The minute aspects to note in a sculpture – finding a needle in perur

There are many wonderful and awe inspiring sculptures in Perur. But as we saw in the previous post, there was this seemingly innocuous looking pillar sculpture, which we would have totally missed, if not for the genius in Sri Padmavasan.

Many people would have passed this sculpture without even batting an eyelid, and to be honest despite our heightened mortar skills, we too missed to even spend the few seconds to capture it on camera. The subsequent trouble we went through to secure the images, is a lesson for us, not to take any sculpture or artist lightly.

Padmavasan sir, showed me his sketch of this pillar and started explaining its uniqueness.

Lets see if we can make out some basic features from the sculpture first.

Obviously, its an ascetic in deep meditation. Perched on one leg, but there are few signs which help us to identify him

A bow on his shoulder and the boar, show us that its Arjuna, the penance to get the Pasupathaastra from Shiva.

The craftsmen’s mastery in handling the relief in the bow is simply astounding. Take a look at this angle.

But, the uniqueness of this relief sculpture is in the way the sculptor has portrayed the intensity of Arjuna’s penance. How?

Do you notice anything different. Let me give you a clue. Normally the sculptor would strictly adhere to framing guidelines – but in this frame the foot seems to extend slightly out of the lower frame. Why?

Try to spot something under the big toe !! Maybe sir’s sketch can help us take notice.

Yes, he is doing penance on a needle point. Thanks to Praveen for capturing the different angles to truly appreciate the greatness of the sculpture. No better way to explain than this angle.

32 thoughts on “The minute aspects to note in a sculpture – finding a needle in perur

  1. @ Anu – yes, its really tough – credit to the sculptor and to sir Padmavasan.

    @ Kathie – i did try to look for any references to this – but it only says astute penance !!! artistic license maybe


  2. Wonderful Vijay. Its not that easy to figure this out without any proper guidance. Thanks to Padmavasan sir for this care for details and to you and Praveen and all those who helped to bring this out to educate us all.

    Do have any reference for ‘penance on needle’ in Mahabaratha? The anatomy is mind boggling.

    When we put pressure on Toes and stand, the fron bone on the calf protrudes out and the sculptor (and so did Padmavasan sir) has exactly portrayed it in the sculpture.

    Thanks for bringing this to lime light.


  3. I amazed by this structures…should thank you a lot..b4 and all when i went to temples would just see the main idol and come standing aside the panels checking if anything is interesting…

  4. @ Satish – Well highlighted sir. thanks

    @ swami – thanks

    @ Vairam – வாங்க வாங்க . இது ஒரு தொத்து வியாதி . உங்களுக்கும் வந்துட்டுது ன்னு தெரியுது. சந்தோசம் ..


  5. Awesomely explained Vijay – as usual – I can sense your passion on your wordings and details. Late but it’s better than never.. great work!

    Cheers – Anand

  6. superb as always! What were the framing guidelines….is there a text reference which i could find on the net (tamil or english)?
    thank you

  7. Great post! Thanks for details like this. Ever since reading your blog and getting to know about REACH and its members, I have started to appreciate sculpture in temples and its beauty.

  8. தி.ஜானகிராமன் சொல்லுவார் கை ரேகைகளையே ஒரு நாள் முழுக்கப் பார்த்துக் கொண்டிருக்கலாம் என்று…அப்படியிருக்க சிற்பங்களைப் பார்த்துக் கொண்டே இருக்கலாம் திரு ப்ரவீனுக்கு வாழ்த்துக்கள்

  9. beautiful…….. how intense would have been the bhakthi in those ages to had done such a penance… in this busy world though legs run behind money, mind come around bhakthi(true love) for few people… thanks for posting such beautiful information….

  10. @ Dev sir – thanks. There are so many such waiting to be rediscovered !!

    @ Aannd, thanks – its quite an infectious disease…

    @ Rhoda – i meant how a sculpture is framed – will check in the texts though. even the english translations are quite complex!!


  11. @ Krishnamurthy – welcome
    @ Ramesh – Thanks – we need more like you. Thats the prime objective of ours…
    @கலாப்ரியா – அமாம் – இப்படி பல ஒரு நாள் போயுள்ளது…என் அன்பு மனைவி தான் பாவம்.
    @ annapoorna – i would call this pure bhakthi or devotion – for its a penance done with a definite motive. True devotion is complete surrender !!


  12. Hi Vijay….
    I admired Arjuna’s belief in undergoing such a breath taking penance… Eventhough it was for a motive, it was his complete belief that made him do it… probably i could have used belief instead of bhakthi in my post…

  13. Hi Annapoorna

    Faith !! belief. is a double edged sword. Personally my opinion is that we should not treat the omni present – as a super cop or a wish giving tree.


