Perur – sculptures of the great hall – a tribute. Part 1

Ever since i laid my eyes on this masterly creation, its been a personal crusade to bring out its beauty for all to see. Its taken almost 10 years and was it worth the wait n effort that went into it. I do hope you will agree with me once you complete reading this post.

We are going to see today the truly remarkable sculpture of Shiva in his Urdhva Thandava pose.

For starters, this is a pillar sculpture – meaning the entire composition is of a single piece of stone – the Kanaga sabhai with its collection of 8 such brilliant compositions was commissioned between 1625 CE and 1659 CE in the reign of Rajah Sivathiru Azhagaathiri Nayakkar.

Why all this effort, you might ask, for this pinnacle of artistic beauty, the very epitome of sculptural excellence, is lost to many – hidden behind a steel cage. I hope patrons who read this, could get together and maybe sponsor a glass casing instead of this ugly steel monster.

Its quite late for such a fantastic exhibition of stone work – considering the relatively lesser quality workmanship seen in the post chola, Pandya 13- 14th C CE – but, the sculptures here are proof that this art form survived and thrived till the 16th Century -possibly reaching its pinnacle in this very hall.

To visualise the true grandeur of this amazing structure, we are helped thankfully with a old plate from the British archives.

Thanks to we also found this sketch by great artist Silpi.

Now, that we have a macro view of this mind blowing composition, lets go closeup to view what it hides within itself. Place on record our sincere thanks to the temple EO, who after hours of convincing, felt our passion for this art and not only allowed us to photograph these gems but also opened the grill gates for us….we were in for a true feast – come partake in our pleasures.

This sculpture is unique in many aspects and to truly understand them we need to go closeup – mean real closeup – for , its said that Siva’s dance cannot be comprehended by lesser masters. It is only the great ones like Brahma, Bharata, Hari, Narada or Skanda who can understand or appreciate his dance.

An inscription on the cave temple at Saluvankuppam has a verse to elucidate not only the distinction of Siva’s dance, but also to enumerate the great celestial exponents of natya and sangita and their ability, as the right audience, to appreciate Siva’s dance: yadi na vidhata bharato yadi na harir narado na va skandha boddhum ka iva samarthas sangitam kalakalasya (Epigraph. Ind. 10, p. 12).
From the Book:
NATARAJA – THE LORD OF DANCE – Dr. Sivaramamurti

It is not only these great gods and goddesses, the creators each in his or her own important way, that are the witnesses to applaud the dance of Siva, but they enthusiastically also join in creating the orchestra for him, by playing the musical instruments. At the very sign of his brow, Vishnu takes up the drum mardala, which, with is noble rumbling notes, like the cloud inspiring the blue-throated peacock to dance, starts the musical sound. With his louts hand, Brahma takes up a pair of cymbals, ostensibly to keep time to the dance of the victor of Kama

Whats so special here is the depiction of Brahma.

He is shown here with 5 heads and is holding the attributes of Shiva – the Axe and the deer !!

Like a musician, who, during his song, stops for a while, and draws attention to the tala or the rhythm beat, Siva the great dancer, pauses for a while, to sound the drum himself in between, to show the correct adjustment when necessary

Another uniqueness in this sculpture – was tempted to use the word panel here, but then this is no panel – its a monolith for that matter, is the depiction of Karaikkal ammaiyaar.

Such masterly depiction of the shriveled breasts, the loose folds of skin across the neck and throat – to show an old lady, prematurely aged – giving up her beauty to become a ghost. Read previous links for her !!

ofcourse, we do have a very chubby Muyalagan underneath his foot, cradling his snake.

Its becoming a long post, but its a crime to break it into two or three parts, for the beauty and charm of this piece of art is too sublime to be enjoyed in parts. I will try and use less descriptive words and more pictorial speech.

The face of a youthful shiva – complete with a double chin, the carved curves of the nostrils….

The beauty of the limbs – even to the detailing of the reverse kneecap. Oh, the fingers, lines, nails – cuticles…

Another beautiful aspect to notice – the feet – the toes – top and bottom view, the ring of the sandal and on the other side, the grace of the inwardly turned hand and the delicate mudra of the thumb and forefinger !!

