Door guardians are the least noticed even today and no exceptions for these mighty but neglected gentlemen and ladies in sculpture – infact it pains me to see men made to stand like statues in popular resorts mocking them !. They are a eclectic mix of emotion and styles and they are dear to me ( as to a few friends who helped this post come up). So was surprised when i came across a book reference in another book – what struck me was the title of the book – THE CULT OF WEAPONS. THE ICONOGRAPHY OF AYUDHA PURUSHAS, by Sri. V. R Mani.
We had been discussing door guardians and horned door guardians and its been my wish to bring out a dedicated series on them, so we rushed to grab a copy (me, satheesh and Arvind) – It was not a large book ( was a bit disappointed) – for if you leave out the plates, bibliography – it was just 45 pages. But the book more than made up for its lack of volume with quality of content. One particular focus on a Chalukyan door guardian, from Pattadakkal, caught my eye. We had earlier carried a series on the Pallava horned door guardians based on an article by Dr. Gift Siromoney, which was more like a theory or a postulate – saying the door guardians could be the personifications of the weapons – ayudha purushas. But this sculpture, a beauty at that, leaves us in no doubt. ( Thanks Kathie – cant imagine what i would do without your help for the image!!)
A very very splendid relaxed stance, leaning slightly to his right, bending his right leg and balancing his weight on his club / mace. The snake on the mace is lively as well.
lets take a closer look at the head dress – our point of interest.
He is four armed ( early Pallava door guardians were two armed – reminds me to do a post on Arvind’s visit to Kanchi for later Pallava door guardians !) , what he holds in his upper right arm is not clear , but his upper left arm is holding his own attribute – a differently shaped trident or trishool. His lower hand postures are relaxed and go with the overall composition ( again, reminds me to do a series on the hand mudras !!). But the major find for us is the trident sculpted behind his crown!
However, this particular line in the book is a topic for further discussion.
” This depiction in addition to the trident held in his upper left hand, reveal his identity as trisulapurusha. The endowment of this new character to to the door guardian is a distinctly Chalukyan contribution to Hindu Iconography. In later examples from both Chalukyan areas and regions south of it , one can find the development of this tradition “
Now, no early pallava examples are studied in this work and the fact that Pattadakkal was constructed to honor the victory of Vikramadtya II over the Pallavas ( between CE 732 – 742 ), cast doubts on the above claim – and in most probability it was Mahendra, Mamalla and Rajasimha’s Pallava traditions that were worked on by the Chaluyan stylists – given the close stylistic resemblances to the Kanchi Kailansatha temple to the monuments in Pattadakkal, it must have been the same artist guild that was used ( taken ?) to construct them.
What do you say?