  14. I am not talking about the asuras or few others who get the boon from Shiva or Brahma just to feel that they are superior to others. For a normal person it is quiet natural to ask for a wish to survive in this world or to help somebody who is helpless or to fight for the righteousness. In recent days i dont think anybody has such a belief on prayers. Everybody has an alternate plan when asking for something in a prayer. I remember a famous story now.
    A learned scholar, a great pundit, had his home on one bank of a river. All provisions for his home used to come from the other bank. A milkmaid used to bring him fresh milk every morning.
    One morning she was late, very late. The pundit was very angry with her. “My morning prayers have been delayed because of you,” he ranted, “don’t you have any responsibility?” She apologised profusely. “Master, the river was in spate and the boats refused to ply. That’s why I was late.”
    “Don’t give me excuses” roared the pundit, “if the boats couldn’t come you should have walked on water. How can you make the gods wait? Have faith and cross the river.” The milkmaid meekly listened and went away. She was never late gain. A month later it rained profusely for a week and no boats could ply. Yet, the milkmaid came on time and delivered the milk.
    The pundit asked the milkmaid how she managed to come at all. She simply said, “you told me how to do it. I believed in you and walked on the water ever since that day!” The pundit was shocked. Disbelieving her, he took her to the riverbank and told her to cross the river, which she did with ease. “If this milkmaid can do it believing in me, I should have greater powers” thought the pundit. Lifting his dhoti with one hand he stepped into the water and promptly sank.
    “Oh! Master! What faith do you have? How can you cross the river if you believe your dhoti would get wet?”
    Many are just like the learned scholar in the story and looking at the charaterisation of Arjuna i believe he had a strong belief that he will be answered by his strong penance and probably he had asked for the boon for a right cause.
    I consider asking the almighty as a privilege. If i could ask my mom dad for anything why cant i ask him.. its a part of the love that we have for him..
    As a normal person asking something to the almighty believing that he would help him and not let down is a part of Bhakti..

  15. Master piece paintings of Ajanta needs more exploration and explanations by experts in the field such as you all wonderful job.

  16. Have put all Rock Fort murthis in Picasa. Feel free to steal any you need.
    Thanks for new info on archit. details.

  17. ” OM ”
    If you observe the conversations around you, you’ll notice that, often, what many of us do is simply wait for our chance to speak. We’re not really listening to the other person, but simply waiting for an opening to express our own view. We often complete other people’s sentences, or say things like, “Yeah, yeah,” or “I know,” very rapidly, urging them to hurry up so that we can have our turn.

    This harried form of communication encourages us to criticize points of view, overreact, misinterpret meaning, and form opinions, all before our fellow communicator is even finished speaking. No wonder we are so often annoyed, bothered, and irritated with one another. Sometimes, with our poor listening skills, it’s a miracle that we have any friends at all!

    You’ll be pleasantly amazed at the softer reactions and looks of surprise as you let others completely finish their thought before you begin yours. Often, you will be allowing someone to feel listened to for the very first time. You will sense a feeling of relief coming from the person to whom you are speaking – and a much calmer, less rushed feeling between the two of you.

    No need to worry that you won’t get your turn to speak — you will. In fact, it will be more rewarding to speak because the person you are speaking to will pick up on your respect and patience and will begin to do the same.

    Thanks for giving a chance to SPEAK ” Sharvam Shivamayam “

  18. If you haven’t told about the needle, I woudn’t have noticed as said by others here.

    what do you think about a guidance kept aside such wonderful works. Visitors would benefit. Tourism board can make arrangements I beleive.

  19. THANKS to vijay sir and padmavasan sir for their explantions and exact picturization even to find a smaaaaaal needle.

    To find a smaaal thing we have to make a greaaaaaaaaaaaaat attempt. ITS PROVED.

    THANKS to annapurna for the NICE story that I never heard any where.

    Intresting suggestion from virutcham. vijay sir PLS consider.

  20. ஆஹா எத்தனை நுண்ணிய சிற்பம், அது கூறும் பொருள் எத்தனை அருமை… இந்த அருமையான பதிவிற்காக, திரு. பத்மவாசன் அவர்களுக்கும், தங்களுக்கும், படம் எடுத்த திரு. பிரவீன் அவர்களுக்கும் மிகுந்த நன்றி.

  21. This blog is a great effort!
    Could not go without leaving words of praise and encouragement. Awesome job VJ.Commendable infact.

  22. This piece of sculpture is found scattered in all temples in tirunelveli dist any specific reason why its been depicted any ref in any form is welcome

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