The row of arms on both sides are a sight to behold with the myriad of attributes.

Such detailing in the hands and the attributes, some a quite unique and am yet to find their names and significance.

Especially this one

Normally would get some props to give our readers an idea of the scale of the composition – it would be a key for miniature panels and even went with the elephant for the big temple door guardian, but this natural prop blew me away.

Maybe, the skill of the sculptor fooled our winged friend who is blunting his fangs in vain to draw blood from this !!!

If you like what you have seen and would like future visitors not to be deprived of a chance to drink in this distilled essence of artistic brilliance, please pass on the word – to patrons who can raise funds and the cry – to change the grill to atleast a glass panel.

30 thoughts on “Perur – sculptures of the great hall – a tribute. Part 1

  1. Absolutely amazing…superb post vj! I am so glad that are 7 more! Kudos for all the effort you put in to showcase these beauties to us.

    The detail of fingers and finger nails are outstanding…no wonder the mosquito was fooled! The British pic is out of this world! What are the patterns in the soles of Shiva’s feet and his palms? And what he is wearing in his legs – dont they look more like anklets rather than sandals?

  2. I have no words to comment about this wonderfull Siva and your ellaboration and pics.

    Just wanted to say thanks. Thanks a lot.
    Whenever I go to a temple i’ll spend more time with the silpas than the main deity.

    If you have time just visit my site where I have written about silpas.


  3. நன்றி விஜி சார்

    பாரூரும் அரவல்குல் உமைநங்கை
    அவள்பங்கன் பைங்கண் ஏற்றன்
    ஊருரன் தருமனார் தமர்செக்கில்
    இடும்போது தடுத்தாட் கொள்வான்
    ஆரூரன் தம்பிரான் ஆரூரன்
    மீகொங்கில் அணிகாஞ் சிவாய்ப்
    பேரூரர் பெருமானைப் புலியூர்ச்சிற்
    றம்பலத்தே பெற்றா மன்றே.
    – – என்று சுந்தரர் சிதம்பரத்தில் நின்றுகொண்டு பேரூரிலுள்ள நடராஜரின் அழகை மானசீகமாக கண்டு பாடினார். அதைக் கண்ட தில்லைவாழ் அந்தணர்கள் “தில்லையில் நின்று கொண்டு பேரூரைப் பற்றி பாடும் காரணம் என்ன?” என்று கேட்டார்கள். அதற்கு அவர் “அந்த அழகைக் காண கோடி கண்களும் போதாது. அந்தப் பரவசத்தை அனுபவித்துதான் உணரமுடியும்” என்றார்.
    உடனே பேரூருக்கு வந்த தில்லைவாழ் அந்தணர்கள் நடராஜரின் அழகைப் பார்த்து மயங்கி, சுந்தரர் சொன்னது உண்மைதான் என்றுணர்ந்து “சிதம்பரத்தில் இருப்பது திருச்சிற்றம்பலம் இங்கிருப்பதோ அழகிய திருச்சிற்றம்பலம்” என்று கூறிச் சென்றனர்.
    அப்பேர்ப்பட்ட பெருமையுடைய இந்த கனக சபையை திருமலை நாயக்க மன்னாpன் சகோதரன் அளகாத்திரி நாயக்கன் கட்டினான். 1625 முதல் 1659 வரை 34 வருடங்கள் கட்டப்பட்ட கனகசபையில் பிரம்மா, திருமால், அதி உக்ரகாளி, சுந்தரர் ஆகியோருக்காகவும் நந்தியின் தவத்திற்காகவும் சிதம்பரத்தில் போலவே இங்கும் ஆனந்த நடனமாடினார். இறைவன். அதனால்தான் இத்தலம் மேலைச்சிதம்பரம் என்று அழைக்கப்படுகிறது. இன்றும் நடராஜரின் நுழைவு வாயிலில் இரண்டாவது பஞ்சாட்சர படியினை தாண்டும்போது கோமுனி, பட்டிமுனி என்னும் பெயாpல் பிரம்மாவும், திருமாலும் இருப்பதாக ஐதீகம்.

