Amazing action sculpture pillars of Srirangam Temple

Today we are going to look at some unique pillars from the amazing Srirangam temple. The temple is the foremost among temples for Vaishnavites and has been the centre of the spiritual movement of Lord Vishnu ‘ The Preserver’. The temple has various legends associated it with and for viewers who are interested to read more, below site has an excellent account.

The temple has such has undergone many restorations and has been the beneficiary of many a generous endowment. One such later addition is the pillared hall – an artistic wonder and a treasure trove of intricate stone work.

Lets analyse just two of these splendid pillars. The entire composition of these pillars is stupendous with every inch of space covered with miniature sculptures..such intricate work on this scale and complexity..with no margin for error in the hardest stone is a living tribute to the mastery of the craftsmen. We would look at these in more detail in subsequent posts.

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The main plot in the two pillars is what we are to see in this post. Take a minute to drink in the beauty of these two pillars.

The artist has chosen two widely varying themes for these two adjacent pillars. The first one is obviously a hunting scene and shows a mounted hunter ( what a wonderful despiction of a rearing horse ..and its splaying hooves)…he is spearing a leopard ( watch the spear piercing the jaw and coming out of the side

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….a foot soldier and his assistant are shown under the rider….the foot soldier is thrusting his broad sword into the animal ( it too has been sculpted to pierce the flesh and exit in the back …the foot soldier is shown having a shield …to see more clearly you got to switch to the other side of the pillar, where another foot soldier is thrusting his sword into the leopard….what a splendid work in stone with each trust passing through and exiting the other side.

The second pillar is a puzzle

it shows well built man carrying a lady on his broad shoulders …..but surprisingly he is being stabbed from behind in his thigh…what does this depict….we need to go closer to the pillar to study this….so wait for next post….

Darasuram – a delightful Hand rail

Darasuram forms the pinnacle of Chola art, a must visit in the golden triangle of middle chola art, Tanjore, Gangai Konda Cholapuram and Darasuram.

What you are seeing is a staircase leading to the hall,the humble handrail has been transformed into a splendid interplay of beautiful mythical animals – a delightful concoction of animal figurines ,called yaazhis ,..mythical beasts of gigantic proportions ,. Bulging eyes, horns, claws ,..the artist imagination is running riot here,.due to predominance of the elephant motif here, we will call it an elephant yaazhi which is set off at the bottom by his aquatic counterpart ,.a fish yaazhi,.if you watch closely you can spot the solider on top of the elephant yaazhi complete with as assortment of arms ..sword and shield ..and another one emerging from the mouth of fish yaazhi below!!

We are now looking at a similar flight of stairs ..but this has been crudely repaired by the powers to be !! you can compare the two side and by side and notice that the centre block just under the Yaazhi doesn’t fit.. its been crudely set into the composition, anyway lets look at what is depicted there,looks like some form of martial school, two people jesting in sport and another pair sparring with swords, in between the two pairs is the master..overseeing her wards,yes all are women fighters !!!


Thanks to my young friend Shriram, got better pictures of the rail and inlay panel. 1115

Just a Chain, in stone

In Tamil
This stone work is truly the inspiration behind this blog. It is from Varadharaja swami temple,in Kanchipuram, a town on the ourskirts of chennai, which is a honeycomb of temples and steeped in tradition. The stonecraft of this temple, especially the Kalyana mandabam ( marriage hall) is simply astounding,yet due to lack of proper upkeep the only safeguards are a few shrubs of thorny branches.254

What you are seeing,believe me is not just a chain,but one carved out of single stone,its hangs from the stone ceiling and is living testimony to the greatness of the divine sculptor.


for how else can you describe this piece of art,thousands of years of sculpting knowledge resulting in this sheer essence of architectural brilliance by the master sculptor,imagine the pain passing through his veins as he delicately brought forth his years of knowledge filtered though generations by word of mouth, passing through his blistered hands, into making this poetry in stone, hoping that they will stand till the sun and the moon shine, a testimony to his work…unsigned. The stone too kept up its word, its withstood the onslaught of invaders, forgive them for they were a hostile crowd, at war, but how to forgive the wanton destruction that’s happening now. Sometimes we are left to wonder, if they are better served by art thieves selling them to European museums …at least they will live there, lest stand and rot in the dust here,unappreciated, forgotten, that is the greatest insult to the art and the artist.


