Sundarar parts Kaveri at Tiruvaiyaaru

Today we are going to see a very very interesting panel from Darasuram. Thanks again to Satheesh for the excellent camera work. This panel was a total shocker at first glance and there was no way i could have proceeded to identify it.

Locating this panel itself is difficult – no one seems to even acknowledge their presence. We have already seen the other panel that is alongside – Sundarar resurrecting the boy from crocodile’s belly in a previous post.

At first sight, it looked like someone was felling a tree or a structure in front of a temple and and it was falling on the temple! The man was actually not felling but maybe yelling and pointing towards the falling structure. The structure itself was a bit unique, and could find no parallel?. The second person depicted seemed to look like a King who was sculpted in a very pious pose.

Thankfully, with the help of Mr. N. Ganesan, who was kind enough to share an interesting paper of Prof. Marr, JR, titled “The Periya Puranam frieze at Taracuram: Episodes in the Lives of the Tamil Saiva Saints’ – we see that its a sculptural depiction of a very famous event in the life of Saint Sundarar.

The famous duo have quite a number of interesting legends among them – While on a pilgrimage, they pass through the temple town of Thirukandiyur and seeing the temple of Thiruvaiyaaru across the river, Cherman Perumal wishes to visit that temple as well. However, the river Cauvery is in spate. The flood is so great that boatmen have stopped plying – seeing the desire of his friend to see the Lord, Sundarar sings a series of heart rendering songs on shiva – hearing which the great river parts – allowing them a passage over her sandy bottom.

Now, see the panel – to the left ( as you view) is the Thirukadaiyur temple, Cherman Perumal even in his regal attire ( he was a Chera King) is full of devotion, while Sundarar cups his left hand so that his voice carries over the din of the river waters( see the waves depicted showing the spate) – and across is the holy temple at Thiruvaiyaaru.

A scene that instantly took me to back to Cecil De Mille ‘s Ten Commandments – Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner…the famous parting of the Red Sea by Moses.

The lost art of Sittanavasal – Part 2

Thanks for all your encouraging comments on the previous post on sittanavasal. Today we are going to see another special from Sittanavasal, sadly in total ruin. Viewers are advised caution as the last couple of photos may not be suitable for general viewing ! meaning to the uninitiated as it contains some nudity ( a bit more than a previous one).

Before i present this beautiful maiden, would like to clarify a few points. First of all what you are seeing is not a religious motif but more a piece of art, so please see it as an art form and appreciate it for its artistic beauty and intrinsic value . Appreciating Nude Art is quite a controversial subject but you got to keep in mind that this is not something new or recent. So please differentiate it from Pornography and vulgarity. Nude art has been there since time immemorial and finds pride of place in many cultures and not necessarily Indian art alone – you can find ample evidences in Greek, Roman civilisations as well. Its got nothing to do with the darker side and unfortunately not too many people differentiate between the two. Art is something that transcends the frontiers of mind / soul / heart /class/religion/ intellect – it defies logical reasoning, so much so that its a feeling – an emotion. Nude art thus is something that provokes emotional sensuality and not erotic sensuality. Seeing the human form in its pristine glory is a sublime feeling and the female form with its aesthetically pleasing curves is its finest expression.

That an artist had scaled to this peak one thousand years ago in sittanavasal leaves me spellbound. Now with this introduction, i take you on a tour to savor this bewitching beauty – who despite years of neglect, thanks to help from Ashok, chooses to dance before us once more.

As usual we start with some long shots to show you the location ( and damage}, slowly zooming in

I can hear you guys yelling, what is there? – remember the first post ! do you see the scratch marks – yes wanton vandalism, What was there….here she is

adding some colors

The youthfulness of her body, the graceful extension of her right arm slightly held up with the palm bent down, the lilting tilt of her head, the nonchalant smile, the bewitching eyes, the balance in her right hand, the slender waist – accentuating the euphoric feeling. The assortment of Ornaments, adding highlights without hiding the supple curves, leave you in raptures.

But that she is gone forever leaves you sick at heart, a tear drop forms in the corner of the eye, we have left this wonderful art to fade away…

Thiruneelakanta Nayanar – Darasuram

Thanks to Satheesh again we are going to see another interesting panel from Darasuram. Tiruneelakanta Naynar.

For a change we are going to see the panel first and see if you can help identify it.

This is the long shot from Satheesh,

zoomed in

some more

ok, this is the panel, see the `Hero’ pen for the size comparison

Its a very simple panel – to the left you see a temple, to the right a couple shown holding a stick, emerging out of a tank.

