About 9 years back, i visited Perur - was stunned by what i saw - for what it had to show was truly a connoisseur’s delight. As my journey into sculpture matured over the years, my love for these beauties grew manifold. But, every time i ventured to photograph these beauties, i was turned down. I had to be content with some small resolution snaps published in a newspaper. But then, each unsuccessful attempt strengthened my resolve, and visit to Perur Patteswarar and a request to photograph was a standard feature of every visit to Coimbatore.
Late in 2008, on a fateful saturday i was reluctantly accompanying my wife and son to an event organised by the Annalaxmi group in Singapore - it was called
Dance of India, Taste of India……as i tried to find an excuse to make myself scarce, i spotted at a distance some lovely pen and ink sketches of ganesha - immaculate art - somewhat like this ( i am kicking myself for leaving my camera behind that day)
I sped to the stall - and below the sketch was a small signature - Padmavasan. Oh oh - i was overjoyed for - the card next to it said, the artist was present there to do spot sketches ( profiles) for sgd 20. Having never had the good fortune of meeting him before i frantically looked around for help, asked the next stall person - and he pointed to a small very innocuous looking man just standing around - clad in a simple kurtha. I couldn’t b’ve my
eyes, there he was - the artist himself.
i went up to him, introduced myself ( ofcourse ponniyin selvan ……..kalki…..silpi…sculpture ) and he warmed up. we spent about 45 min
He talked of his interaction with the great man silpi - the divine
gift of his - He also talked of Silpi’s mindblowing talent - pointing out that once
when he was sketching the natraja in tanjore - he sketched the front profile ( running out of paper - he took another piece and pasted in the bottom to complete) . and he went on to sketch the back head portion alone - ofcourse the two sketches were in different sizes - but most amazing was the fact that mr
padmavasan later - for a book, tried to resize both the sketches to the same size - and when he placed the front on the back - they fit like a glove…such a gift to visually capture the divine proportions!!.
We exchanged numbers, and he wrote his address and phone number on a small piece of paper in pencil ( still treasure it)…
Dec 2009. Another mandatory visit to Perur, but this time, i had made it a point to get the permission - come what may. Was assisted by some very good friends and well wishers, but all pointed to the hands of the Temple Executive Officer. I was expecting to hit a blind alley once again, when after about an hour - we were still waiting. But then we finally managed to get an audience with the EO, a smart Young man, who recognised the passion in our voices, yet it took about an hour to convince him of our mission. He finally yielded and once he saw that we were only there to promote the temple and its beauties, doors opened pretty fast. We faced an unexpected one final hurdle in the mandatory power cuts - yet we still had a spare day - so we returned the next day to complete the shoot - of what we thought was an extensive aka comprehensive coverage of the temple.
Next week in Chennai: I caught up with Sri Padmavasan again for the second time, in his home in chennai - in Dec 2009. I showed him my photo gallery and you could see the glee in his eyes and he started showing me more of his rare work. I mentioned about perur and he came out with his entire collection of Perur including a spectacular rendition of the Moolavar in color.
I was speechless by seeing the true color rendition - including the color and sheen of the copper vessel on top of the Linga.
But among the many sketches, there was one, which he considered very special, but we had overlooked it - for it felt too simple and we just skipped it. Later, i would kick myself many times over for doing so. It took another 3 months and help from Mr Praveen and the EO once again to get the particular pillar in the right angle.
Whats so special about this pillar sculpture? Looks like some Rishi in Tapas.
Well we see that in part 2 of this post