  4. சிற்பக்கலைக்கு எடுத்துக்காட்டாக விளங்கக்கூடிய இந்த கனக சபையில் மருதமலையிலிருந்து கற்களை கொண்டு வந்து சிற்பங்களை 28 வருடங்களாக பாடுபட்டு செய்தவரின் பெயர் கம்பனாச்சாரி. குனகசபையில் 36 த்துவங்களைக் குறிக்கும் வகையில் மொத்தம் 36 தூண்கள் உள்ளன.

  5. இந்த அழகை வர்ணிக்க வார்த்தைகள் இல்லை!

    நகம், நகத்தின் சதை, விரல் முட்டிகளின் மடிப்புகள் முதற்கொண்டு ஒவ்வொரு அமைப்பும் அற்புதமாக வடித்துள்ளான் சிற்பி! இவ்வளவு அழகும், துல்லியமும், ஒரு வித குறைவும் இல்லாமல் வடிப்பதற்கு எவ்வளவு தவவலிமை வேண்டியிருந்திருக்கும் அந்த சிற்பிக்கு!
    இதை வடித்தவன் சாதாரண சிற்பியாய் மட்டும் இருந்திருக்கவே முடியாது, ஆழ்ந்த பக்திமானாக, நல்ல தவசியாகத் தான் இருக்க வேண்டும்.
    இந்தக் கலைப் பொக்கிஷம் நிச்சயம் பாதுகாக்கப் பட வேண்டிய ஒன்று.
    நம் முன்னோர்களின் திறமையை பறைச் சாற்ற இது நல்லதொரு தடயம்.
    அற்புதமான இந்தப் பதிவிற்கு நன்றியோடு வாழ்த்துக்கள் விஜய்…

  6. பேரூர் சென்றபொழுது பார்த்திருக்கிறேன். சில்பியின் கைவண்ணத்திலும் இவை வந்திருக்கின்றன. இந்த வலைப்பூவில் படித்தபிறகு, விரல், நகம், சகச் சதை எனத் துல்லியமாகப் பார்த்த பார்வையைச் செதுக்கியோர் கேட்டிருப்பின் செதுக்கியபோதிருந்த உளநிறைவை விஞ்சிய நிறைவு பெற்றிருப்பர். நன்றி

  7. hi rhoda are absolutely right. they are some forms of anklets and not sandals – as we can see the sole of the feet – the marks in the hands and feet are auspicious marks – vishnu is said to have the sangu ( conch) n chakra ( discus) regai – ofcourse buddha too has similar – worshipped as buddha paadha. but what put me off is the anklet having a toe ring!!

  8. சச்சிதானந்தன் ஐய்யா ,

    “செதுக்கியபோதிருந்த உளநிறைவை விஞ்சிய நிறைவு பெற்றிருப்பர்.”

    உங்கள் நல்ல உள்ளமும் தமிழும் மணக்கிறது.


  9. I have now words to express. As ‘Kovai Praveen’ said, This is Azhakiya Thiruchitrambalam.

    Vijay! Your minute observations are treasure to others. Keept it up!!


  10. Vijay

    May God bless you to write more and more about such outstanding, marvellous, divine , what more to say of our arts.

    Some highly intellectual people are misguiding the blog crowds thru their different approach. As you have rightly said there, I never ever have felt that these silpas are dressless.
    That was the worst or mean way of putting something to praise something.

    I am going to be your regular reader from now on. I choose some specific artciles to read out for my son. Yours is defenitely one.

    I thank you again.
    Keep up your good work.

  11. @ Praveen – Tks for all the info, would be interesting for people who want to dwell more deeper. at the moment i am happy swimming on the surface !!

    @ viruthcham – thanks – visited your site, interesting post. tks

    @ rudran sir – honored again.