For those who want to read the full story here goes:

Thiruneelakanta Nayanar’s birth place was chidambaram( Thillai). His profession was making pots and clay items. He extended his service to the saivite Nayanmars by providing them with begging bowls made of clay because they bowed down in reverence before the pinaka bow shouldered Lord Shiva, like him. He was also an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva. He is the place of all good qualities. His youthful vigour influenced him to lead an amorous gay life.

One day he returned home after he had carnal pleasure with a woman of low character. His wife came to know about this and was unhappy with him for his deed. She fulfilled all the responsibilities of a wife but didn’t allow him to share the bed with her. To bring down her resentment he went near her and tried to hug her praising her with sweet words . She retorted immediately, “If you touch us (me)! Thirunilakantam !” meaning “Beware, in the name of Lord Shiva who has burnt the desire, do not touch us- lay not your hands on us”. The very moment of hearing her pledge on the name of Lord Shiva that great man Thiruneelakanta took off his hands from her.

The immense respect he had for Lord Shiva the Hero Who burnt the lust made him say with determination, “As you pronounced as “us” (emmai) rather than `me’ in your vow I won’t touch, not only you but also any woman, even in my dream. They lived together under one roof fulfilling all the responsibilities of a husband and wife barring conjugal status. They grew old.

Lord Shiva wanted to put the principle of celibacy of this great couple to an acid test. He came down to the earth as a sage and proceeded to Chidambaram . He met Thiruneelakanta and gave him His begging bowl asking him to preserve it in safe custody till the time he asks for it. He by His Godly ability made the bowl disappear from the Nayanar’s safety. After many days, He came back and asked for His bowl. The Nayanar did not find it in the place where he kept in safe custody. He searched his entire house, but in vain. He could not find it anywhere. He told the sage that the bowl was lost beyond trace. He begged His pardon and promised that he was ready to present Him even with a golden bowl, instead.

Lord Shiva, in the form of the sage was very adamant and scolded the Nayanar for his negligence and said that he required only His bowl and not any other even if it is made of gold. Nayanar begged many a time. The sage asked the Nayanar whether he could vouch that he kept the bowl safely. The Nayanar replied that he was ready to vouch like that to the satisfaction of the sage. Then Lord Shiva started to play His game of trickery on him. He told the Nayanar that if he takes a dip in the pond in front of the local people holding the hand of his son He would believe his words. Nayanar told him that he did not have any offspring. “O.K. then hold the hand of your wife and and have dip in the pond and vouch your promise” said the sage, cunningly. When the sage asked him to have a dip holding his wife’s hand he replied humbly that due to a vow he was not able to do that. Acting as if angered the Graceful sage went to the court of the priests of Thillai and appealed to them his case. The court upheld the argument of the sage that Nayanar should have a dip in the pond holding his wife’s hand since the bowl was lost while in his custody.

Nayanar came with his wife to a pond of the Thiruppulichchuram. True to his secret vow that he won’t touch his wife he held one end of a bamboo while his wife held the other end and was ready to take the dip. But the old sage stopped this and was very adamant that the Nayanar should hold his wife’s hand and take the dip and then only He will be satisfied. The Nayanar was caught in a fix. He had to declare to the entire public the secret behind his not touching his wife and the entire episode behind it. He narrated the entire secret story and they both plunged into the water, holding the bamboo. The couple who rose from the water after the dip regained their youth, to the astonishment of all. They were as young as one could covet and at the same time they found the Lord who came in the form of the sage disappear. There appeared the Lord in the horizon on the holy Bull with His consort Parvathi Devi to bless the hailing devotee, “You both are very great due to your victory over your five senses and conquered the craving for carnal pleasure . You be with Me, in bliss, for ever with your ever-lasting youth.

images courtesy: Satheesh and

The lost art of Sittanavasal – part 1

Its been a long pending wish of mine to do this post on a truly remarkable site – Sittanavasal. For today, even a die hard enthusiast will return back with a negative feeling from a visit to Sittanavaasal – the general opinion is, its not worth the effort ?. What is there? The right question to ask is what was there? But first where is it

Its located at a distance of 58-km from Trichy is Sittanavasal, a site of an ancient Jain monastery – rock cut cave ( pandyan), couple of Jain beds, a rare inscription..and the subject of this post.

Ok ,what was there. I am not going into depth into the history of this place, but just want to showcase what we have lost out. Thanks to Sri Swaminathan and Mr. Mohandoss Ilangovan, read on for the first part of the Sittanavaasal series. Now, i see some of you already googling for information, rest a bit. There is very little on the net about what we are going to see today. Why?

