Somaskanda Evolution, earliest depiction in bronze – assigned to Pallava Period

We have seen the evolution of the Somaskanda form in stone so far. Most of the works we studied are assigned to the Pallava period. As we progress into metal images, we see today an early bronze Somaskanda. We tend to associate bronzes mostly with the reign of the Cholas but there are some wonderful depictions before them as we will see today.

The date of this bronze is assigned to late Pallava period based on stylistic grounds. A few pointers to this, is the small size – this is about half the size of a 10th C Chola bronze Somaskanda, but more than the size, experts opine the posture and general styling are off an earlier date than 9th Century CE. Sadly the skanda is missing in this group.

What is it about the posture that we need to take notice.

Shiva majestically seated in the Sukhasana pose, but do you notice a slight inclination to the back, which makes him more majestic to the viewer.

The depiction of the figures and faces are also unique. Shiva’s face is almost round with a medium sized Jata makuta ( crown made of branded hair locks). The nose, eyes, lips and mouth seem to be modelled by hand. He wears two kanthis ( necklets) and a Hara ( necklace). The Yagnopavitam seems to be made of plaited gold wires, with a knot on his left chest.

Another pointer to its early date, is the way the multiple arms are handled – the upper arms are bifurcating from the lower ones at sharp angles.

The way the attributes are held and the hand poses are also definitive clues.


Interesting to see the arm bands of shiva – they are off the Keyura type – naaga vyalas.


The face is round but the features are sharp and graceful. Interesting there is no trace of Mangalya sutra in this figure. She wears a conical Karanda Makuta.

The rendering of the limbs are more supple and not muscular.

The ornamentation is beautiful, the detailing of the body shapes especially the waist lines are exquisite. Its important to note that though the belt clasp is very ornate its yet to get to the simha mukha type seen in later bronzes..

The Siraschakra ( head circle ornament) which we saw much pronounced in the stone sculpture, has come down in size. The six locks of braided hair, divided into two groups are simply superb.

The chest nipple of Shiva seems almost as pressed on later.

How does this all sum up to prove the early date of this bronze ? We will see a 10th C and a 12 C Chola bronze and analyze it in a similar manner to complete our study.

Ref: Bronzes of South India – Sri. K. R. Srinivasan

12 thoughts on “Somaskanda Evolution, earliest depiction in bronze – assigned to Pallava Period

  1. Hi vj,
    Really nice observation from your side, say another feather in the cap. Its really good to see devoted people working in this area and putting things from their perspectives. Hope to see you more in near future.

  2. Wonderful Vijay.
    Reclining pose – what can i say about your eye for detail .Somaskanda form, chandeswara anugraha murthy and Tripurantaka always dont fail to mesmerize me.
    Thanks once again Vijay.

  3. Another beauty! You probably know this, but I was finally able to decipher its plastic tag: Thiruvalarangadu, Chengalpattu, Kanchipuram Dt., about 9th cent.

  4. hi kathie,

    yes – this is from Tiru aalan gaadu – the holy forest abode of Karaikkal ammai. date is placed as early half of the 9th C.

    am also foxed by the sash –


  5. Dont want to sully Cholan bronze sculpturing, but really a salute to the Pallavan artist who has made it a living sculpture in a superior manner. Thanks to you too for bringing out the nuances in your photos. The fall of the garment tress of the Umayaval and the posture of Shiva are breathtaking!

  6. hi pravin

    art is evolutionary – i would credit the pallavas for some really exceptional stone sculptures but when it comes to bronze – i must say the pinnacle was during the chola period.

    By the way, this bronze is a pallava ‘period’ or rather a pre chola period bronze – so cant squarely put it as pallavan artist.


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