Maniam Selvan and he was mighty pleased and impressed as well and showed me a few of his father’s ( Sri Maniam’s sketches of the frescoes as well !! - felt blessed)

Let me explain what i mean, by showing you a sneak peak of the books contents - the famed Dhaksinamurthy panel.

dhaksinamurthy+panel

( have to use low resolution so it doesn’t really do justice to the work, but don’t want to infringe on the book !!)

Now, comes the book specialty - the line drawings

dhakshinamurthy+linedrawing

There is so much to study in these Frescos and I am sure this book would spawn many Phd’s. For eg, take just one part of the panel, towards the top left hand side.

dhaksinamurthy+panel+bairavar
dhaksinamurthy+panel+bairavar+inset

Notice the highlighted part - its a fantastic Asta Buja ( eight armed) Bairvar form.

Bairvar.jpg
bairavar+linedrawing.jpg

The detailing on the paintings is stunning. Take a look

devotee+linedrawing.jpg
devotee.jpg

But the Bairavar looked very familiar, so immediately set about looking into my database. The first one that came up, was this Kstera Balar ( special Bairava from without the Dog mount - favorite of Sri Raja Raja’s queen Lokamadevi!) who is currently stationed just outside the entrance of the Big temple entrance.

ksetrabalar+outside+bigtemple

Though the style matched, the placement of the Trishool - on the right hand compared to the one in the painting - where its holstered ( forgive the pun) to the left waist - showed this was not a match.

Next on the scanner, was this fantastic bronze from the Tanjore Art Gallery. ( imaged courtesy Sri Raman and my cousin Sri Prasanna Ganesan)

bronze+tiruvengadu

The gallery board read 11th C CE, Tirvengadu

I went back to my books and found the reference in Bronzes of South India - P.R. Srinivasan (F.E. 1963, L.R. 1994 - Price Rs. 386), to dig out what they thought of the bronze.

In respect of workmanship, this is in the same style as the bronzes of the Rishabantaka.
Rishabantaka
But its iconography has necessitated the introduction of some new details not met with in any of the figures previously examined.

The eight armed Bhairava is another interesting bronze of this period, the like of which has not been met with. It stands erect, ie, in sama Bhanga posture. The other details peculiar to this figure are the following:

The braided locks of hair are arranged in the forms of heart and it serves the purpose of a Bha manadala ( halo) too. a knob like projection is seen on the head. On one side is seen a serpent and on the other the crescent and the Datura flower. ( there are two serpents and the crescent and flower are on opposite sides !)

crescent+datura+flower

Six tassels are seen, three on each side of the Jata - mandala. The fillet with the gem consists of flower designs. Patra kundalas are seen in both the ears. The raudra or terrific aspect associated with this icon, is attempted to be depicted by means of the knitting of the eye brows, wide open eyes and the small canine teeth. But as was customary with ancient stapathis to introduce benign qualities in the representation of terrific themes, here too the stapathi has depicted the details in the same fashion which goes to make the bronze pleasant looking rather than terrible looking. Even the knitting of the eye brows, in the context of features expressive of joy, seems to add charm to the expression rather than striking terror.

notice+eyebrows

The necklaces and the pendant ornament on the right shoulder are of the same type as those of the above figures ( Rishabantaka post) and thus affords a proof of its grouping with them. The Yagnopavita is made of two strands, twisted like a rope. Besides, along mala - a string made up of small globules is seen. Perhaps they represent severed heads, in which case thus becomes a Munda - Mala.

Arms are displayed in fan-wise series on either side, and the manner of their attachment to one another is beautiful. The armlets are actual naga-valayas and in no other bronzes armlets of this kind are seen - this is where this bronze started differentiating with the one in the Fresco. Its does not have this feature

bairavar+linedrawing.jpg

Except, the three hands, namely the upper most right hand, the corresponding left hand and the lowermost left hand which hold respectively, a damaru, a bell and a bowl, the rest are in kataka poses. The series of arms seen one below the other in the depth of each side is impressive.

attributes+left
attributes+right

No tassels are present in the Udara bandha. This figure shows two serpents with their bodies twisted and wound round the waist. Further their heads are converted into decorative pieces adorning the thighs. The manner of showing them hanging on the thighs is superb.

two+snakes

Now, comes the definitive clue. There are two snakes in the bronze, but only one in the painting ! So this is not the bronze shown in the painting !

one+snake
two+snakes

Now, you will understand, how important documenting our heritage is and Kudos to the team behind this spectacular book. Cannot call it a collector’s item, for its something that has to be studied and taught in art schools and subject of many Phd’s.

