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Posts Tagged ‘yama’

Hi friends, today we are returning to a favorite location of mine. Mahabalipuram..Mallai, for a truly amazing panel. we have seen this panel in the past but from a different perspective. ( six pack Abs!!)

mallai mahisha

Yes, I am referring to the spectacular Mahishasuramardhini panel. To truly appreciate this panel we got to spend atleast 3 or 4 posts. So take this as the first of the series, focusing on main character - Durga.

The Panel is truly mind blowing, but lets first give the story a reading for the uninitiated.

Once upon a time there lived a demon named Mahisha. As usual he wanted to make himself invincible and pleased the easiest of Gods to please - Brahma. Mahisha performed severe penances,fasting for months, standing on one foot. In due course Brahma appeared and asked him what he wanted. The request as usual was for a boon of immortality, which could not be given as every creature that is born had to die as well. So he had to modify his, so in his vain ego, seeing that no man was capable of hurting him, he grew over confident and asked that he may be sent to the netherworld only at the hands of a women. He bet his life on the fact that no women would have the power and courage to defeat him!!

Armed with the boon, he conqueres the whole of the earth and then heads off to the heavens ( hmm, how predictable!!). The Gods are caught in a fix and organise for a urgent meeting. They decide to pass the motion that calls for creation of a lady from the concentration of all their powers. Thus was born Durga. She is said to have a thousand or in other versions eight arms. ( we stick to eight for now as it matches with the sculpture). Thanks to Geetha madam, we have this brilliant verse from Devi Mahamathyam ( sanskrit work) which describes what all she was given by the Gods.

The wielder of the pinaka bow ( shiva) drew out a trident from inside his trident and gave her
The dark complexioned Vishnu drew out a Discus from his discuss and presented to her
Varuna ( Lord of Rain) gave her a Conch, Agni ( Lord of Fire) gave a weapon called shakthi
Vaayu ( Lord of Wind) presented a bow and quiver filled with arrows.
Indira ( Lord of the Lords) drew out the Vajra from his thunder ( Kulisam ?) and also a bell from his Airvatha ( white elephant)
Yama ( Lord of Death) drew out a baton from his baton and presented to her
Brahma presented a garland of rosary beads and his Kamandalu ( vessel for carrying sacred water)
Kaalan ( yama again ) presented a sword and shield.

Now, we come to the sculpture. Such a beautiful scupture, Durga is depicted with Eight hands, striking a very beautiful pose on her majestic lion.

mallai mahisha suramardhini
the majestic pose
what a mahestic pose
does look like she is smiling
the rich onamentation well she does look like smiling
hand stretching the bow string

Lets see if we can spot the above weapons in the arsenal.

The most striking ofcourse is her bow and arrow. so two hands of hers are busy with that. See the perfection in the way, her hands are sculpted - the one holding the bow, with the thumb running perpendicular to the floor along the bamboo. the other hand drawing the string back with force, the open shoulders.

does look like she is smiling
hand stretching the bow string
the hand holding the bow

Next obvious weapon is the Danda - the baton - presented by Lord of Death - Yama. Some doubts if it were a sword.

the baton
the hand weilding the baton

Lets see the sculpture in closeup. Its no ordinary stick, for it definitely has some sort of a handle, but its a rounded weapon. You can clearly see the baseball bat style construction and the rounded edge. if it were a broken off sword, it would have defn chipped or atleast the lion’s mane would have be obstructed by it. Since we can clearly see the designer curls of the lion’s mane and the rounded edge, we can safely confirm that this indeed is the gift of Yama.

Displaying the other hands and what they hold below. Try and see if you can match it to the list above

2
hand holding the bell
hand holding the discuss
the hand holding the conch

One obvious missing item is the Trident or trishul of Shiva. Maybe since the Goddess used up two of her hands on the bow and bow string, that was left out !!

But a truly amazing composition - just watch this beauty. The right leg of hers, since this is a relief panel, and to give that dimensional imaging, the master sculpture has sculpted the leg almost completely projecting from the panel.

the foot

Please do remember that this is not just panel, but is infact a rock cut cave, carved into live rock, a mountain side - and this panel froms one side of the internal wall ( the other side is the famous Anantha Sayana Panel).

Mahisha suramardhini cave facade
mallai anthasayana panel
mallai mahisha suramardhini panel

Now you can truly enjoy the Pallava carftsmen’s divine art.