Two versions of the same story, or are they, a comparison of two special depictions of Varaha ( boar) incarnations – mallai and Udayagiri

One of the favorite depictions of the Indian sculptor was the act of saving the earth ( lady earth…booma devi) by Lord Vishnu – who takes the form of a boar. There are many different depictions of this but to see the beauty of the sculpture and the delicate interplay of sculpture with literature is seen in these two forms…

what started off as comparison between the varaha images in udayagiri n
mallai lead to this post . Was always fascinated by so many depictions of this scene n had
wrongly surmised that canons for such sculpture was not existent then.


For eg, u hv already seen the mallai explanation when the lord is lovingly embracing mother earth

( ok he is lovingly nuzzling her)….


but in udayagiri she is shown as dangling from his tusks……The mallai sculpture brings out the delicate emotions as the lord gently lays down the earth on his lap….( ok this image needs a seperate post by itself)


It was only after i read Andaal’s verses that I realised both were
correct……just that they were two acts of the same story

Aandaal had ….. Fallen in love with the lord n composed some of the most divinely inspired verses on the Lord …of her love to him

She sings thus…. The lord who sleeps in srirangam n stands in
tirupathy who took the form of the shameless boar having dug up the
earth from the deep depths … Seeing her beauty just swallows her up
( like a boar would do witha tuber he found) but immdly realises his
folly spits her out….n seeing her disheveled beauty embraces her in
his broad shoulders…… N then continues that he wears the victory
garland vyjayanthi mala for the feat of restoring the earth.

Now if u look at the pictures… Udayagiri is the first act n mallai the next.

Amazing action sculpture pillars of Srirangam Temple – Part 2

Tamil valor has been sung from time immemorial…stabbing from behind is considered to be the most demeaning act, similarly taking a hit in the back ( kind of give away that you turned and ran away from battle)…it’s a clear clue about the scene.


Lets analyse the main characters in more detail…

The man in front is a brave tamil warrior….he sports a traditional tamil hairstyle, the dhoti and the upturned mustache…look at his ornaments…chains, ear rings and anklets…and the radiant bravery in his face inspiring generations..


The lady on top is every more beautiful.. She carries an entire jewelery store on her, resplendent in all her glory. The minutest details being sculpted….the chains, the bangles, anklets…..a a bewitching smile to top it all.

Thus against this if we compare the back stabber (!) you can see the differentiation in the clothing…a long sleeve shirt, track pants ( his assistant too)…and the down turned mustache….maybe this depicts the sack of sri rangam during the raid of malik Kafur ( 1314 AD)


But still not able to figure out the canopy which the lady is holding ….its got two parrots on each side,


similar depictions have been identified as a gypsy women ….you can see a similar pillar sculpture at another locations ( sans the parrots)…


but for a gypsy to sport such a stack of jewellary is indeed amazing, for these days they are reduced to parading bead chains … Maybe she was an imporant character…there are varying accounts of a temple dancer who sacrificed her life for to safeguard the temple during Malik’s assault….pillars do speak !! Don’t they?

Amazing action sculpture pillars of Srirangam Temple, Part 3

Well we are back to the Srirangam pillars….how did they ever manage to sculpt these into stone. To truly appreciate the beauty of this immaculate work read on…

Lets look at the horse rider and the horse itself…in a later thread we will see the amazing miniatures in the base and reverse of the pillars.


Well, I guess the pictures say it all…look at the amount of detailing that has gone into actually sculpting each strand of hair in the horses tail…its hooves, the teeth, the stirrup, even to the extent of the tongue…


Next the sword in the hands of the rider….since its in stone, see the masterful craftsmanship if having to rest back on the main pillar ( reminder this is in stone….)…another pillar as a short lance…( sadly the next pillar the similar weapon is broken..but shows you how the entire composition is sculpted into stone)


In europe, there is tradition that while sculpting horse riders….if the front two legs are in the air, then the rider died at war…a marty, if one leg was only lifted he died of wounds sustained in battle…if all four legs on the ground he died a natural death…did you know?