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Dear Friends, Today we are branching out a bit from stone sculpture into metal, again not metal sculpting but something smaller in size, but equally interesting. A field of study which offers fascinating insights into our history and culture on par with Inscriptions and Plates. Infact, they go much beyond the time frames of what i thought as the basics of Archeology. I was fortunate to have the chance acquaintance of a passionate antique collector Sri Raman Sankaran, who was willing to share his rich knowledge on this field with us. The thought occurred to me to make it like a Q& A session, with me the “novice” asking the expert some basic questions and we would feature them as a series of posts, end of which we could all claim to have gained valuable insights into this splendid field of Numismatics.

Me : Sir, Good morning and thanks again for taking time to educate us. I start with the standard line of questioning. When and how did you get interested in collecting coins, seals and rings.

RAMAN: I started my collection in my school days with coins of British India. I Still remember that I acquired a coin for Rs1 dated 1835. It was East India company’s half Anna coin. This was in the 1980’s

Me : Oh, ok. How did you find that coin.

Me: Sir, are you there?

RAMAN: Sorry ,power off

Me : Ok, Sir no problem.

RAMAN: I am in Chennai :-(

Me: Hahaha. J . You were saying you started with the 1835 half anna coin. how did you get the coin?

RAMAN: I got it from a shop that dealt with old items. I showed it to all my friends, was feeling proud that I have 145 year old coin :-)

Me : great, that leads us to next question. What are the sources of coins for a collector? Do you collect only South Indian coins or are you generic

RAMAN: sources for new collectors are basically buying from dealers. Every Dist Head there is a coins collector’s club.

Me : Wow, I guess there must be many fakes in circulation as well. So it is better to be acquainted with the Hobbyists and Professionals to understand the nuances. You mentioned about the Club, is there one in Chennai?

RAMAN: Tirunelveli, Nagerkovil, Thanjayur. Trichi, Salem Chennai…. u can find the coins clubs,in Chennai there are more than 25 dealers plus about 5 or more shops that sell only coins and currency (no stamps). In addition in Chennai there are more than 4 clubs functioning as well.

Me : Sir, do you focus only on south indian coins or you collect all antiques

RAMAN: For the past 25years i am collecting coins and I have Sangam age coins , Chola, Chera, Pandya, Pallava, Vijayanagar, Nayaks coins, and from 2004 i start collecting seals and rings.

Me: What are the earliest known Indian coins and which period are they dated to.

RAMAN: First known coin is silver punch marked coin. In that coin we can see 5 punch marks on one side and other side one or two punch marks. This coin is dated to 2 BC to 1 AD. In Tamil Nadu First coin known is Pandya punch marked coin. The terms used for coins front side is obverse and back side is reverse.. For Punch marked coins dating is not clear and i am not sure

Me: Ok sir. What are the various metals in which coins found in Tamil Nadu

RAMAN: Gold Silver copper Lead Potion* some times in Brass as well. *Potion metal is mixed metal of copper silver tin and few others metals….

Me: Oh, ok. Which is most commonly found and obviously gold must be rarest?

RAMAN:In Sagam age no gold coins have been found so far. The most acceptable reason is the Roman GOLD coins are used in that period. First gold coin known in Tamilnadu is Later Chola (Rajaraja) coin only

Me: Oh, great - would love to start the images with the Emperor’s Gold issue.

Gold+coin+Rrc

RAMAN: Have highlighted his legend ` Sri Rajarajah’ in devanagari script.

Gold+coin+Rrc+legend+in+nagari

Me: We are indeed blessed to see such. What are the most common shapes of the coins and we see more square or rectangular coins - before we see round coins. when did the change happen

RAMAN: Most of the punch marked coins are Square shaped and most Sangam age coins are square shaped, but after roman influence we see round coins being issued. This is a 2nd C BCE Chera coin

sagamchera obv
sagamchera rev

The Obv, you see a Majestic Elephant facing a tree, behind it four fishes, and below the Elephant a horizontal Palm tree. The rev you have Chera ensign - The Bow and arrow , and also an ankusam ( weapon used to control elephants)

Me: Fantastic sir. Can we see a Sangam Period Pandya Coin

RAMAN: Sure. This is again a 1st C BCE Pandya coin

sangam+pandiyaobv
sagampandya+rev

The Obv you see a magnificent male elephant and on the rev, a fish depicted as swimming towards the bank.

Me. Fish i can see, but not the detail of swimming to bank

RAMAN: Imagine like a wave, let me illustrate for you.

pandya+fish+wave

Me: Very clear now. You mentioned use of roman coins, was there a more direct influence of the crafting and coinage. what i am asking is, We are always enamored by the antiquity of our artifacts. How do Tamil coins of the sang am age compare to the roman coins. Do you feel that there was a definitive knowledge flow from Rome into South India and it influences our coinage.

