From Tamil Nadu to Cambodia – Karaikkal Ammai


This amazing sculpture is from Khao Preah Vihear, Cambodia. We have already seen a few amazing sculptures from this, today we are seeing a very unique lintel freeze of Shiva as Nataraja. From a distance you can see the lovely depiction of shiva with his ten hands, creating a feel of the cosmic dance.

As we explore more, under him, we see a beautiful depiction of Vishnu as Sesha sayana – reclining of his seprent anantha, with his consort lakshmi lovingly massaging his feet ( badly damaged though). You can also see brahma seated on his lotus pedestal that emerges from Vishnu’s navel. To their right are two cute parrots, and on top of them a mythical beast and a rider. To their right we see two monkeys?

Thought of stopping at this, but as we look closer at the dancing Shiva, we see two spectators ardently enjoying his dance, though their heads have broken off – the statue maybe headless but not clueless, the body parts of the person on to his right – show that its a lady. Now our task becomes is simple, how many ladies have been granted the privilege of watching shiva dance – it could only be the famous Karaikkal ammaiyar. We have some magnificent bronzes from the cholas. Leaves us in no doubt as to who is depicted. We will see the legend of this great devotee in a coming post, but she did ask for her beauty to be taken away by the lord. Maybe this was part of the disfigurement. She is often called as the ghost lady.

We will see in another post, the detailed life history of the great lady and why she got the ghost form




But how did such a very south Indian character ( sadly even many tamils would not be able to remember her) reach Cambodia. Could it be the handiwork of our craftsmen, chances seem remote as the facial features of these sculptors are more south east asian than indian. Maybe they were trained under the same canons of art or the religious scriptures, verses, literature traveled that far.

images courtesy
http://www.sundial.thai-isan-lao.com/phanom_rung.html

3 thoughts on “From Tamil Nadu to Cambodia – Karaikkal Ammai

  1. Wonderful. I think 1000 years back (or even till later period) Saivism was predominant in the SE asia and thats why we have so much of Hindu influence in SE asia region.

    Good post and really an enlightening one.

    Satish

  2. Hello,

    Karaikkal Ammaiyar is not depicted in Cambodia. There is an excellent book in this topic that clearly shows that the figure in Camboadia and other parts in Southeast Asia is another figure.

    Kāraikkālammaiyār
    Part 1: An iconographical and textual study
    Part 2: Poems for Siva
    ISBN 978-90-811564-1-7
    148 pp. 19 colour plates, 13 B/W plates
    Published February 2007
    see: http://www.dhyani.nl/Books.htm

  3. Hello,

    Karaikkal Ammaiyar is not depicted in Cambodia. There is an excellent book in this topic that clearly shows that the figure in Cambodia and other parts in Southeast Asia is another figure.

    Kāraikkālammaiyār
    Part 1: An iconographical and textual study
    Part 2: Poems for Siva
    ISBN 978-90-811564-1-7
    148 pp. 19 colour plates, 13 B/W plates
    Published February 2007

    see: http://www.dhyani.nl/Books.htm

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