  12. Dear Viji,
    Very brilliant article. Regarding Nataraja sculpture, which is considered as one of the best.The anklet was specially designed one. Its technical name is “Gadaavirutam”- a Vedic term. It is a special kind of ornament both in terms of intricacy and spirituality, implies the energy concentrated on the ornament – emits energy continuously. The technical name is completely forgotten. If one should understand the name and its etymology, may do the work exceedingly well.I will send more details about it soon. We
    should thank Kovail Praveen, for the providing the Sculptors name. (is there any inscription?)

  13. umapathy sir, we are indeed blessed to have you explain these to us.

    Just spoke to Praveen, the name of the stapathi comes from the sthala puranam. I have a old copy – will refer and post fully


  14. சிலையின் தத்ரூபமும் தான் இந்தக் கொசுவை ஏமாற்றி விட்டதோ! பாவம் படைத்தவனின் குருதியையே ருசிப் பார்க்க துளையிட முயற்சி செய்கிறது போலும்!

  15. great to see all sorts of new people finding you. That article above the Nandi on a stand,
    has me puzzled, too. I still can’t understand how you can find time for all your research!

  16. உள்ளத்தில் நல்ல உள்ளம் உறங்காதென்பது..
    என்று உங்களை வாழ்த்தத் தோன்றுகிறது….
    சொந்த வார்த்தைகளில் வாழ்த்த, திறந்த வாய்

  17. dear kathie

    I had checked this with Dr. Nagaswamy, he has given me a technical name for it, but failed to note it down. will check again and get the info


  18. கலாப்ரியா,

    உண்மைதான் – இந்த சிற்ப்பத்தை பார்த்த தினத்தில் இருந்து உறக்கம் என்பதே இல்லை.


  19. Mind boggling post Vijay. Its a pity that we are in such a state to protect such marvels from vandalism by placing a iron grill around it. Such indisciplined folks we are….even the genuine people cant enjoy its beauty.

    Such marvels which stood the test of time for hundreds of years….even under foreign invasions… could not be safegaurded in FREE INDIA without physically seperating it. 🙁


  20. Its quite a time since I last visited this site and today I got time to visit few postings of yours. Indeed it was a quite good experience seeing marvellous posts of yours. I would like to suggest a kind of single place where we can group the images per temple and per icon. Per temple will help a person if he/she is visiting that temple, and per image will help in understanding the various forms and evolution in the iconography. Will check with Arvind if such a think is possible as he is working on per images as of now.

  21. I am born and brought up in this place. I have touched and felt every stone of this temple. It is great work to write about the minute details of the sculptures. I suggest you should have added the drawing on the ceiling, mentioning the important events happened in the life of every “nayanmars”. If you go to perur next time please make a note of it. There is a three dimension drawing also seen. If you are standing in front of the kanagasabai, on the top of the left side pillar you can see the three dimension drawing of the kanagasabai. I heard that the artist was a left hander he sat on the edge of the scafolding and drawn the picture using his left hand by seeing the live view of kanagasabai from there. If you are going to Perur next time enjoy the picture.

    • Dear Mr Gopalarishnan

      We were there in Dec when the restoration work was going on.Infact climbed up the saaram with the artists and looked at their work. Was greatly disappointed at the renovation job. don’t want to add more.


  22. Though I settled in Karnataka now, I born and bought-up in Coimbatore. My house is 5 kilometers away from Perur Pateeswaram.

    During my childhood days I visited this temple many times and enjoyed watching the sculptures as a child. I’ve not seen many people watching the sculptures except few. While other kids used to watch the real elephant, I was excited to play with the pair of stone elephants which are there in the entrance of Kanakasabai. At all times I got lot of queries in my mind about the sculptures but no one elucidated me anything about these great art works.

    Today I feel like watching the same sculptures; holding someone’s hand who explains me the specifics & essentials about these great art works. Now as a mother I’m confident to explain a lot to my kids about these sculptures.

    Thanks for guiding us 🙂

  23. Wow! All those details! I remember seeing these sculptures as a child. And even back then they intrigued me. Looking forward for posts on the rest of the sculptures from Perur!

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