Enchanting Ascetic, Mesmerising Mohini

One of our viewers commented on the post of Sri Dhivakar, as to why despite lots of Shiva Bhikshadana forms being present, why i chose to depict only a few? A very good question and the answer is, inorder for the depth and beauty of his post to reach the audience, i kind of underplayed the sculptural content. Well it does give me a chance to run a sequel to that post.

So here you have Shiva Bhikshanda, you heard the story previously, now see how the master sculptor not only depicted the main form but also brought in the entire scene into his sculpture.

The Kailasantha temple in kanchi, is the grand creation of the great pallava kind Raja simhan, the temple was addressed as the big stone temple, but Great Raja Raja chola himself. Coming from someone who built the grandest of temples it quite a compliment and its not an exaggeration.. Every panel in the magnificent creation is sheer poetry and a delight to watch. Lets take the great shiva bhikshadana panel in long shot. Its beautifully framed by the famous prancing lion yaalis of raja simha. What grace and what artistic brilliance. Before we go into the main sculpture, we can see the left hand index finger of shiva pointing up – whats is it pointing to, the amazing dance of shiva ( see the similarity in the depiction to the one we saw in the mallai olakaneshwara temple)

Ok, lets come back to the composition. Shiva is the charming ascetic, the form of the sculpted youth exudes youth, vitality, the nakedness of his lower body, the grace of his bent knee, the slight flex of his left foot with the sandals, the broad shoulders, the nonchalant manner in which is right hand rests on his staff, the begging bowl stuck into his palm, the mischievous grin on his face – all portray youthful exuberance.


Not being content with this masterly depiction, the sculptor continuous with his story board, two rishi wives, are charmed by shiva, captivated by his grace and prostrate at his feet. Seeing this an angry rishi is rushing at shiva, raising his left hand to strike him.

Is there a reference in verse to this, yes there is.
4th Tirumurai

has the instruments such as kokkarai, cymbals and vīṇai to measure time when the youth dances.
adorns his waist with chank beads.has a cobra of five hoods.
remove the snake-bite, 5 he is in vakkari a shrine nāka īccaravaṉār has a form in which the waist is naked without cloth and caused the wives of the sages of tārukāvaṉam to be infatuaged with love.
Translation: V.M.Subramanya Aiyar–Courtesy: French Institute of Pondichery / EFEO (2006)

Ok, but what about the Mohini we saw earlier -thats from the Kanchi Devarajaswami temple pillar. Her you can again see the skill of the sculptor and more so his playfull intelligence.

The rishis are not only drunk on the bewitching charm of Vishnu as mohini, but are also getting drunk on the beverage which she is serving. They are thus shown in various stages of intoxication.

Is there a reference in verse to this, yes there is

2nd Tirumurai


you spread yourself into many living beings and worlds you absorbed them into you at the end of the world you created all the living beings which had a short respite, to be born again, in order that they may be get respite for a short while from their Karmams yourself and the noble-minded Māl who bent the wild lime tree got separated and joined together you desired the cremation ground where corpses come and felt joy in staying there
Translation: V.M.Subramanya Aiyar–Courtesy: French Institute of Pondichery / EFEO (2006)

8 thoughts on “Enchanting Ascetic, Mesmerising Mohini

  1. அருமையான தொகுப்பைக் கொடுக்கின்றீர்கள். திருப்புறம்பியம் பற்றிய செய்தி புதியது. இன்னும் பார்க்கவில்லை. மற்ற இரு கோயிலிலும் மேற்கண்ட சிற்பங்களைப் பார்த்து வியந்திருக்கின்றோம். நன்றி.

  2. Vj,

    I have another interpretation to the second set of photos(Kanchi Devarajaswami temple pillar). It is indeed the Mohini Avatar of Vishnu but a totally different story altogether.

    In my opinion, I feel it is the story of how Vishnu after the churning of the ocean wanted to prevent the asuras from having the nectar.

    Disguised as an enchanting mohini he distributed the nectar to devas(seen with a “crown” on the right side) and an intoxicant to the asuras on the left(seen with matted hair and no crown.)

    The story goes on as to how one of the demons disguised as a deva was able to consume some of the nectar before he was spotted. He was beheaded, but as he has consumed the nectar of immortality he could not be killed. He is none other than Raghu/Ketu.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rahu

  3. good observation prasad. the presence of the crown does raise doubts if these were rishis. I wish i could post the ones from Kudumiyanmalai – but would have to censor them very heavily

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