I had asked this question in the original post – What is the inspiration for a sculptor ? True Mallai abounds with animals – the great penance panel with its whole forest / zoo of animals, the Govardhana panel with its cows etc, but this is a very unique sculpture, as it depicts no divine legend, no god figures – no puranic myth.
It would have taken the sculptor months of hard work – to sculpt such a realistic natural scene. But why did he do it. Doubt if the King would have commissioned him to do such a work. It is also not a causal fling, like a half hour sketch by a caricature artist.
This line of thought made me try to come up with some other reason, to explain the sculpture.
Here it goes: consider this – the sculptors of mallai were experts, clearly the work in mallai is not that of novices. So it couldn’t be like some finishing school, the degree of perfection in form is much too advanced. Their stone craft could not be mastered by common people and would have called for years of study under expert teachers – most probably, right from childhood, these sculptors would have been exclusively tutored in stone craft, with single minded devotion. Whether there was the system of father teaching son or established gurukulam like – we don’t know. But one thing is clear, to achive this kind of mastery over any art, the heart soul and everything else had to be devoted into the work.
Keeping the above in mind, my interpretation of the panel is :
The sculptor is the monkey
In sculpting the visibly joyous, frolicking , happy elephant family, he depicts what he has missed – loving family life, for he would have had to be in sculpture school at a very young age, missing the years of fun and frolic which a normal
kid would have got, which he is lost when he decided to pursue his passion.
The peacock could be his lady love – again am sure these guys would never had time to lead a normal family live, most probably would have been geeky nerds with single minded approach to sculpture. Even if they married, they wouldn’t have spent much time in the pleasures of it.
Now look at the monkey again in the sculpture, he is visibly sad, has a sense of great loss but is also having a kind of searching / questioning face. He is looking at the viewer,as if asking, if all his sacrifices were worth it. what do you say, was it worth it