We watched the tamil movie Vaaranam Aayiram last night - ok, i know all of you are asking why i have jumped from sculpture to feature films. Well we are talking sculpture today as well, just that i found the choice of names for this film to be Unique. Literally translated it means a thousand elephants.
Its from a famous verse of the great devotee Aandaal sung on Vishnu - loosely translated - She envisions Vishnu coming surrounded by a 1000 elephants, the villagers noticing this gather water in golden pots ( auspicious welcome) and string garlands all over the town. Maybe the name created enough interest and inorder to explain the title the director made the hero’s mother - explain it at the very end - to every women her man is such….
But it reminded me of another man, he too linked to a thousand elephants - not surrounded but the strength of a thousand elephants - the legendary Bhima - . His culinary skills ( and consumption) apart, his strength forms part of many a folklore.
Being the son of Vayu ( the god of wind) he was born strong, yet there is another story of how he got his superhuman strength. Once while with Droupadi, a fabulous scent fills the air and both are drawn to it, Bhima goes in search of the source, a divine flower deep inside a forest. Enroute he stumbles across a monkey that is lying in his path. Drunk on his strength, Bhima abuses the monkey and asks it to give way, else he threatens to pick it and throw it away. The monkey doesn’t even bat an eyelid and asks him to first try lifting his tail. Amused Bhima tries to move the tail but to his astonishment finds that he can’t even nudge it. Realising his folly, he humbly seeks the true identity of his opponent - he is none other than the mighty Hanuman ( his half brother). Hanuman had come to hear of Bhima’s vain nature and ego on is strength and this was a lesson in humility. Having thought the lesson he embraces Bhima - who at once realises a supreme energy flowing through him….Hanuman has reinforced Bhima’s strength with the embrace.
Ok, now the sculpture. The amazing Halebid complex throws up this beauty. ( pl click on the image for a good view)
In the centre is the mighty Bhima rushing at an oncoming elephant - holding it by its trunk ( sadly broken) and ready to strike it with his mace. There are two soldiers behind the elephant in heavy armor - sword, shield.
But the highlight of the sculpture is what is depicted extreme left ( or right of the panel)…a pile of dead elephants and their mahouts.
A delightful composition.