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Today, once again thanks to some delightful camera work by Satheesh, we are going to see one of my favorite sculptures. But this time not as much for the sculptural beauty but more for its story content. The story of Markandeya, was a popular bedtime song for us and my dad used to put us to sleep often with the rendition - have heard it so many times and today my son goes to sleep hearing the same, that i was overjoyed at seeing this sculpture.

Ok, story first.

Mrikandu was a devote saint ( rishi). He lived offering daily prayers to Lord Shiva with his wife Marudvati. Though they lived a peaceful existence, the couple had one unfullfilled wish - they did not have any children and they longed for a son. The rishi prayed to Shiva and pleased with his devotion, Shiva appeared and granted him the boon, but as usual he put a twist in it. He offerred them a choice, either they have a hundred sons who will be dumb and foolish but live a long life or have one very intelligent son, but will live for only sixteen years.

The rishi contemplated and decided to have the one intelligent son. Shiva blessed the couple and in due course they had a baby boy - they named him Markandeya. The boy grew to be very intelligent and handsome. Markandeya was a born genius and learnt the Vedas and Sastras easily. He was the darling of everyone, but as he got older, he noticed that his father seemed to nurse some bad news - for he was getting more and more sadder. Markandeya was smart enough to notice this and he asked his dad to tell him the truth. His dad wept and told him that as per the deal of the boon, by the end of that year, he would be sixteen and hence they had to give him up. He could not bear to even think of giving up such a splendid son.

Hearing this, Markandeya immediately took stock - his parents gave birth to him, his teachers his knowledge but only shiva coud give him prolonged life - so he set his heart into utmost devotion to Shiva and promised his Dad that he would do enough to please shiva that he will not let him die. Thus he made a shiva linga and was eternally offering prayers to it.

On the appointed day, Yama, the Lord of death, came on his black buffalo vehicle, swinging his lasso ( he uses it to pull the souls whose time on the earth is over, out of the physical body) - seeing him Markandeya ran to the shiva lingam, with yama close on heels chasing him, swirling his rope. Markandeya ran and hugged the shiva linga so close, that the only way Yama could fasten the rope around him was with the shiva linga. Yama in his haste did exactly that, he threw his noose round the boy’s neck, and pulled him along with the Shiva- Linga.

At that instant, The shiva Linga burst open and Shiva came out of it, Shiva was in great rage, he kicked Yama so violently that the Lord of death almost died!! Shiva thus saved his devotee and since the boon/curse was that Markandeya would have only 16years to live on this earth, he blessed Markandeya to be forever 16 ( endrum Pathinaaru ) - how many of us would love to have such a boon today !!

kalantaka.jpg

Now, have a look at the delightful panel from Tanjore Big temple - split into three frames, top to bottom. the top frame, we have a fiery Yama chasing Markandeya and the hapless boy clinging on to the Siva lingam for dear life.

yama chasing Markandeya.JPG

The second frame, you have an angry Shiva kicking Yama who is sprawled on the floor ( one of the images is from another friend Srivatsan taken a year back - you can see the damage that these 1000 year old miniatures are undergoing - the Trident in the hands of shiva has been worn off this year !!!)

see the detailing on the trident of shiva.jpg
shiva vs yama.JPG
tanjore markandeya panel.JPG

The last frame - the detailing is lost on the left, but you get to see a visibly relieved Markandeya offering thanks to Shiva with folded hands.

markandeya saved.JPG

This legend has been sung by Appar in many verses and you can look them up here.

http://www.thevaaram.org/thirumurai_1/songview.php?thiru=4&Song_idField=4107&padhi=113+&button=%E0%AE%9A%E0%AF%86%E0%AE%B2%E0%AF%8D%E0%AE%95

to save Mārkkāṇṭēyaṉ, the bachelor, who worshipped him with flowers to be free from the sufferings of birth born of ignorance.
kicking the cruel god of death who had a twisted tongue, hairs as red as fire, curved white teeth and a dark body, [causing him] to tremble with fear.
the superior god who dwells in Kaṭavūr has the lotus red feet with which he caused the god of death to roll on the ground in this manner.
The central idea of the first nine verses is Civaṉ killing the god of death to protect Mārkkaṇṭēyaṉ who worshipped Civaṉ in this shrine.
Translation: V.M.Subramanya Aiyar–Courtesy: French Institute of Pondichery / EFEO (2006)

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