Not many people recognise the name of Sittanavasal. Even fewer look at it as a art location. The minuscule number who claim to know about it, know of it from literary references or form some catchy films tunes. Apart from this not much is known of this amazing treasure trove outside of this small and shrinking band of people. It is after a dying or as of now a dead breed. When the whole world is going ga ga over modern art, its sad that no one cares for this small cave rich with art – 1000 years old. Sadder still is the fact that these stood the test of time for a thousand years, seen innumerable conquests , winds of change sweeping over the plains which they overlook, seen the British come and go, sadly, they have been ruined by the hand of man – to be true the very hands of the men from its own soil in the last 40 years. Yes, what you see is what has been left of these spectacular frescos. The paintings on the pillars of the rock cut cave are two heavenly damsels – we will try and see one of them today.

They must have been the crowning glory of south Indian art,some of the earliest frescos of South India, comparable to the beauties in Ajanta, yet they have been neglected, not just neglected but ravaged.

The amazing ladies of Srigriya have managed to live on despite all the ethnic conflict around them, while these have been destroyed. Maybe we are not worthy of being bequeathed such an inheritance – Not fit to savor these treasures.

I am going to split this post into parts and focus on the main paintings – and today we are going to see just one painting, or rather what is left of the painting.

This is what greets you now. Can you make out. can you make out anything.

Hmm, do you see the scratch marks – yes, the hand of man or rather vandals.

We are left with no authentic pictures even – just been left with a few line drawings of some great men. This rare black and white photograph gives you just an indication of what it used to look like. A couple of line drawings illustrate the great loss.

How did it look before. Catch you breath, if you have seat belts put them on. Here goes, line drawings of these amazing dancing women is what is left for us.

I tried to work some colors to imagine how she would have looked in her prime.

The grace with which she is dancing, her fluid yet confident movement rendered masterfully by the artist – such aesthetically appealing work, such perfection of form is remarkable. The sensuousness of the moment has been brilliantly captured – the slightly pouting lip, the eyes that drown you with an avalanche of emotions, the youthful grace of the maiden.

Sadly, we have allowed it to be destroyed – i thought of using the word lost, but what is lost can be found, but this is dead beyond resurrection. Shame on us.

Vaali ambushed by Rama – Cambodia

We had earlier seen Rama aiming at Vali in the amazing miniature from Darasuram. To see the next part of the story we travel to Cambodia. We have seen many panels from the Banteay Srei complex. This is another excellent one.

We see the story progressing left to right ( right to left as you view it)

Watch carefully the pose of Rama – he has just discharged his arrow. The right hand is a definite give away ( look at the delightful detailing of the bow – even to the knot at the bottom)

Lets look at the two fighting brothers – that they are monkeys is obvious, but see the masterly depiction of their feet – monkey feet. The hands are depicted as humans though. See Vaali’s clenched fist ready to deliver a massive blow to Sugreev. The ferociousness of the battle has been superbly caught by the sculptor in the face of the two fighting brothers.

The next scene in the storyboard is also shown – Vaali is felled by the arrow, mortally wonded, he is shown grabbing the arrow. Who is holding him up – he seems to have fallen down and is held up protectively – is it his Tara. ( see the slight differentiation between the two facial features). A standing Sugreev is shown looking over at his slain brother.

Vali is shown with a questioning look – he seems shocked and very angry. To understand what transpired, we need to look back at the text of the Ramayana. The southern version ( tamil) says that Vaali was very angry with Rama for having shot him from an ambush position, which doesn’t quite befit a noble warrior. He has a heated argument with Rama and Lakshmana, questioning the disgraceful act. Rama then goes on to explain to him his need to uphold righteousness and how Vaali has turned against the right path and banished his own brother and usurped his wedded wife!

Govardhana, The Hillock Umbrella – Sri Kudavoil Balasubramaniam

Ever since i read Dr. Kudavoil Balasubramanian’s wonderful article i had wanted to translate it into English for a wider audience to fully enjoy it. Thanks to friends Mr. Sps and Satheesh, i am doing that today. Enjoy this masterful post. picture credits to various sources on the net ( the stitched image thanks to Lakshni prabhala/flickr..The artist rendition/sketches thanks to the British Library archives.

The great Pallava dynasty has left behind numerous sites of artistic excellence, prominent amoung them and a pinnacle of their artistic expression is found among the architectural marvels of Kadal ( sea) Mallai, more popularly known as Mamalla ( great wrestler) puram ( town), a UNESCO world heritage site on the onskirts of chennai ( Madras). The artistic brilliance of the Pallavas, transformed small hillocks into the Pancha (Five) Rathas (chariots).

They envisioned a naturally found rock as a reclining Vishnu, and carved it in the form of Thirumal (Vishnu – part of the Hindu Trinity – The Protector) and with flowing designs erected a temple for him. They added to the beauty of this structure by sandwiching it between two Shiva (Hindu trinity – The destroyer) temples, forming the ageless aesthetic poetry of the shore temple.

