An interesting sculpture chat !! ( Thanks to N for allowing me to post bulk of the conversation with some minor enhancements)
N: Hi vj, visited Mallai yesterday
Me: just seeing ur album, thanks for the credits.
N: Please do put in your comments to the photos
me: hahaha, pl look carefully and confirm sir,if it were so easy would i ask you
me: how do identify a deity inside a shrine. In pallava times, you use two methods, if the deity is present – look for its attributes, if not present try and see the attributes of the door guardians. since both are present, check each shrine for this
N: i want to use Friend Help :-/ Can u tell me
Me: no sir, u try first, its important – for you to spend some time viewing
N: the lady outside is Mahishasuramardhini
me: s, Durga. The ornate work on top of her is spectacular
N: the god with tall crown is vishnu
The other is one is Brahma
me: hmm, Vishnu is simple – you can see the conch and discus. how do you say the other is brahma
N: Trinity is completed by Brahma .. That is y thrimurthi isnt it VJ
me: haha, mallai is full of puzzles. What is the most characteristic feature of brahma images?
N: 3 heads
me: have u seen this anywhere for brahma??
N: and kind of lion cloth, No … i didnt
me: do you notice anything different about the crown
N: it has kind of horn
me: i think i can make this chat conversation into a post by itself
N: what is the peculiarity, tell me Vj
me: can i make this as a post, this chat conversation?
But dont disclose my name B-) 😉
me: N, doesnt disclose right!!
N: Yes, i dont want extra fame 😉 it is pointed in form
me: haha, the right door guardian is holding a Shruk(a long handled laddle)used for pouring ghee in a sacrificial fire, connected to vedic sacrifice /ritual. The left holds a flower /bud. So the assumption of yours – that is denotes brahma is partly correct.The door guardians are rishis, elderly men with beards, all go well with the brahma concept, but inside the deity is not bearded, but a young one
N: yes, Tell me
me: further the conical head dress, the x belts – are features of a warrior god who is said to have taught the vedas to brahma
me: Can you look closely at the photos and see what the two flying ganas are holding?
me: its skanda – in his brahma sasta form
N: brahma sasta form means
Me: I am no expert, but this wonderful article and photos will clarify the head dress and the X pattern.
“The deity is shown wearing a short conical basket-like head-gear (karanda-makuta) with a thick giralet of flowers (kannl) around the base. According to ancient Tamil tradition, kannl was the attribute of the warrior.8 The deity also wears the double shoulder-string (channavīra), another attribute of the warrior. Both the attributes, found mostly in the earlier sculpture of the Pallava period, emphasise the fact that Murukan was essentially a warrior-god. “
The site listed above is a fantastic resource of Skanda/Muruga and would recommend a serious read for everyone.