Marar of Ilayankudi – what a sculpture

Today we are going to see a spectacular miniature sculpture from Darasuram Airawateshwara temple built by Rajaraja Chola II in the 12th century CE. This temple is a storehouse of art and architecture and am picking a very unique sculpture to showcase it. This panel was explained to me by Dr. Kudavoil Balasubramaniam, and all credit to him for this post.

Firstly, the mastery of the sculpture – inorder for you to spot this panel – lets give you a long shot, slowly paning in. Not on the Ganesha but below. do you spot it.

To give you an idea of the size of this miniature, once again we see the Slaying of Vali sculpture with a pilot pen. It gives you a sense of proportion of this sculpture.

Next we need to study the story that is depicted in this panel. Its the story of one of the 64 saivite saints – Marar of Ilayankudi. His life is a lesson on the famed hospitality of tamil land, combined with the reverence to saints.

In order to understand the panel more to appreciate its true beauty, we need to learn the story of this great couple. Maarar and his wife, were farmers, quite well to do and they were very devoted followers of shiva. They used to go to any limits to host fellow devotees and the wandering saints and followers of shiva. They thus lived a very contended life, till Shiva, as is his wont, decided to test their resolve.

Their prosperity vanned and they fell into bad times, heavily into debt, the family still continued their pious ways and took great care of any visitors to their home. During one such bad time, when their crops had failed and they had borrowed their last penny ( no US Govt bailout for them), on a stormy rainy night, shiva lands up at their door, disguised as a wandering ascetic.

The couple realise that the dont have anything to offer, while the lady in all her intelligence, suggests for Maarar to go to fields where they had sowed their last bag of grain and use a wicker basket as a sieve to retrieve the sown grain. He too does so, in pouring rain, sieves through his field and gets a basket full of grain. The wife mills it and makes flour and starts cooking, when she realises that they don’t have enough fire wood. The ever resourceful Maarar, takes the sticks off his roof and gives it to his wife to use ( mind the heavy rain)

HIs wife dutifully cooks the rice, offers respects to the ascetic, seats him on a plank, places a tripod stool in front of his and serves food. The ascetic takes one handful of the offering, is overcome with the devotion of his subjects, spontaneously bursting into a blinding flash, and returns with his consort, blessing the couple and taking them with him to enjoy the everlasting bliss in Kailash.

Now we see the how the master sculptor has handled this entire story in such a miniature story board. He has cut the story into three scenes. As you view the creation panning from right to left.

First scene:

Maarar bringing back the basket of grain and his wife eagerly taking it from him

Second scene:

The ascetic is seated and the lady is serving him. This is the master stroke of the scultor – watch closely the head of ascetic – you will see a small flame, then to its right a bigger flame and then a large flame. How beautifully he has shown the Lord disappearing as a flash of flaming light.

Last scene:

Simple – he closes the story by sculpting Shiva and Parvati giving darshan on Nandhi.

What a sculpture, What a story and such wonderful concept delivery.

Image courtesy:

9 thoughts on “Marar of Ilayankudi – what a sculpture

  1. ஒரு சிறு கல்லிலே ஒரு புராணத்தையே
    அடக்க முடிந்திருக்கிறது அவர்களால்
    என்னே அவர்களின் கலை நுணுக்கம்
    எவ்வளவு யோசித்திருப்பார்கள்
    தற்காலம் போல் எழுதி அதைத் திருத்தி வெளியிட முடியுமா அவர்கள் கல்லில் செதுக்க முடியுமா, ஆஹா எந்த வசதிக் குறைவும் அவர்களின் கலைஞானத்தை
    கலை அவர்கள் மனதிலிருந்து விஸ்வரூபம் எடுத்திருக்கிறது


  2. //திரு குடவாயில் பாலசுப்ரமணியம் ஐயா அவர்கள் விளக்கினார்கள். //

    எங்கள் ஊர்தான் அவர், பல அறிய ஆராய்சிகளை செய்து இருக்கிறார்.

  3. என்னதான் நாம் நவ நாகரீகத்தில் வாழ்ந்தாலும், ஒரு காகிதத்தில்கூட சிறு விளக்கப்படத்தினை நம்மால் அழிப்பான் இன்றி வரைய முடியுமா? எந்த வசதியும் இன்றி இத்தனை இயல்பாக ஒரு வரலாற்றை கல்லிலே படைத்துள்ளனர்!உடல் எல்லாம் புல்லரிக்கிறது. பாராட்ட மனமில்லாவிட்டாலும், சிலைகளை பாழாக்காமலிருந்தாலே,வருங்கால சந்ததியினருக்கு நாம் வைத்துவிட்டுப் போகும் புராதன சொத்தாகும்.

  4. வாழ்த்துக்கள்.வித்தியாசமான வலை.தொடரட்டும் உங்கள் சேவை.நன்றி.

  5. சிற்பத்தைப் போலவே தங்கள் விளக்கமும் அபாரம் என்பதை ஒப்புக்கொள்ளவேண்டும். இரண்டையும் ஒருசேர புசிக்கும் எமக்கு அது நடந்த இடத்திலேயே இருந்துவிட்டு வந்ததைப்போல ஒரு உணர்வு.

  6. Thank you for the photos and the accompanying legends. I have been to the Darasuram temple quite a few times and have always found the sculptures exquisite. But the explanations on your site have made the temple even more meaningful and special to me.

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