A hillock in the centre of the town was transformed by their chisels into numerous cave temples. Thus the honor of converting the town into a virtual treasure trove of artistic expression and a living museum of south Indian temple architecture solely rests with King Rajasimha ( Raja – King – Simha – Lion) who called himself in numerous inscriptions ( stone edicts) as Atyantakama – king of unlimited fancies.

Mamallai has the ability of attracting art connoisseurs from world over and leaving them spell bound by its charm. The style of temple architecture popularly known as Thoonganai Madam ( also referred to as Gajaprishtam – temple resembling an elephant) is intelligently exhibited by carving a temple of this style out of natural rock and alongside sculpting a beautifully proportioned Elephant.

They left their unique signature in the tiger cave by carving a stage inside a tiger’s mouth and let divine damsels to dance on it.

The artists did not stop with just the cave temples on the hillock, but virtually filled every possible nook and corner with their sculptural masterpieces, thereby converting the entire town into a scintillating gallery of sculptural masterpieces. On one side, you see the celestial Ganges descending to the Earth, flowing as a river from the top of the hillock into the underground ( underworld). This panel is popularly referred to as Bagiratha ( proper name) prayatana ( Penance or effort). The rainwater that percolates from the top of the hill flows down through a natural fissure formed in-between two rock faces. That this spot was chosen to depict the penance of Bagirtha and the descent of the Ganges, shows the unmatched imaginative genius of the artist.

The subsequent efforts at conserving this panel by people who did not understand the true significance of the sculpture nor the imagination of the artist, has led to damming of the rivulet via a brick wall, thereby redirecting the rainwater away from the panel. If we were to witness the unobstructed flow, we would be able to visualize the rampaging current of the mighty celestial Ganges descending from the heavens, forests and temples are carved along its shores, while animals and birds dot the landscape. We also see realistic portrayal of not only celestial beings, humans, but also Nagas from the netherworld swimming up towards the surface to witness this divine spectacle. Its truly an awe inspiring site to the art enthusiast.

Just as the damming of this amazing spectacle has deprived the viewer of an opportunity to witness the artists inspired creation, another later construction has hid a masterpiece of artistic expression. This has occurred under the Vijayanager rulers. The beauty of this embodiment of bakthi has been marred by this act. However inorder to truly appreciate this intricate panel, one has to dwell deep into Krishna’s ( an avatar or incarnation of Vishnu) history and master the descriptive hymns of the divine Alvars (Vaishnavite saints)

Krishna grew up amidst cow herds in a village called Ayarpadi. Once the villagers got together to celebrate a festival honoring the Indra ( A God, King of the Devas), they failed to follow the norms laid down for a sacrificial ceremony. This angered Indra and he ordered the destruction of Ayarpadi by a hail of stones. In the ensuing pandemonium cattle, cow herds and herdswomen ran helter shelter trying to flee the wrath of Indra. It was at this time that Krishna came there and lifted a mountain called Govardanam with his hand and held is above his head as an umbrella. This mountain acted as a shield against the hail and protected Ayarpadi. With the Lord holding up the mountain as a shield, normalcy returned to the terrified residents. Even though the hail was unrelenting they went about their tasks under the shelter without fear. The cows gave milk, lovingly caressing their calves, while the herdswomen started suckling their infants. Some of the elderly women churned the curd to make butter, hawked the butter milk, while the herdsmen milked their cows. Everyone went about doing their normal chores. If not for Krishna holding up the hillock as an umbrella that day, the hail would have annihilated the entire village.

This spectacular scene is praised in the immortal Gita and finds mention in tirumangaialvars beautiful tamil hymn below:

Indiranukku enru ( for indra) aayargal eduttha ( by cow herds)
Ezhil vizhavil ( beautiful function) pazha nadai sei ( traditional guidelines)
Manthira vithiyil ( code of mantra recital) poosai ( pooja) peraathu ( did not follow)
Mazhai pozhinthida ( it rained) thalarthu ayar ( cow herd got greatly distressed)
Entham odinar ( ran helter shelter) aanirai thalaramal ( thus not tiring)
Emperumal ( vishnu) arul ( grace) ennna ( what)
Antham il varaiyal mazhai thaduthanai ( he stopped the rain)
Tiruvalkenik kandene ( i see him in triplicane)

The same is described by Perialvar as

Aayanar koodi amaitha vizhavai amarartham konaark kozhiyak
Govarthanathuch seithan malai.

