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Posts Tagged ‘Somnathpur’

To even try to comprehend Hindusim, let alone setting off to understand it, is a task that many dread to attempt and few have succeeded. The evolutionary tales of this unique religion is lost in pre history and the trails n tribulations of a continent in constant churn. The vestigial remains of its early forms are a distant reminder of its yet unclear origins and when many western scholars first sampled the religious art , their initial impression was not palatable as per their set canons. Have seen many arguments risen subsequently wherein with a wider exposure, the first reactions have watered down and the art has been appreciated more though questions on the religion still persist. To be honest and fair, to someone who is not exposed to the zillion things that one got to know about the Hindu pantheon - the fanged gods, chopped heads, gory depictions of religious self sacrifice, demons impaled on lances, a garland of skulls, an infant fetus as an ear ring, ‘naked’ Gods etc do present a picture that is not pretty.

It is hardly surprising that to even to someone who has been brought up amidst its folds, the cult of Shiva especially, presents a very difficult and complex question - a seemingly paradoxical representation of God - the Destroyer, the one who lives near the abode of the dead, surrounded by Ghosts and goblins as his assistants, smeared with the ash of burnt bodies. That much for his anthropomorphic form, to talk of his ‘other’ slightly darker followers - the Kalamukas, Kabalikas , Pasupathas, Kaulas, of his fiery Bairava forms and then to the more popular manifestation as the Linga, has spawned another stream of contradicting arguments.

To add to the above, I am trying to present a few more to fan the fire of arguments, for that is the beauty of this religion which does allow one to question the very essence of its core !

Apart from the tales and legends, a few vestigial attributes seem to attest to the notion constant evolutionary nature of Hindusim. Thanks to Late Sri. Ganapathi Stapathi’s wonderful work - Indian Sculpture and Iconography for showing us that the creative tradition kept alive these subtle concepts to this day.

We see below an intricate sculpture of Bairava form of Shiva from Halebidu, the heights of Hoysala art, every inch is intricately carved.

shiva+halebidu

Hoysala art is truly a problem of too many and majority of today’s tourists would rush past without even a second glance due to the profusion of art on display and maybe to the call of the horn of the tourist operator’s hurried itinerary bound luxury coach driver. Even for the few who do stop and look, the attribute held in his left hand is truly macabre.

closeup+katvangam

It was with a certain trepidation that I decided to look it up in the book and was surprised to see it listed.

Quote:

” Katvangam: This is a staff fashioned out of the leg or thigh bone, on which a skull has been fixed. A snake, coiled around the staff, emerges with its hood raised from one of the eye sockets. This implement is similar to the mace, and, instead of the thigh bone, the staff maybe made of wood. Usually an accessory of Kapalika Shivaite images, the Katvanga is also an instrument of Shiva. sometimes, it can also be adopted as a staff for Yogis or rishis. The staff should be 2 face lengths high and 2 viral thick: the skull should be 5 viral wide and 7 viral long.’”

Not only was the description apt but the illustration was picture perfect. Thanks to our artist Raghavendra Prasad for rendering it clearly for us

katvangam

While we were discussing this, our good friend and fellow heritage enthusiast and expert Photographer Swami came up with another gem and kudos to him for spotting this. A Brahma from Somnathpur

Brahma+somnathput

The question was the attribute held in Brahma’s right hand.

Brahma+ladle

Thanks again to Prasad.

suruvam

Being the destined ‘ Creator’ to find him with this ‘weird’ implement was baffling. Back to the book again.

Quote:

“Siruk, Suruvam: These ladles or large spoons are considered to be Brahma’s instruments. They are used to pour oblation ( ghee) into the sacrificial fire. On the final day of the yagna or sacrificial rite, the ladle is used to pour various oblations into the sacrificial fire in a ceremony known as purnahuti. The siruk is made of wood and is shaped like an ordinary spoon. The suruvam has a square, box-like scoop, adorned with a cow, elephant or other such animal head at its extremity. The length of the ladle may be taken as one muzham or cubit.

Since Brahma is considered to be the symbolic priest or chief for the sacrificial rite, these ladles represent Brahma in his Vedic identity. Further, the ladles are symbols of the rite itself.”

Quite interesting depiction and lot of questions emanating out of it. But first to set out to find a Suruvam with an Elephant head !

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What an interesting exchange on the previous post ! forced me to put this part 2 of that debate.

Lets take a look at the sculpture under question again

Hanuman somnathpur with vishnu attributes and bana lingam
bana lingam
closeup of hanuman
face of hanuman
left hand holding the conch
right hand holding the discus

Is the sculpture indeed that of Hanuman holding the Bana l

Arguments for:

The Bana lingam legend, the facial features.

Arguments against

No tail, presence of two ladies on both sides, presence of Vishnu’s attributes ( but this is not a clear case as Cheenu’s rightly pointed out there are instances !)

What other sculptures could it represent

Macha Avatar

But there is a matcha ( fish) avatar sculpture right next to this sculpture.

somnathpur1
Somnathpur - Matsya

We had arguments for this image as well, but the depiction of the eyes and the typical mouth kind of settled the issue.

Lets see them in closeup again ( thanks Arvind once again)

face of fish, notice the eyes
macha avatar closeup

Compare this macha avatar with the earlier sculpture, both can’t be the same for sure.

Varaha Avatar - Vishnu

A Definite possibility. Lets take a front depiction of Varaha from Ahobilam to compare.

ahobilam varaha side
ahobilam varaham

The depiction of a spherical ( ok egg shaped) earth is not found in sculptures even upto 200 years after this representation. Take a look again, its too defined a sculpture for an artist to err in the shape ( for the finesse in carving the conch and the discus).

bana lingam
left hand holding the conch
right hand holding the discus

While, its definitely a case in point to the two ladies. We see all the avatars and even Brahma sporting such attendants or consorts.

brahma somnathpur

Now, we come to this interesting sculpture. its Kurma ( Turtle) Avatar

Somnathpur - could be kurma

Lets study its features more closely

Kurma avatar
kurma avatar closeup
kurma face

There are some legends related with Vishnu seeking Shiva’s help ( Kachbeshwarar form). But is this and the original sculpture similar. Lets study the face features once more side by side.

face comparison

Well definitely not the same - clear from the eyes especially. I tend to side the argument for Hanuman more based on these.

An interesting sculpture and how a little bit of vandalism can lead to confusions, yet some tell tale signs help assist in proper identification.

another mystery image

Hey,who is this. Except for the face, everything is Ganesha. But the face …Hmm, lets take a closer look

closeup of mystery image showing all atrributes of ganesha

Stumped you. Well dont rake your brains yet, is this a composite Ganesha combined with Varaha / Hayagreevar ….

its our Ganesha only

No my friends, take a closer look at the top left ( of the sculpture)

the piece of the trunk holding a modhakam

Its the broken trunk, with the tip holding his favorite modhakam. Just a case of part of the trunk being broken !! Its our darling Ganesha only.

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