Why is the genius of the Pallava sculptor not recognised despite numerous examples which stare right at us. Take for example, these two sets of sculptures from the Arjuna Ratha of the famous Five ratha complex ( whoever came up with these fancy names for these rathas!!), we have already seen a masterpiece in the other wall. We take two more such from the other two walls. Each a gem on its own.
While we were discussing the evolution of the Ardhanari image, we postulated on how the sculptor had brought in the Bull mount to balance the composite form. But was it just a freak moment of sheer brilliance or was it an evolution. Today we are going to see that it was not just a convenient introduction but a masterful confluence of two forms of Shiva.
Lets look at the this form of shiva – rishabandhika – Shiva with his mount. This is from the Arjuna Ratha in Mamallapuram.
These sculptures are classic Pallava styling with minimalistic ornamentation, pleasing body lines but spectacular styling.
I know some of you are already asking, whats so great about this sculpture.It looks pretty normal if not falling short. There seems to be something wrong with his torso and especially his chest. Did the sculptor make a mistake or ….?
Ok, Let me explain.
First of all, its a monolith, carved out of living rock, second its a relief sculpture and lastly, it carries the hall mark of Pallava craftsmanship.
Take a look at this angle, you will understand what i mean.
For Shiva is sculpted not facing you but half turned in profile. See how the master sculptor has made use of the available canvas – since he didnt have enough space to sculpt Shiva facing fully out, he has made masterly use of the depth available to sculpt him in profile
Though this is not a good angle ( thanks Ashok for the picture, you always come with different angles! ), but i am showing this to demonstrate his amazing use of depth and perspective. You can also see the angle of shoulders indicating how the torso has been angled to show a sideward pose. How he managed to visualise it in stone and managed to deliver is mind boggling.
Now, you will be able to better understand the Ardhanari evolution as a confluence of this image mingling with the Ardhanari.
As another example of the Pallava sculptor’s superlative stonecraft, we visit another spectacular pose from the other wall of the Arjuna ratha.
For a second, you forget that this is stone.
Not that angle, view it from this angle.
Look at how he has sculpted the Royal couple, the lady is calling her beloved who turns his head to answer her. Just close your eyes for a second, visualise her voice. ” My dear lover, “.. He turns around ” What is it sweetheart ….”
Breathing life into stone, that’s what the Pallava sculptor did!! It just needs some patient viewing and tuning to his frequency and wavelength.