Further the Tirumangai king sings the praise as :

Kadungal (heavy) maari ( rain) kalle ( stone) peiyya ( fell), alla emakku enru
Kadungal neeye saran enru ( we have no other refuge)aayar anja (the cowherds fear)
Anjamugan ( he who has no fear )nedungal kundram ( stone hillock) kudai ( umbrella) onru ( one) yendthi ( lift/hold)
Niraiyai ( fully) siramathal ( inconvenience) nadunga ( shiver) vannam kaatthan ( saved)
namam namo narayaname ( the lord)

where he beautifully describes the furiousness of the hail and the grace of lord saving the villagers.

The Pallava sculptors chose a small hillock in the centre of mallai town to depict this scene, as a long bas relief panel. However, later construction of the outer mandabam by Vijaya Nagar rulers ( though the intention was to protect the sculptures from nature’s fury) – the pillars erected in front of the panel do obstruct the views and overall composition of this bas relief.

If one were to stand couple of paces away from the rock and take away the outer mandabam and the pillars in the mind’s eye, we can fully appreciate the powerful portrayal of Krishna, who majestically holds aloft the mallai hillock in his outstretched arms.

The amazing panel even inspired a British artist to sketch it in the early 19th C.

Next to him is a delightful depiction of Balarama, whose nonchalant arm lovingly placed on the shoulders of an elderly cowherd, who is in all humility with folded arms.

Around them the entire village is depicted, with cows in the background and a majestic bull along with its calves etc.

There is a lovely cow sculpted with splendid horns, portrayed along with its calf – the motherly instinct has been brought into stone, by the cow lovingly licking its calf. The man squatting down to milk the cow and the his action reflecting in the cows slightly upheld tail ! simply superb.

There is herds women feeding her child on an other side, while a cowherd is playing the flute. The slant of the head as he his lost in his own composition !

Next is a lady who is sculpted balancing a rolled up mattress on her head and carrying on her other hand pot loads of curd and butter. The slant of her body and gait show that she is walking – an action pose.

To the extreme right, we see a older man carrying a baby lovingly perched on his shoulders supporting himself on a short staff, while his wife is holding a toddler in her left hand, while balancing a pot of buttermilk on her head.

Surrounding Krishna ofcourse is a gang of wonder stuck girls. Despite the terrible hailstorm around these scenes show that the village carried on normal life thanks to Krishna’s benevolent act.

Even the animals seem to be in merry mood. The other side, a young man seems to be intent on moving out of the protective umbrella and is held back by his lady ( or is it – the sculpture looks more like he is pulling the lady with him)

The master pallava sculptor has converted the mallai hillock into Govardhanagiri. Drinking on each detail of this sculpture, lets see the depiction from Alwars once more – stretching up, he used the five fingers of his hand to hold up the hill as an umbrella – the photographic rendition can be seen in Periyalwars verse. He says the beautiful long sholders of the lord became the umbrella rod, his fingers became the spokes and the whole whole was inverted on top to from an umbrella.

sepparudaiya thirumaalavan ( krishna) than ( his)
senthaamaraik ( red lotus) viral ( fingers) ainthinaiyum ( all five)
kambaaga ( rod -) maduthu mani nedunthol ( beautiful broad /long shoulders)
kaambaakak( usage like the stalk of a flower) koduthu ( give) kavitha ( invert) malai ( hill)

Seeing this Perialwar goes on further, seeing the Lord in this pose, he is reminded of Aadishesha having spread his five heads as a hood lifting the earth.

padangal ( hoods) palavumudaiya (have many) paambaraiyan ( snake)
padar boomiyai ( the earth) thaangi ( hold up) kidappavanpol ( he who is)
thadangai ( hand) viralainthum ( all fingers) malaravaithu ( like a blooming flower)
damodharan ( another name of krishna) thaangu ( hold up) thadavaraithaan ( the hill)

Seeing the sights of this panel, with the children frolicking with the cowherds we are also reminded of the song of periyalwar

thaaimaar mor virkka povaar thagappanmaar
karranirap pinpu povar
ne aayarpaadi yilang kanni maargalai
nerpadave kondu pothi
kaaivaark kondrum ugap panave seithu
kandaar kazurith thirium
aiya unnai yarinthu konden unak
kanjuven ammam rtharave

(To one side is a magnificent seated bull – a depiction that is truly masterclass.

and on the other we have a interesting composition of morphing lions – man – vulture)

the beauty of ayarpaadi, the magnificence of Krishna holding aloft the govardhana hillock to protect against the hailstorm – all have been sculpted into stone by the pallava sculptor, not only that he has gone to great lengths to sculpt even the cows – their body forms, commissioning them to eternal life, singing the praise of the lifestock along with the Lord.

