Perur Series – starting off with a penance

About 9 years back, i visited Perur – was stunned by what i saw – for what it had to show was truly a connoisseur’s delight. As my journey into sculpture matured over the years, my love for these beauties grew manifold. But, every time i ventured to photograph these beauties, i was turned down. I had to be content with some small resolution snaps published in a newspaper. But then, each unsuccessful attempt strengthened my resolve, and visit to Perur Patteswarar and a request to photograph was a standard feature of every visit to Coimbatore.

Late in 2008, on a fateful saturday i was reluctantly accompanying my wife and son to an event organised by the Annalaxmi group in Singapore – it was called
Dance of India, Taste of India……as i tried to find an excuse to make myself scarce, i spotted at a distance some lovely pen and ink sketches of ganesha – immaculate art – somewhat like this ( i am kicking myself for leaving my camera behind that day)

I sped to the stall – and below the sketch was a small signature – Padmavasan. Oh oh – i was overjoyed for – the card next to it said, the artist was present there to do spot sketches ( profiles) for sgd 20. Having never had the good fortune of meeting him before i frantically looked around for help, asked the next stall person – and he pointed to a small very innocuous looking man just standing around – clad in a simple kurtha. I couldn’t b’ve my
eyes, there he was – the artist himself.

i went up to him, introduced myself ( ofcourse ponniyin selvan ……..kalki…..silpi…sculpture ) and he warmed up. we spent about 45 min
chatting away.

He talked of his interaction with the great man silpi – the divine
gift of his – He also talked of Silpi’s mindblowing talent – pointing out that once
when he was sketching the natraja in tanjore – he sketched the front profile ( running out of paper – he took another piece and pasted in the bottom to complete) . and he went on to sketch the back head portion alone – ofcourse the two sketches were in different sizes – but most amazing was the fact that mr
padmavasan later – for a book, tried to resize both the sketches to the same size – and when he placed the front on the back – they fit like a glove…such a gift to visually capture the divine proportions!!.

We exchanged numbers, and he wrote his address and phone number on a small piece of paper in pencil ( still treasure it)…

Dec 2009. Another mandatory visit to Perur, but this time, i had made it a point to get the permission – come what may. Was assisted by some very good friends and well wishers, but all pointed to the hands of the Temple Executive Officer. I was expecting to hit a blind alley once again, when after about an hour – we were still waiting. But then we finally managed to get an audience with the EO, a smart Young man, who recognised the passion in our voices, yet it took about an hour to convince him of our mission. He finally yielded and once he saw that we were only there to promote the temple and its beauties, doors opened pretty fast. We faced an unexpected one final hurdle in the mandatory power cuts – yet we still had a spare day – so we returned the next day to complete the shoot – of what we thought was an extensive aka comprehensive coverage of the temple.

Next week in Chennai: I caught up with Sri Padmavasan again for the second time, in his home in chennai – in Dec 2009. I showed him my photo gallery and you could see the glee in his eyes and he started showing me more of his rare work. I mentioned about perur and he came out with his entire collection of Perur including a spectacular rendition of the Moolavar in color.

I was speechless by seeing the true color rendition – including the color and sheen of the copper vessel on top of the Linga.

But among the many sketches, there was one, which he considered very special, but we had overlooked it – for it felt too simple and we just skipped it. Later, i would kick myself many times over for doing so. It took another 3 months and help from Mr Praveen and the EO once again to get the particular pillar in the right angle.

Whats so special about this pillar sculpture? Looks like some Rishi in Tapas.

Well we see that in part 2 of this post

14 thoughts on “Perur Series – starting off with a penance

  1. யாழ்ப்பாணத்து இசைவாணர் முத்துக்குமாரசாமி சர்மாவின் அருமை மகன் பத்மவாசன்.
    அந்தப் பெயரே கலைமணக்கும். தந்தையும் தனயனும் என் அன்புக்கு உரியவர்கள்.

  2. விஜய்,
    மிகவும் அருமையான துவக்கம், பேரூர் – உண்மையில் சிற்பத்தில் பேரூர்தான்…ஆனால் நான் அந்த ஆலயத்திற்கு சென்ற தினம் ஆடிப்பெருக்கு, அதனால் அங்கு வந்திருந்தது மக்கள் வெள்ளம், ஒரு சிற்பத்தைக் கூட என்னால் சரியாக பார்க்க முடியவில்லை. மிகவும் வருத்தத்தில் இருந்த எனக்கு இங்கே விருந்து கிடைக்கும் என எதிர் பார்க்கவில்லை.

