‘Thamizhar sirpakk kalai – min pathippum vizhippunarvum’


The talk slideshow with audio ( thanks to satheesh)

Chemmozhi presentation

The talk video

Part 1- my speech starts around 3.14 min




The actual paper ( read by Sri Sri of www.itsdiff.com fame)

Full text


I am presenting a paper on ‘Thamizhar sirpakk kalai – min pathippum vizhippunarvum’ – “Tamil sculpture – Awareness about sculpture and ideas for building a digital archive” – at World Chemmozhi Tamil Conference at Coimbatore. The time slot as per the schedule circulated is

26th June between 10.30 AM and 12 Noon
Hall : Nakkannaiyaar Arangam.

Would greatly appreciate if you could extend your support by attending & also asking your friends in and around kovai & presenting in the event – to come over.

best regards


part 1 – my speech starts around 3.14 min


part 2

part 3

part 4

Ramayana before Kamban in TamilNadu

Did The Ramayana exist in Tamil land, much before the undisputed monarch of tamil poets – Kavichchakravarthy Kambar composed his Ramavatharam. Of course yes – for the sanskrit original of Valmiki must have been quite popular,but was there any references in Tamil and if so would there be any sculptures to support them ? We are going to analyse this a little further in today’s post.

Historians and linguists have been debating the time of the great poet Kamban, for all his 12000 verses, he overcame poetic tradition of those days, by failing to sing one on any major King or clan. He sings of a friend and patron – Sadaiyappa Vallal once every 1000 verses, but then there are no clear pointers to his period as well. So the date of Kambar varies from the 9th C CE to the 12th C CE, with more pointers to 12th C CE>

The work of Kambar, though, based on the original Sanskrit verson of Valmiki, its not a pure translation. The greatness in the man, not only showed in his masterly use of the power of the tamil language, he also used his poetic license to alter a few key scenes, maybe to suit the changed landscape – considering the time elapsed between the original Sanskrit version and also the regional variants and preferences. Today, we are going to see one such variant.

Thanks to Dhivakar sir, HariKrishnan sir, Shankar ( ps egroup), Anna Kannan and Geetha madam for their support / ideas / content. Thanks to Arvind for the photographs.

The Panel is from our favorite – Pullamanagai Brahmapureerswarar, the temple is dated stylistically to the early chola period and has inscriptions of Parantaka Chola I ( 907 to 953 CE).

Before, we go into the details of the panel, lets go to the story and the two versions. The story we are going to see today is that of Ahalya.

Ahalya – wiki

Crux of the plot :Brahma creates a beautiful woman. Indra lusts on her and wants to marry her, he doesn’t succeed and she ends up as the wife of a great sage – Gautama muni. But that doesn’t stop him from trying and finally, he tries deceit, by taking the form of her husband and tries to seduce her. The problem is, Ahalya did see through his disguise, but…

Let’s, see what the Sanskrit version of Valmiki got to say about this episode.

muni veSam sahasraakSam vij~naaya raghuna.ndana |
matim cakaara durmedhaa deva raaja kutuuhalaat

“Oh, Rama, the legatee of Raghu, though knowing him as the Thousand-eyed Indra in the guise of her husband Gautama, she is inclined to have intercourse ill-advisedly, only to satisfy the impassion of the King of Gods

Her thinking is: ‘This is none but Indra in the guise of my husband, for my husband never asks me like this nor he violates times… I heard that Indra is seeking me for a long time… and when King of Gods expresses such a desire, it cannot be refused… let him have it…

mama ruupam samaasthaaya kR^itavaan asi dur.hmate |
akartavyam idam yasmaat viphalaH tvam bhaviSyati ||

‘Oh, dirty-minded Indra, taking hold of my form you have effectuated this unacceptable deed, whereby you shall become infecund.’ Thus, Gautama cursed Indra

tathaa shaptvaa ca vai shakram bhaaryaam api ca shaptavaan |
iha varSa sahasraaNi bahuuni nivaSisyasi || 1-48-29
vaayu bhakSaa niraahaaraa tapyantii bhasma shaayinii |
adR^ishyaa sarva bhuutaanaam aashrame asmin vaSisyasi ||