Kungiliya Kalaya Nayanar Puranam – Darasuram

Today we are treated to another special thanks to Satheesh. Its a very special sculpture depicting one of the Periapuranam legends.

Its a very small sculpture, and causes some wrong interpretations as Markandeyar or kannapar.

Kannapar ofcourse is depicted right next to this panel. So who is depicted here?

Lets first analyse the sculpture in more detail.

Do you notice the slight slant of the Linga. That is the clue. Its Kungiliya Kalaya Nayanar. Lets see his story in full.

(courtesy :

Kalayanar, a brahmin devotee of Shiva lived in Tirukadavur. He considered it, his sacred duty to spread the scented smoke of kungiliyam in the temple. Even when he became poor, he continued this service. Kalayanar would rather forego his meals for several days than stop his kungiliyam service even for a day.

A time came when he had literally nothing on hand to continue this self-chosen devotional duty. In the meantime, he and his family had gone without food for several days. Kalayanar was blessed with an understanding wife.

She could stand no more the hunger of her children and so gave her auspicious golden necklace ( thali) to him requesting him to buy rice . He was to sell it and buy some rice.

When Kalayanar was going through the street with the golden ornament in his hand , a vendor of kungiliyam came on his way. Quite excited by the availability of a bag of kungiliyam, Kalayanar exchanged the necklace for the incense. The next moment found him walking to the temple, totally forgetting the hunger stricken family of his own . Entering the sacred precincts he fell unconscious as he had been without food for several days. Shiva appeared in his dream and advised him to go home and drink some milk and rich food and return . Waking up, Kalayanar was flabbergasted that Shiva should ask him to partake of a rich meal when his home had not a grain in the granary. All the same, he did not dare to disobey the Lord. He got up and went home.

Wonder of wonders! His house had changed beyond recognition. It was endowed luxuriously and the granary overflowed with paddy. The house was full of gold. Even as his darling wife fed Kalayanar and the other devotees of Shiva to her heart’s content, it was clear that for his lifetime hence forth Kalayanar would have no dearth of wealth to render his favourite service to Shiva.

As Kalayanar happily continued his service at Kadavur, he heard that in the temple at Tiruppanandal, the Linga had tilted to one side. The king had set his army to pull it back to its original angle but in vain. Kalayanar hastened to Tiruppanandal. Finding the army tired out and in a swoon, he decided to join their ranks. He bound one end of a rope to the image of Shiva and tied the other end to his neck and pulled hard. Shiva, at the touch of his devotee straightened himself in a trice to the wonder of all those present. The very heavens showered scented blossoms to mark the miracle.

images courtesy: Satheesh and

The slaying of Vaali – a delightful miniature from Darasuram

Today thanks to some amazing captures by Satheesh, we are being treated to a spectacular miniature from Darasuram.

We had earlier seen Vaali humbling Ravana in a previous post. He was famous for the boon that he had received, according to which anyone who came before him lost half his/her strength to him, thereby making Vali invulnerable to any frontal attack.

Vali had been known as a good and pious vanara-king, but once when he was challenged to a duel by a wicked demon Mayavi – the battle raged on for a long time inside a dark and ravenous cave. Vaali left instructions with his brother to wait for him at the entrance….when vaali did not come out for a long time,Sugreev spotted blood oosing out of the mouth of the cave, he also heard a shrill voice like that of his brother. Fearing that his brother may be dead, he blocked the entrance to cave with a huge boulder and returned to Kishkinda.

Vali emerged and found the cave mouth blocked, in a fit of rage he suspected his brother of plotting against him. HIs anger was multiplied when he came to his capital and noticed that Sugreev was ruling in his place.

Sugriva tried to explain the situation to Vali, but Vali would not listen. Vali banished Sugreev from the kingdom, and held the latter’s wife captive in his own palace. Sugreev fled into the forest, where he met and formed an alliance with Rama. He sought Rama’s help in return for his help in defeating Ravana and rescuing Sita.

The act of Rama killing Vaali, from an ambush attack ( attack from behind) is a subject of many debates. Here we are seeing a superb miniature of the scene just prior to the attack.

Cant see it, lets go closer

Sadly the people don’t even notice the beautiful sculptures.

Check out this for a sense of size.

What happened next and what happened before this – some more interesting sculptures coming our way shortly.

