Love of a foster mother

The moment we hear of the Indian section of Museum exhibits the world over, we immediately visualise beautiful Chola Bronzes. Most Museums have their fair share of such beauties – we would normally see a Nataraja, a Vishnu, a Somaskanda, Sambandar. But today, being Krishna Jayanthi, thought i would share a very rare bronze from the Cleveland Museum.

The dating of the sculpture as per the exhibit, says it late chola – ie 12 C, basically due to the lack of elaborate ornamentation. But then even very early chola bronzes carried basic ornaments, though they were not very heavy, they were spectacular in designs. In comparison, the images of the shaivite saints were mostly stark in their portrayal keeping their monk like status. So, what is so rare about this bronze. Firstly very few such exist, secondly is the superb handling of the scene. Ok, we are talking of the bronze of Yashoda breast feeding baby Krishna.

Its a very emotional surreal sculpture, a foster mother, offering her breast to her adopted child, a Queen’s son being fed by a milkmaid!! So is this the reason for the sparse ornamentation?

The sculpture is rare, but the scene that it depicts has been sung by the saints long back. Perialwar sings thus

irumalaipola tirintha mallar ( the two wrestlers who roamed as two huge mountains) iruvarangameriseithaai ( burnt their bodies – destroyed). un (your)
thirumalinthuthigazmaarvu ( the heart where lakshmi graciously resides) thekkavanthu ( to store) enalguleri ( you climbed my lap)
orumulaivaaimaduthu ( you took one breast in your lips) orumulaiyai nerudikkondu ( playing with the other breast) irumulaiyum ( both breasts) muraimuraiya yengiyengi iruthunaayo ( one after the other, you satiated your thirst)

What a splendid verse, and noting more required to explain the beauty of this bronze.

But the styling still raises some doubts. Normally chola bronzes are processional images – come with a base with options to stick poles into the holes and carry them. But this doesn’t look like a ceremonial processional image. Maybe made for private collection by a King!! But then Chola Kings especially of that period are said to be a bit biased towards Shaivism!!

picture courtesy

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12 thoughts on “Love of a foster mother

  1. இதற்க்கு மேலும் இந்த சிலைக்கு ஒரு வர்ணனை தேவையோ ?


  2. hi vairam

    Nice question. It did crop up when i did the post, sambandar figures are always resembling Krishna. will post a few bronzes shortly of him as well, but one of the reasons why i am accepting this identification as Yashoda – is the total lack of ornamentation, especially the head dress and the very very commoner styling of the hair style. I will also posted a lovely bronze umai from chennai museum for comparison. the facial features of bronzes were defn different for divinity.


  3. I love this VJ.
    I have seen more sculptures where Krishna suckle Boothagi, but this bronze is livid.
    The only pick i would have (if I may,) is that
    “Kathu valarthal” (stud/ornament hole on the ear) seems more pronounced for child around 5 years, especially in absence of a pambadam.
    I believe the answer to de-ornamentation of the mother and child, that the scene is just after a bath.

  4. Dear Vijay, another masterpiece as always 🙂 Just a small correction, Yashoda was not a ‘milkmaid’ she was the wife of the cowherd chieftan Nanda who employed several cowherds and milkmaids. Sri Krishna was supposedly breast fed by several gopis/milkmaids, not just her though, that is a different point.

  5. Also i wonder if it is possible to see the forehead of the baby, if it is adorned with a naamam? Sri Krishna is almost never portrayed without a naamam.

  6. நான் பார்க்காத இடங்கள், பார்த்திராத சிற்ப வளங்களையெல்லாம் எனக்கு அறியத் தருவதோடு அவற்றைப் பற்றிய சரித்தி, சிற்பக் கலைத் தகவல்களையும் இங்கு பெறுகிறேன். மிக்க நன்றி.

  7. hi vairam,

    Got this lovely clarification from Mr. Subramaniam sir, sambandar was fed in a cup ( her milk but in a cup)
    போதையார் பொற்கிண்ணத் தடிசில்பொல் லாதெனத்
    தாதையார் முனிவுறத் தான்எனை யாண்டவன்
    காதையார் குழையினன் கழுமல வளநகர்ப்
    பேதையா ளவளொடும் பெருந்தகை யிருந்ததே.
    பொற்கிண்ணத்தில் ஞானம் பெருகும் அடிசிலை இறைவனின் ஆணைப்படி உமாதேவியார் திருஞானசம்பந்தப் பெருமானுக்கு ஊட்ட, பால் அறாவாயராக விளங்கிய அவரைப் பார்த்து ` யார் தந்த அடிசிலை உண்டனை ?` என்று தந்தையார் கோபித்து வினவ இறைவர் தம் திருக்காட்சியினை நல்கி என்னை ஆட்கொண்டார். அத்தகைய பெருமையுடைய சிவபெருமான் காதிற் குழையோடும் பேதையாகிய உமாதேவியோடும் கழுமலம் என்னும் வளநகரில் வீற்றிருந்தருளுகின்றார்.

  8. நேற்று ஒரு நண்பர் பூண்டி பெருமாள் கோவிலில் தான் கண்ட இந்த “யசோதை கண்ணனுக்குப் பாலூட்டும்” வெள்ளி விக்ரஹத்தை அனுப்பியிருந்தார். இந்த சுட்டியிர் பார்க்கலாம்.

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