On cursing Indra thus the sage cursed even his wife saying, ‘you shall tarry here for many thousands of years to come without food and consuming air alone, and unseen by all beings you shall live on in this hermitage while contritely recumbent in dust.

yadaa tu etat vanam ghoram raamo dasharatha aatmajaH |
aagamiSyati durdharSaH tadaa puutaa bhaviSyas

‘When that unassailable son of Dasharatha, namely Rama, arrives at this squalid forest, for it will be henceforth rendered so along with you, then you will be purified.

tasya aatithyena dur.hvR^itte lobha moha vivarjitaa |
mat sakaashe mudaa yuktaa svam vapuH dhaarayiSyasi

‘On your welcoming Rama, oh, ill-behaved woman, you will be divested of your greed and craze in which you lingered so far, and then you will assume your own body and then you can be in my proximity, rejoicingly.’ Thus, Sage Gautama cursed his wife Ahalya

The operative phrases which we need to see here is the actual curse : ‘unseen by all beings’ ,’contritely recumbent in dust’, you will assume your own body

No where is there any mention of her turning into stone !!

Now, lets see the tamil version of kamban, we have already seen the story enough,we go to the operative verses – the actual curse.

“vilai magal anaiya neeyum, kal iyal aathi” endraan. karungal aai, marunga veezhvaal.

Meaning, for your acts, you are condemned to become like a stone.

Great saints are blessed with infinite wisdom and love, and so he went on to tell her, when she will be relieved of her curse.

“pizhaithu porutthal endrum periyavar kadane, anbaal
azhaltharung kadavul annaai! mudivu itharkku aruluga!” enna
thazaithu vandu imirum thann thaath dasarathan enbaan,
kazal – thugal kathuva, intha kal uruvath tavirthi “

As Ahalya fell, she asks thus of her husband : its the duty of great souls, to forgive, you became like the lord who burnt with his third eye and by his smile ( reference to the tripurantaka panel !!), now do tell me how this curse will end. To which Gomathi rishi, says, you will stay thus till the one with the radiant garland comes, he Dasaratha Rama will resurrect you, when the dust of his blessed feet fall on you, your stone form will go, and you will become yourself again.

Was this Kamban’s extrapolation or was the legend prevalent much before? Thanks to Harikrishnan sir’s post ( please see the link below)

Rama – Sangam ref

We note a beautiful reference to the curse clearly mentioning that she was turned to stone from the Sangam work Paripadal. Regarding dates of the Sangam works see this link

Paripadal period

Verse 19 of paripAdal, by nappaNNanAr is on Lord Murugan and describes the pilgrimage of devotees from Madurai to that ancient shrine, Thirupparam-kundram. The poet goes on to describe the various activities of the devotees on the way to the temple. A few devotees get into an art gallery on the way and gather around different paintings displayed there and discuss spiritedly among themselves, about what is portrayed in the paintings. A particular painting has the image of a cat, a woman, a sage in rage and a rock. The devotees comment, ‘indhiran pUsai’ ;This cat is Indra. ‘ivaL agaligai,’ This is Ahalyä. ‘ivan sendra kavudhaman,’ This sage is Gautama, who was away (at that time). ‘sinan uRa, kal uru ondriya padi idhu,’ And this rock is (nothing but) Ahalyä transformed by the curse of the sage. This painting shows how she was transformed into a rock


Now, back to our sculptural panel. Its another miniature master piece for Pullamangai, you can clearly see the three main players in the panel. From left to right ( of the panel) – Lakshmana, Rama and Ahalya.


Now comes the clincher – in the panel is Rama’s right foot and we are going to see it in mighty closeup after we read this superb composition from Kamban.
mai vannathu arakki poril, mazhai vannathu annale! un
kai vannam anguk kanden, kaal vannam inguk kanden.”

oh, cloud colored one, i saw your hands work when you fought the black ( eye liner) colored demoness, but here i see you foot work !!

This is a clear pointer that Ahalya was resurrected when Rama’s toe hit the rock.

Lets get back to the panel.


The Pullamangai sculpture is part of the base stones of the Vimana and the latest date for this Vimana is 953 CE, and the portrayal clearly show the curse of Ahalya to turn to stone had taken firm root by then. Was valmiki unclear in the actual wording of the curse, did he mean that she be turned to stone as well. But one thing is clear, that she was turned to stone was part of tamil folkore as early as in the late sangam period as evidenced by the Paripadal verse.