Images courtesy : Satheesh and the last one from

Dhakshinamurthy Worship – A guest post by Dr. N. Ganesan

One of the most intriguing forms of Shiva, as Dhakshinmurthy is being analysed by one of our foremost scholars, who has been kind enough to allow the article to posted in our site. Dr. N. Ganesan from Houstan, needs no introduction:

oTTakkuuttar, who lived in 3 Chola kings’ reigns, sings two laudatory poems at the Chola court upon becoming the Poet Laureate ‘kavichakravarti’. Ottakkuuttar mentions 5 legendary Tamil teachers and Pothiyil mountain. An essay detailing
‘who is Patumakkottan2 referred to in Ottakkuuttar poems’ is at:

Reading a scholarly book from Tamil university professor, Raju Kalidos, Sectarian rivalry in art and literature, 1997, Sharada Pub. House (Papers, chiefly with reference to South India, presented at the XVII International Congress of History of Religions, Instituto de Investigaciones Antropologicas, Ciudad Universitaria, Mexico.)

He quotes some Naalaayirat tivviyap pirapantam poems associated with Dakshinamurti. See the sectarian poem where it is claimed that all that dakshinamurti teaches is worshipping of vaTapatrasaayin – vishNu sleeping on the tiny banyan leaf who also has taken visvaruupam as trivikrama.

Ala nizaRkIz aRaneRiyai nAlvarkku
mElai ukanturaittAn2 meyttavattOn2 – njAlam
aLantAn2ai aazik kiTantaan2ai aalmEl
vaLarntAn2ait taan2vaNaGku mARu.
(tirumazicai aazvaar, naan2mukan2 tiruvantaati, paacuram 17).

A second example,

neRivAcal tAn2Eyaay nin2Raan2ai aintu
poRivaacal pOrkkatavam caartti aRivaan2aam
aalamara niizal aRamnaalvark kan2Ruraittaan2ai
aalamar kaNTattu aran2,
(poykaiyaazvaar, mutal tiruvantaati).

My query: Do we have any more poems describing
dakSiNAmUrti in naalaayiram? Thanks for your help.


I have always wondered about dakSiNAmurti images in the southern niche of Vaishnava temples in Tamizakam.

“DakshiNaamuurti is viewed in four different aspects namely, as a teacher of yoga, of viiNaa, of jnaana and also an expounder of other ‘saastras (vyaakhyaanamuurti). Of these, the last form is the one which which is most frequently met with in temples. It has already been mentioned elsewhere that in all Hindu temples, both ‘Saiva and VaishNava, the niche on the south wall of the central shrine should have the figure of DaksiNaamuurti enshrined in it.”
(page 273, T. A. Gopinatha Rao, Elements of Hindu iconography, vol. 2, First edition, 1914).

Daksinamurti is a speciality in ancient Tamizakam temples, not found in the north of Tamizakam. Usually LakuLiisa of Karvan (= KaayaarohaNam) will be found in the Saiva temples in Karnataka, Andhra, Orissa … in D.’s place. T. A. Gopinatha Rao quoted a Nara-Narayana image of Deogarh as Daksinamurti, evidently wrong because the image faces west, and depicts Vishnu. In certain temples (eg., Ellora), the presence of dakSiNAmuurti can be explained in terms of Tamil royal matrimonial alliances. Daksinamurti is described in sangam texts, and profusely found in temples irrespective of the sectarian divisions all over Tamizakam from Pallava and all subsequent dynasties.

Preliminary observations of the linkages between PadmapaaNi avalokitesvara and Dakshinamurti iconology and references from Tamil literature are given in my tamil paper,

A discussion about the oTTakkuuttar poem mentioning “Patumakkottar” in the Chola imperial court is given.

It is very interesting that many early Dakshinamurtis have lotus flower in their hands (top left). I will list them – a beautiful one is at Kanchi kailasanatha, Tiruvisaluur and so on. This lotus flower with a stem is so clear. This is in accordance with the aagamas that require lotus flower (taamaraippuu). In later periods, the lotus flower with the stem sometimes gets changed to fire ‘agni’ with a stem.

This is probably because the earlier notion of padma coming from Padmapani Avalokita is forgotten after few centuries. But still the lotus flower persists as seen in Suchindram temple even in that late period. The maharajalilasana, the akshamaala and lotus flower in two top hands in Pallava and Chola dakshinamurtis undoubtedly tie him to Padmapani avalokita’s iconography.

P. Schalk (pg. 555) writes, “So we get the impression that Mulavasam was a Mahayana monastery, which is not impossible, but the impression is based on an inference, namely that the Lokanatha statue in Gandhara/Nepal is a copy of a Lokanatha statue in Mulavasam. This statue has not been found. What has been found and Rav refers to are buddha statues in stone, none of which depicts Lokanatha.”