RAMAN: Lets see round coins issued by Sangam Cholas and Cheras, first

Me: wow, sir do you have a photo of the coin so that i can share with readers - a Sangam age Chola coin

RAMAN: sure

chola+obv
chola+rev

Me: Excellent sir, What is the approx date for this coin and can you describe the features in more detail

RAMAN: This is dated to 1st C BCE. The Obv - you see an Elephant facing left, and a fenced tree. On top of the Elephant there is royal Parasol ( Umbrella). The Rev, you see the majestic Prancing Tiger of the Cholas with its splendidly crafted tail.

Me: and the round Sangam period Chera coin

RAMAN: Here it is.

round+chera+rev.jpg
roundchera+obv

RAMAN: Obv, you have a seated Lion, and next to it a Chakra on a Mast. Rev, you have the bow and arrow together.

Me: Lion, looks more like a Lemuir !!

RAMAN: Haha, one more reason ( non availability of the gold coins in sagam age) gold mine or furnace are not found in South Indian, lot of Roman gold coins all reported over South India. The Madras museum has a collection of over 5000 roman gold and copper coins. Roman coins dated form 1 BC are found in South India

Me: Wow, can you share one such early Roman Gold coin found in Tamil Nadu.

Roman+goldcoin
Roman+goldcoin2

Me: Further, do you see a change in the style of tamil coins, due to the roman influence. like for eg, when do we get to see Tamil ruler’s bust like that of the Emperor, in Roman coinage.

RAMAN: yes. In Sangam age King name v got few coins with Makkothai, Pervaluthi., Kuttuvan kotai, Kollipurai and Kolirumpurai all in Brahmi script

Me: Wow, we will need to see them in more detail later. To start with - the 3 premier clans of Tamil land - Chera, Chola, Pandya - what are the earliest dates for their coins and what are their distinguishing factors. Apart from the Chera Bow and arrow, the Chola Tiger and the Pandya Fish - are there any other characteristic marks of these clans.

RAMAN: For trade purpose few North Indian coins and foreign (like Greaks)coins are found in Tamil Nadu. Another clans coins we find is those of the Malayamans . Malayman coins are found in Tirukkoilur area only

Me: Tirukoilur is near my native :-). Can you share some old Chera, Pandya and malayaman coins for our readers

RAMAN: most of the Sangam age coins found in the river bed of Madurai, Karur, Tirukkoilur and Tirunelveili areas Here you see a Malaiyaman coin

malaiyaman+sangam
malaiyaman+sangam+rev

RAMAN: This is a 1st C BCE coin of Malayamans, found in Tirukkoilur. Obv, you see a horse facing a tree ( without fence), on top of the horse you see a weapon and a Taurine (sign depicting the head of a bull). The rev has their ensign of a river flowing, a vertical and an horizontal spear or lance.

Me: Fantastic sir. There are so many things to observe and know ( like the Taurine sign etc). As a beginner to numismatics, are there any basic guide books that you can suggest our readers or authors

RAMAN: First they have decide what type of coins they are like to collect

Me: Most of us are die hard Chola fans and we would love to touch any piece of history associated with that clan, are coins of Raja Raja Chola available for early collectors like us?

RAMAN: Yes, You all can start with Chola coins. They are (chola copper coins) available in large numbers. I can give you a Chola copper coin as a compliment to start the collection.

Me: haha

RAMAN: yes not a joke

Me: I will take that offer for sure Sir. Moving on most of us are guided by knowledgeable scholars who teach and inspire us once we have reached a certain level. Who are your guru’s in this field?

RAMAN: my first guru is Mr Seetharaman from Thanjavur and for Brahmi legend coins, seals and rings Sri. I.Mahadeven IAS(ret) Avargal.

Me: Wow, they are all legends.

RAMAN: and my fist advice first know about the coin which u planning to collect. I can suggest a book on Chola coins is written by Mr Seetharaman.

Me: who is the author and publisher sir, and where can we get copies

books.jpg

RAMAN: Mr Seetharaman, is the author of the book. I will pass you his address. He is not on email, but I can procure the copies for you. They cost about Rs 150 per book, will work out to Rs 175 per title including postage if inside India. The author’s contact number is +919894578440 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              +919894578440      end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              +919894578440      end_of_the_skype_highlighting

Dhanalaksmi Publishing,
12, Rajarajan Nagar,
manojipatti ( south)
Tanjavur - 613004

Me: Thank you sir, its been a real eye opening conversation for me and am sure to my readers as well. We are definitely keen to do another detailed session – maybe we will do one for each of the Moovendars and then Pallavas, the Chieftains, there is so much to learn, we are all very excited and fortunate to have a willing teacher like you.

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