I had been wanting to run a series on Door guardians for some time. We have already seen a few like the massive ones in Tanjore Big temple, the mace carriers in Mangadapattu – these lovely sculptures in their myriad forms are a delight to watch, sadly not many people even spend a second looking at them – to marvel at the detailing of their costumes, assortment of weapons and fangs and their facial expressions. Will start to showcase them one by one from now on.
I am choosing this particular one to start the series formally – ones of my favorite sculptures and is part of our site’s logo. Also mumbai has been in the news for all the wrong reasons recently and the scene of that mindless violence is near to our subject today.
The door guardian from Elephanta.
Why i chose this sculpture as the logo for this site, is the message this work in stone conveys. Having stood the test of time, sculpted to protect its master from peril, this particular door guardian is badly mutilated, he has lost all his limbs and the bare torso remains. After a 1000 years of dutifully discharging his role the door guardian met his match – with the Portuguese in the 17th C. What it takes in a man however barbaric to use such an immaculate sculpture for target practise for their rifles defies my mind. Even the hardest hearted men, would stop to appreciate the artistic beauty of these creations. The guardian was more a symbolic protector, sculpted to reign in the mind, to create a sense of awe amongst the visitor, to channel his mind to the main deity, to ensure that he rid himself of all other thoughts and focus purely on the God. The rough stone worked on by the skilled craftsmen, toiling long hours to shape these marvels in stone – were no match for the Portuguese guns – is it the punishment for the door guardian to be so left – maimed and to suffer this fate for failing in his duty?
No, one look at his proud face, tells you that he is indeed the victor. The radiance emanating from his calm face, if anything has multiplied by the disfigurement. Truly the triumph of art, its universal appeal and lasting quality – sheer poetry in stone. Hence he finds his pride of place as an apt carrier for our site’s logo.
To give you an idea of his location, here are more pictures – next time you go to Mumbai please do not miss to take the boat to Elephanta and see him.