But S. Padmanabhan has located two large, beautiful Chola sculptures (Avalokita in rAjalIlAsana posture & Tara) in worship at Theroor village near Cape Kumari. Thera + uur is Theroor. Avalokita there is called “iLaiya-nayinAr” at Theroor. (Cf. dakshnamurti always depicted as young teacher of aged rishis like Sanakaadi munis). Compare the Therur Avalokita and Tara sculptures with Siva in Rajalilasana pose with Umaa in Darasuaram granting Paasupatam to a worshipping Arjuna. I think Therur images predate by 1 or 2 centuries the Darasuram imagery. For Dakshinamurti as a couple, the famous image is
of course from CuruTTapaLLi (a Pallava one?). KavimaNi TecikavinAyakam PiLLai was born in Therur. It looks we should look into N. P. Unni’s book, and in particular, the VaTTezuttu (10th century) inscription which mentions Vikaramarama.

Schalk misses out on the “ancient god” of Potiyil/Malaya and the patronage to it by Ay kings of VeNaaD in sangam times, and the mention of Muulavaasam in the 9th century inscription. “ten2n2an2 peyariya tun2n2arun tuppin2 tol mutu kaTavuL pin2n2ar mEya varai tAz aruvip poruppin2 poruna”
(maturaik kAJci),

“kaliGkam aalamar celvaRku amarntan2an2 koTutta cAvan tAGkiya
pular tiNi tOL Arvam nan2mozi Ay” (ciRupANARRuppaTai).

In the ninth century, the Ay king VarakuNan2 donates “paLLiccantam” to Tiru-muulavaacam temple, “maRRum kOyiRkuriyatu ellaam akappaTa tiru-muulavaatattu paTaarakku aTTik kuTuttatu”. This reference is to the “temple” (kO-il) to Avalokitan/Lokanathan (with a Saiva background), that finds a place in
Nepali manuscripts also.

N. Ganesan

GaNDavyuha text mentions that Avalokita lives in Potalaka, southern India. This is depicted in Borobudur, Indonesia with Avalokita in a frontal, cross-legged pose with rosary beads in his hands. In south India, we see Avalokita with padma lotus and aksamala in 10th century. See the Chola bronzes (968 AD) stored in Majunatha temple at Mangalore on the west coast. Lotus and aksamala in Nagapattinam Avalokita bronzes. 10th century example (Pl.19) 17th century example (Pl. 20) in Nandana Chutiwongs’ book.

In south India, where Buddhism was a minority religion and Buddhist images are numerically small when compared with Shaiva and Vaishnava sculptures, Buddhist iconography had a large impact on Shiva Mahesa images.

For example.
In Karnataka, Andhra and Orissan temples, a Mahesamurti image is seen in the southern side wall of a Siva temple. This will be a Lakulisa, seated in a meditative pose, a form of Mahesvara in the Chalukyan and Orissan temples. “It may seem unusual for Lakulisa to be the first fully manifest body of god on the rAhA. From the foregoing, Mahesa is to be expected and not Lakulisa, the historical teacher who founded the Pasupata order. It must therefore quickly pointed out that by the seventh century, the Orissan cult of Lakulisa-Pasupata no longer considered him to be a human teacher. Lakulisa was deified and recognized by the sixth-seventh centuries as an incarnation of Mahe’svara. Already in the Gupta age, his deification was acknowledged.” … (pg. 131,

Doris M. Srinivasan, From transcendency to materiality: Para Siva, Sadasiva, and Mahesa in Indian art, Artibus Asiae, 50, 1/2, 1990, 108-142). The Lakulisa image is adaptation of Buddha sculptures (with additions of urdhva retas and a stick for Lakulisa): “These images of Siva as Lakulisa, seated in a yogic position, obviously owe much to images of the Buddha” (p. 501, J.C. Harle, Art
and architecture of the Indian subcontinent).

Further south, in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, Lakulisa in the southern walls of Shiva temples are not there as Mahesamurti. Instead, another Mahesamurti image was chosen – the South-facing Dakshinamurti images are present in Pallava, Chola, Pandya and Chera periods. There are iconographic relationships अवलोकिएश्वारा with Siva Dakshinamurti. They are usually shown in maharaja lilasana pose with a lotus and aksamala.

The ascetic with matted locks (Dakshinamurti) and Padmapani Avalokita are mentioned as teachers to sage Agastya at mount Potiyil / Potalaka.

Recently, Cleveland Museum purchased a beautiful 1000-year old Chola sculpture of Siva Mahesa (4 million $). Some newspapers call it as Brahma or Brahma as Siva. It is not correct as there is no reference for Siva as Brahma or Brahma with a third eye etc., in silpa texts or in Indian sculpture. This is also a Siva Mahesa image (see Doris Srinivasan’s paper for details). A high resolution photo of the Cleveland purchase is at,
Note the lotus flower and akshamaala rosary on this Mahesmurti, typically seen on Avalokita images.