We had seen earlier the interesting belly face of Shiva’s assistant in the Mahabalipuram great penance panel. While i was discussing this with Kathie sometime back, she immediately recognised a similar face ( brilliantly) this time from an early Chola temple - situated 50 kms from Trichy - compared to the later temples this pocket sized temple is packed with so much of sculptural beauty - The magnificent Koranganathar temple in Srinivasanallur,
The temple is situated on the banks of the river Cauvery at Srinivasanallur. It is not a ‘living’ temple. “..Early Chola temples were small with no walls around them. Koranganatha temple 50 km from Trichy is the garbhagriha-and-mandapa type with beautiful sculptures on every surface. The base of the wall has a row of sculpted mythical animals called yazhi that is a special feature of Chola architecture. The first floor is made of bricks which have been plastered. This temple is a prototype of south-style architecture…” Takeo Kamiya in Architecture of the Indian SubContinent
Well, beautiful sculptures is putting it mildly, we will see the beauty of its sculptures in subsequent posts. But today we are to see just a panel - a decorative lintel panel, called Thorana or more correctly a Magara Thorana. This sculpture kind of symbolises the entire temple, for the amount of detailing that’s gone into this piece of stone is mind blowing. Lets take a look at the panel now.
Set high above the wall above two spectacular damsels ( we will see them later - just that dont want to divulge from the subject) the myriad of creatures - from mythical riders riding spectacular lion yaazhis, who themselves emerge from the mouths of larger Yaazhis, they seem to be at war with each other or just sporting ( This seems to be a popular motif among Cholas - with more definition for such sculptures in Pullamangai, Big temple and Darasuram - we will see them also soon)
The main character in the panel seems to be Vishnu as the Boar saving Mother Earth - he is shown with four hands - with the top two hands holding up his standard weapons, he is full of victorious/ triumphant energy - see him sporting her on his left lap - Mother Earth is all devotion, relieved at being rescued shown praying with folded hands. That the sculptor has gone to such lengths to portray even the Naga King and queen in such a miniature but with intricate details ( see them just coming into frame under Varaha murthy)
Noticeably one of the Ganas has the head of a bull - the one to the extreme left bottom. - just abvoe him is our little friend. We saw him in the Mallai penance panel - her he is again, this time upto more mischief, making faces by pulling his mouth with his index finger. The tiger yazhi in the belly seems more gruesome here. Have one more instance of such a belly faced Gana in Pullamangai ( if readers find any more please send us), not all Ganas are depicted thus. So do they have a name, a specific role - like the bull head one, the tiger belly etc??
Words cant be found, no praise too much to drink in this splendid creation. Just makes you sit back and let it fill your senses.
Thanks to Shriram for the temple pictures ( more to come) and Kathie for the panel and for identifying this for me.