Before we end, the last verse of Kamban – talks of Rama’s hand work. What event does that depict and is there a sculpture for that in pullamangai as well? We should see shortly.

Souls in Stone

Update : Listen to the talk online

Souls in Stone talk on Youtube

Friends, i will be giving a talk on signature sculptures of Pallavas and Cholas on 22nd June in Coimbatore. It would be a great opportunity to meet enthusiasts and discuss the beauties on show.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010
6:00pm – 8:00pm
Sri Sharadampal Temple hall Sharadalayam Race Course Coimbatore- 641 018


The Vanavarayar Foundation (TVF) invites you for a lecture on the amazing sculpture traditions and Craft of Tamilnadu and Dakshin Bharat. The talk ‘Souls in Stone’ will be delivered by Sri.Vijay kumar, a young and passionate enthusiast of the great sculptures of our land. He presently lives in Singapore and will be in Coimbatore to participate in World Tamil Conference. Vijay kumar has been taking immense interest into this subject and his blog ‘Poetry in Stone’ has become quite popular for its contemporary dimension and portrayal.
TVF has planned this event to bring exposure and awareness for the great monuments in India and the craftsmen who till date engage in this divine tradition.
For any more information do contact on – 97866 00190


Vijay Kumar is the founder of www.poetryinstone.in, an blog initiative, to highlight the beauty of sculpture and raise awareness. He runs the site with help from his team of enthusiasts in India and outside, eventually aiming to build an online database on sculpture. As an art appreciator, he specialises in Pallava and Chola history and art, with a special affection to Raja Raja chola. He is 36 years old and lives with his wife and son in Singapore, heading the projects team for a large Shipping company and devotes his freetime to reading, learning about sculpture, visiting heritage sites and meeting with experts. He documents his journey of learning on the site with insightful writing sans the technical jargon, aiming to impress and interest early readers.


The Vanavarayar Foundation is founded by the members of the Samathur Vanavarayar family. The Vanavarayar clan has played an important roles in the history and politics of our land for over a thousand years in various capacities under different dynasties in the past being a part of the heritage, culture and traditions of our land. The Foundation aims to work for the cause of preserving and portraying the Heritage and History of our land. In the near future the foundation plans to work in the following areas,
• The Foundation is working on a landmark project to bring out a Cyclopedia on the Coimbatore District
• Aims to set up a museum on Kongu History
• Organize various tours and trails related to religion, heritage and archeology
• Bring out publications related to art, architecture, heritage and history
• Work towards preserving or protecting heritage structures and sites
• Bring awareness on history, heritage and culture .

Contrapposto and the S curve – Parallels between Greek sculpture and a Chola Bronze

There is something ethereal about a Chola bronze that appeals to your senses and its very difficult to capture it on a photograph. Take this superb late Chola bronze 13th Century Skanda from Chennai Museum.

Prasad is one of the few artists who can bring out the beauty of a bronze in a sketch.

I have read many articles which talk of the Tribanga pose and its aesthetics, but is there more to it than just the triple flexion of the body around a central axis. Today we are to try and understand the inner working of this flexion, its evolution in Greek sculpture and if there are any parallels to it in the Indian bronze sculpting and if so – is it in the styling of these bronzes that make them so endearing to our senses. Watching this wonderful video on evolution of Greek sculpture, helped me realise how artists try and constantly innovate the form and proportion to showcase their creations better.

Greek Sculpture – Evolution

We have had this discussion many times within our friends, especially with Arvind, when we were studying the evolution of the Ardhanari form – the flexion of the leg, we summarised then was maybe partly to offset the male /female portions.

Tracing the refinement of the Ardhanari image

But today after seeing the video made me rethink the theory. For the bronze Skanda is not a composite form like ardhanari, but the flexion and exaggerated twist do add to its aesthetic appeal. Art and art forms evolve, the artist learn from themselves and the works of great masters who worked before them. Greek art, especially their marble sculptures are the pinnacle of sculpting. Thanks to Google and wiki, will try and present how their art evolved and its relevance to the Chola bronze’s styling.