Amazing action sculpture pillars of Srirangam Temple, conculding part

Ok, we finally come to the mazing detailing in these pillars…though small in size these miniatures are amazing specimens to the stonecraft of the artist…such grace, proporation and fault would have left the entire pillar to be discarded…such was the democles sword hanging on their heads…

Just to give you an idea of their overall placement take a look at the whole pillar once again…bear in mind these are single stone and support the roof the pillared hall…


Normally in south indian temples you would see a vast variety of mythological creatures, half beast half animal…called yaazhis…these would be of Garangutan proportions…but here they too are in miniature..down to last detail. See the sensual grace of the maiden standing coyly with a hand on her hips


See the puppy like elephant rushing towards the Lord ( Gajendra !)


Hanuman is in all his humbleness listening to a discourse of the Lord


The Lord Vishnu on his elephant thone….see the lovely work on the onamental canopy on top of them.


The Lord carried by a flying Garuda…his vehicle.


Hanuman trying to do a la Garuda….( but see his humble grace not letting go of Vishnu’s feet!!! Truly he was a great devotee)


The Lord seated majestically on his throne and hanuman on his feet ..praying.


He with his consort Lakshmi


This is a puzzle…looks like a royal coronation ceremony…you can see Hanuman and Garuda on the two sides bringing in the scared pots filled with holy water….lakshmana too in the frame..


The churning of the Milky ocean is depicted….due paucity of space instead of showing the lord supporting the mountain as a turtle..he is shown holding it up…..but why the two monkeys…


Next too is a puzzle… A puppy beholds the charming youth who has lovingly slung a fawn over his sholders….seems he has got a thron stuck into his feet….a lady beholds him..


Some battle/action scenes thrown in to boot….what a treasure trove…


|இருவர், அர்ஜுனன், கிராடன்



அர்ஜுனன் பசுபத அஸ்திரம் பெற கடுந்தவம் புரிந்தான். பிறகு காட்டில் ஒரு பன்றியை வேட்டையாடும் பொது ….இரு வீரர்களின் நான் ஒரே சமயத்தில் பாய…. போட்டியாக வேட்டையாடும் வேடுவ தலைவன் …. கிராடன் ஒருவனுடன் அவன் சண்டை இட்டான்….வெகு நேரம் போரிட்டும் அர்ஜுனனால் அந்த வேடுவனை வெல்ல இயலவில்லை… பிறகு வந்திருப்பது ஈசன் என்று உணர்ந்தான் ….. 


அந்த கதை காஞ்சி கைலசனாத கோவிலில் இருக்கிறது – இது ஒரு அற்புத வடிவம். கிராட ( சிவன் வேடன் வேடத்தில் ) அர்ஜுனன் மறு பக்கம்.. இரு வீரர்களின் பாணியும் அபாரம்..எதோ இக்கால புகைப்பட விளம்பரம் போல உள்ளது ..நானேற்றிய வில்லுடன் ஒருவரை ஒருவர் எதிர் கொள்ளும் காட்சி ….இருவரின் முதிகிலும் இருப்பது அம்புகள் வைக்கும் பை … பின்னால் ( படத்தின் இடது பாகத்தில் ) அவர்கள் சண்டைக்கான பரிசு – காட்டுப்பன்றி


Whats so great about Ellora Kailasanatha temple?

A friend casually asked me…whats so great about Ellora Kailasanatha temple…India is strewn with such temples everywhere….? My friend this is unique ..infact its so unique that it cannot be envisaged as a human creation…that too going back 1400-1500 years ago. Envisaging such projects in todays ` advanced’ technology itself is mindboggling…but for that period its magical.


Look at the pictures…this is just a bird’s eye view. Incourse of our travels we will revisit this splendid creation many time.


There is a similar work deep into the tamil country…vettuvankoil..

Have you been to Ajanta?

Having given you a birds eye view of Ellora, cant have ajanta pending. A study of ajanta would take a lifetime….immortalised by Author kalki in his famous work Sivagamiyin Sabhatham…the oldest paintings and stone craft of India is a visual spectacle unsurpassed. A vision so grand that everything else will pale in this splendor.


Before we step in and drink in the splendid sights, lets get a bird’s eye view. What tranquil surroudings chosen by the Buddhist monks to parade their skills. The pristine natural surroundings set off well against the carvings of man…loo behold…here comes ajanta..