Mallai Trimurthi cave – a puzzle

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: will do. a trick question for u, since you have posted the trimurthi mandabam photos, can you identify the deities in each of the 3 shrines

N: Brahma vishnu shiva

me: hahaha, pl look carefully and confirm sir,if it were so easy would i ask you

N: hmmm

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 middle one is shiva, where the linga is

me: s, you can see the Axe of shiva in his right hand. The left hand seems to be holding a rosary. The Linga seems to be a later implant !!

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: can you see 3 there

N: no

me: what is the right door guardian holding in his hand ( left hand)

N: Not Clear

me: do you notice anything unique in the dress of the inner deity

N: X shaped belts

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?

N: Yes
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

N: Skanda

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.

Murugan research article – all credits to the site

“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.

12 thoughts on “Mallai Trimurthi cave – a puzzle

  1. அருமை நண்பரே,

    அப்படியே இது யாருடைய காலத்துச் சிலை என்பதையும் ஆராய்ந்து கூறினால் நலம்! பல்லவர்கள் முருகனையும் வழிபட்டனரா? அப்படியெனில் அது அவர்கள் சமணராவதற்கு முன்பா அல்லது பின்னரா?

  2. May I call Him Subrahmaniam instead?
    So glad you agree in that, and thanks for giving me the name of that swollen hat.
    I’ll send you an old photo of similar from Tutikkudi, on Mus. wall in Meenakshi, frm 1/92.

  3. Satheesh – the styling is quite evolved. But lack of inscriptions, if i remember right there is only a single inscription in the skanda shrine reading Mallan !! doesnt help us. This could be towards the very end of the rock carved temples , just prior to the monoliths. all defn 100 years after mahendra. Of course skanda if prominent in mallai – remember somaskanda..


  4. ம்ம்ம்ம்ம்>???? முருகன் பிரம்ம சாஸ்தா??? புது விவரமாய் இருக்கு, நீங்க குறிப்பிட்டிருக்கும் தளத்தையும் போய்ப் பார்க்கிறேன். பொதுவாக யாகங்களை நடத்தி வைப்பவரை பிரம்மன் என்றே சொல்வது வழக்கம். பிராமணன் என்ற சொல்லே அதிலிருந்துதான் வந்தது என்பார்கள். இது கொஞ்சம் யோசிக்க வேண்டிய விஷயமாய் இருக்கு. இது பத்தி நன்கு படித்துக் கொண்டு வரேன். நன்றி, புதிய கருத்துக்கும், அருமையான சிற்பங்களின் தொகுப்புக்கும்.

  5. மாமல்லபுரம் சிற்பங்கள் பற்றிய புதிர் படித்தேன். அடுத்தமுறை கோயில் சிற்பஹ்கள் பார்த்தால் உங்களை மடலாட அழைப்பேன்.

  6. @ சச்சிதானந்தன், கண்டிப்பாக

    விரைவில் உங்கள் மடலாடல் எதிர்பர்ர்கிறேன்

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