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Posts Tagged ‘thiruparankundram’

Not all mysteries in archeology need an Indiana Jones or a Lara Croft to make it reveal its secrets, however, if ever there was one that would even baffle them, it is the wonder that stands forgotten in the glory of the famed Murugan temple in Tirupparankundram. That the famed shrine itself is a cave temple is not common knowledge, however there exists another cave at the foothills of the same hill but a little further away to the left as you drive around it.

The main cave face.

cave_face

The first and foremost is the date assignable to the original excavation. The rather plain bulky set of two pillars and pilasters (half pillars) combined with the lack of any artistic fluting on their corbels help us to assign an early 8th C CE date to the cave.
It is very rare to see reliefs on the outer wall of excavated caves as usually we get to so only door guardians. However, in this cave there are many niches into which deep relief sculptures have been carved. We will visit them in the second part of this post as we need to move to the inside - to view some very intricate sculptures, whose superior iconography seem to suggest a 12th C CE to 13th C CE date.

The popular reasoning is that this was an extant Jaina cave which was later converted. Let us look at the shrine that has been cut into the left wall as we enter the cave. Inside this beautifully framed shrine is a relief sculpture of the androgynous from of Shiva as Ardhanari gracefully leaning on his bull mount.

sanctum_tpkundrm

The four armed sculpture has clear demarcation of the Shiva and Sakti portions, with him wearing a thigh length garment while hers is a sari to the knee.

Ardhanari in the Sanctum

ardhanari_cave

For all its grace and form, there are many aberrations in the form. Firstly we do not get to see relief sculptures of this form in any contemporary sites. Secondly it is quite plain that its size is too small for this sanctum’s proportions. The height of the pedestal is more suitable for a seated figure and not a standing figure. The the placement of the bull is also strange. A study of the evolution of the ardhanari form clearly shows the difficulty the sculptor has in balancing the male and female body proportions.

Such early examples are the forms in the Dharmaraja ratha and the Agasteshwara temple in Perungudi. While the Sama banga profile of the Dharamaraja sculpture lacks aesthetic appeal, the problems of the larger male proportions are evident in the Agasteshwara sculpture.

Ardhanari – Dharmaraja Ratha

ardhanari_dharamaraja_ratha

Ardhanari - Agastheswara

ardharari_agastheswara

The sculptors hence bring the Rishabava Vahana and let the form lean on its head to provide the counter balance. This is seen in the later day Chola sculptures including this stunning beauty from Vriddachalam and also seems to be the accepted norm as far as Elephanta.

Ardhanari – Vriddachalam

ardhanari_vriddachalam

Ardhanari - Elephanta

ardhanari_elepanta

The problem now with the Parankundam sculpture is the bull is positioned on the opposite side ie. Not on the male side but is on the female side and hence doesn’t lend the necessary balance to the composition. These are not consistent with the the amount of planning that is needed to complete a rock cut cave shrine.

sanctum

Things seem to further go wrong as we explore the rather crude attempt to shape the pedestal below, but the most crucial aspect of the puzzle rests in the totally unconnected curly patterns on the top.

designs
sanctum_designs

At first glance it would be easy to dismiss them as a tree etc but then only the Daksinamurthy form is shown with a tree canopy on top. This is where we need to explore the Jaina aspects. Take a look at these images.

10thC_hindu_image
K_malai
K_malai2
Tamilnadu_01
jaina_hindu
onambakkam_adinathar

We shall explore more such in part 2….

Photo Courtesy: Mr. Udayan, Mr. Arvind Venkatraman , the hindu archives.
http://www.hindu.com/2003/05/22/stories/2003052203230500.htm
http://www.hindu.com/2006/02/06/stories/2006020602410200.htm
http://www.herenow4u.net/index.php?id=76895

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Today, we are seeing another interesting pillar from Tiruparankundram - two natural enemies coming together in a show of tender motherly affection and care. Thankfully, the authorities haven’t tried their hand at exhibiting their ignorance and tried to decipher this legend and instead have just simply named it as Shiva and Tiruvilaiyadal Puranam. ( unlike the previous one where they named Shiva as Varaahi !!). The mindless iron railing, anchored on a priceless piece of art and to add insult to injury the thick coir ropes, make you retch. Isn’t there anyone who can campaign their cause at all !!

tirupparankundram+pillar

This is such a rare depiction, maybe the only one of its kind - a sculpture relating to a very lovely act of Lord Shiva, from the Tiruvilayadal Puranam of Vembathur Nambi.

For starters, how do we confirm that this is indeed Shiva? Simple, look for his attributes.

closeup+shiva
shiva+axe
shiva+deer

Pretty simple ahh. You cant miss the Axe and the deer !! ( unless ofcourse you are the temple authorities - naming shiva as varaahi!!)

axe and deer on the hands 1
tiruparankundram shiva 1

But then what is so unique about this pillar sculpture? Check out what is in Shiva’s hands.

whats+this

This does look like a tiger. See how Shiva is holding it like an infant on his hip!!

tiger

But then this, is a stunner.

fawn+suckling

His other hand carries a fawn and it seems to be suckling from the tiger’s udder!!

Yes, its correct. The legend goes that a lactating mother deer, comes to a lake to quench its thirst, when its felled by a hunter. As it breathes its last, the mother languishes at the plight of its just born fawn. Overcome but its motherly love, Lord Shiva , comes to the rescue of the fawn by having it suckle from a tiger that was nearby.

We have seen many poses of shiva, his role as a destoryer, his fiery dance - but here in this unique pillar sculptures - of Shiva - himself taking the form of a mother pig to suckle piglets and now - having a tiger suckle the fawn - natural enemies but then mysterious are his ways. Such a poetic way of expressing the infinite grace of Shiva, his tender heart and wonderful depiction.

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