A kouros is the modern term given to those representations of male youths which first appear in the Archaic period in Greece. (The archaic period in Greece -800 BCE – 480 BCE, is a period of Ancient Greek history. The term originated in the 18th century and has been standard since. This term arose from the study of Greek art, where it refers to styles mainly of surface decoration and sculpture, falling in time between Geometric Art and the art of Classical Greece

The characteristics of the sculptures of this period are :

* Frontal pose with no torsion of the body. Head erect, eyes front, face flat, head square, waist narrow, muscles squarish and poorly delineated.
* Left foot advanced with no corresponding hip displacement. This characteristically rigid frontal striding pose is reminiscent of statues of Egyptian pharaohs.
* Arms hanging straight at sides fingers curved, thumb foremost, although a few show one arm extended forward from the elbow, holding an offering.

Kritious Boy

The marble Kritios boy or Kritian Boy belongs to the Early Classical period of ancient Greek sculpture. It is a precursor to the later classical sculptures of athletes. The Kritian boy is thus named because it is attributed on slender evidence to Kritios who worked together with Nesiotes (sculptures of Harmodius and Aristogeiton) or their school, from around 480 BC. The statue is considerably smaller than life-size at 1.17 m (3 ft 10 ins).

With the Kritios Boy (ephebos) the Greek artist has mastered a complete understanding of how the different parts of the body act as a system. The statue supports the body’s weight on the left leg, while the right one is bent at the knee in a relaxing state. This stance, known as contrapposto, forces a chain of anatomical events: as the pelvis is pushed diagonally upwards on the left side, the right buttock relaxes, the spine acquires an “S” curve, and the shoulder line dips on the left to counteract the action of the pelvis


Contrapposto is an Italian term used in the visual arts to describe a human figure standing with most of its weight on one foot so that its shoulders and arms twist off-axis from the hips and legs. This gives the figure a more dynamic, or alternatively relaxed appearance. It can also encompass the tension as a figure changes from resting on a given leg to walking or running upon it (so-called ponderation)


The Doryphoros “Spear-Bearer”,is one of the best known Greek sculptures of the classical era in Western Art and an early example of Greek classical contrapposto. The lost bronze original would have been made at approximately 450-40 BC.

The Greek sculptor Polykleitos designed a work, perhaps this one, as an example of the “canon” or “rule”, showing the perfectly harmonious and balanced proportions of the human body in the sculpted form. A solid-built athlete with muscular features carries a spear balanced on his left shoulder. In the surviving Roman marble copies, a marble tree stump is added to support the weight of the marble. A characteristic of Polykleitos’ Doryphoros is the classical contrapposto in the pelvis; the figure’s stance is such that one leg seems to be in movement while he is standing on the other.

The S curve

The S Curve is a traditional art concept in Ancient Greek sculpture and Roman sculpture where the figure’s body and posture is depicted like a sinuous or serpentine “S”. It is related to and is an extension of the art term of contrapposto which is when a figure is depicted slouching or placing one’s weight and thus center of gravity to one side. However, the S Curve involves more of the body than the contrapposto, and is therefore considered to be a more advanced technical development.

Aphrodite of Milos, better known as the Venus de Milo, is an ancient Greek statue and one of the most famous works of ancient Greek sculpture. Created at some time between 130 and 100 BC, it is believed to depict Aphrodite (Venus to the Romans) the Greek goddess of love and beauty. It is a marble sculpture, slightly larger than life size at 203 cm (6 ft 8 in) high. Its arms and original plinth have been lost. From an inscription that was on its plinth, it is thought to be the work of Alexandros of Antioch.

Now, we return the Chola Bronze, to see if any of the above techniques are evidenced in the art and if so which one and most importantly did it assist in adding to its beauty.

I found some interesting articles on the same with some fantastic photos to illustrate the axis, the rhythm and how the flow of the body is deliberately altered to create the effects described above. I tried to reflect the same study in our bronze with some surprising results.


The diagrams of the movement and flow in the Greek sculpture so closely resemble the Chola bronze.

The rear view of bronze shows the exaggerated `S’ so talked off above to move in conjunction with the Contrapposto.

Would be interesting to hear your views and to dwell more into this. Really fascinating confluence of art.

Images Courtesy: Wiki, internet. sketches and Bronze are of Prasad.