    மேலும், பத்மவாசன் அவருடைய பேரூர் அனுபவத்தை விவரித்தார் அவரை நானும், நம் ஓவியர் பிரசாத்தும் சந்தித்த பொழுது. அவரையும் அங்கு அமர்ந்து ஓவியம் வரைய விடாமல் அலைக்கழித்த விஷயமும் பின்னர் அவரை ரத்தினக் கம்பளம் விரிக்காத குறையாக வரவேற்று உபசரித்ததும் மிகவும் சுவாரசியம்…

    பத்மவாசன் – சில்பியின் கலையழகு போல், இந்த வாழும் கலைச் செல்வத்திற்கு சில்பி வைத்தபெயர்.

  3. நன்றி VJ அவர்களே!
    பலருக்கு தெரியாத தகவல்கள்!
    தெரியப்படுத்துகறீர்கள் VJ……….
    தொடர்ந்து தாருங்கள்…!

    ஆரூர் அத்தா ஐயாற் றமுதே அளப்பூர் அம்மானே
    காரூர் பொழில்கள் புடைசூழ் புறவிற் கருகா வூரானே
    பேரூர் உறைவாய் பட்டிப் பெருமான் பிறவா நெறியானே
    பாரூர் பலரும் பரவப் படுவாய் பாசூ ரம்மானே..
    -சுந்தரமூர்த்தி சுவாமிகள் அருளிச்செய்த
    தேவாரப் பதிகங்கள்
    இத்திருக்கோயில் நடராஜர் திருச்சபை திருப்பணி 34 ஆண்டுகள் நடைபெற்றதாம். இப்போது 340 ஆண்டுகள் உழைத்தாலும் அத்தகைய வேலைப்பாடுகளைச் செய்வதற்கான கலைத் தொழில் நுட்பத்திறன் நம்மிடையே இல்லை. நமது கோயில்கைளப் போற்றிப் பாதுகாக்க வேண்டியது நமது கடமை, அந்த நடராஜரின் குனித்த புருவமுமம், குமிழ் சிரிப்பும் நம் நெஞ்சை விட்டு என்றும் அகலா.

    இத்தகைய சிறப்பு வாய்ந்த இத்திருக்கோயிலுக்கு தாங்களும் வருகை புரிந்து இரையருள் பெற அன்புடன் அழைக்கிறது.

  4. Oh yes. Dear Vijay, this particular article opened up after my long lay off from this precious website. And what a site it is indeed!!!!! I won’t talk about these pages in past-tense. Needless to say, while the article itself, in terms of minute observation of details (or shall I call them detailed observation or very sharp collection of even the minutest details of the precious sculptural marvels at Perur) was thoroughly pain-staking and therefore, excellent our compliments themselves will be rendered incomplete in case we ignore the great effort that went behind in capturing those details through the accompanying pictures. All in all, a highly fulfilling experience for the visitor to this site!!!!! All kudos to you and your team, dear Vijay. This is invaluable service being done to the lover of arts (even if morons like me do not understand them very deeply) by you through pages. Please keep up the good work.

    Srinivasan (Cheenu)
    New Delhi

  5. Maravanpulavu sir, very glad to hear. Padmavasan sir is truly remarkable person

    @ satheesh – Yeah yeah, he did mention about it, well it pays to know people at the top !!

    @ cheenu – welcome back,long time no see.


  6. HI VJ..
    After reading your blog I can feel a special affinity developed in me towards sculpture. This time when i visited rockfort in trichy I was surprised to see a similar sculpture of Arjuna.. Though i was not able to plot the needle point, it was similar.. will mail you the photo..

  7. The observation that Arjuna is standing on a needle during his penance (in this very ancient sculptural representation of the Mahabharata Pasupata story) links very nicely with my recorded-published version of the Annanmar Kathai. In this local folk epic (recorded in a village quite close to Coimbatore) the heroine Tamarai goes to the exact place that Arujna did his pennance, and begins a pennance of her own. She is said to sit on a pillar made of seven needles and then to meditate on Lord Shiva for 21 years. Shiva eventually grants her two sons (one of whom is a reincarnation of Arjuna) and these young men later spear a great wild boar, whom Shiva has caused to be born at the same time as they are. This sculptural reference to the great Mahabharata tale of the Pasupata provides a lovely visual link between the two stories!

  8. Dear Ms Brenda Beck

    Its an honor to have such an eminent scholar take time to comment.

    there is also a small episode in that finds mention in the perur puranam – talks of a curse for a karikarcholan – for killing a brahmin who had taken the guise of a pig to cut himself from his family ties and who haunted him as a ghost since ( brahmahatti dosha). This sculpture could depict that legend as well, since the next pillar is that of the monkey faced king – musukundan


  9. A fantastic site.I like Padmvasn’s drawings verymuch Ihad contact with him early. Could you please give his maill id.

  10. Sir, I have been looking for Sri. Padmavasan’s contact information for quite sometime now. I am keen on learning from him. Could you please provide me the information?

    Thanks in advance!

  11. aum
    im a associate director in cine field. my birth place is perur. im intrested in project for perur puranam documentry, tele film or feature film. ur intrested me join the producer? please call me


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