Recreating a lost treasure – Somaskanda Paintings of Kanchi Kailasanatha – Part 1

The lure of the recreating the lost treasures of Rajasimha’s famed paintings has been on my drawing board for long. Having experienced the sheer ecstasy of seeing the fragments of brilliance that are still remaining, my heart wept with a strange mixture of joy and sorrow. Joy at knowing that the pinnacle of artistic talent that my land had 1300 years ago, that he could still take my breath away – albeit only in traces, the grace of his lines, the versatility of his palette, the excellence of form , stumped me. Sorrow at the realisation, that having survived for so long, the day that these would not be there anymore to inspire and impress a future generation, was not far away.

Modern photography techniques and the net, could help me to a certain extent, to at least capture these for posterity, but then there was always a niggle, a silent wish to be able to see these beauties in their original finery. My imagination helped in painting them in my mind, but to be able to transfer this onto the physical plane, needed greater acumen. My early attempts are tracing them, using manual tracing paper and online trace software, proved that this was not a task for technologically empowered, but for someone who had it in the genes.

Call it luck and chance, or maybe an inner desire of these beauties to be recast and re adored – a causal visit to a Art exhibition, of friends from Facebook, led to an introduction to none other than the clan of Sri Maniam. yes, the master who illustrated Kalki’s immortal works,Immortal works , whose Son Sri Maniam Selvan has continued in his tradition, – his works ,but it was not he, but the granddaughters of the great man. The fertile minds of the master has indeed spawned a second generation of divine artists ! So, i did get to meet Mrs. Subhashini Balasubramanian . We talked about Kalki, his works and obviously about art. Being the greedy guy that I am, I immediately sought her help on the long standing wish, and she readily agreed. We decided to start with the Somaskanda Panels of Kanchi Kailasanthar temple.

The task was not easy, but we didn’t know that fate and destiny had in store for us. The paintings are in really bad state and we had to form a collage of about 4 different works, to compare and pick out missing details. Unfortunately, despite my claims of having a large database, i could not get decent quality / resolution of these paintings. A frenetic search with friends and well wishers didn’t yield the desired results either.

We had to work with what we had in hand, putting together the bits and pieces. Just as i was loosing heart,I got the first cut from Subhasini…

I was clean bowled by the clarity in the work and the inherent beauty in the form. Clearly, the genes have gotten to work and I knew that my objective was not a distant dream but a definite reality. We were working for a week on the details, but the problem of obtaining high resolution photos for closer study loomed large. Just then, a mail arrives from a school boy. He had chatted with me sometime in May through sculpture chat on the site, …he was from vellore and was waiting for his ICSE X std results. The mail reads

“You are invited to view prithviraj’s photo album: kanc
Hello anna! Do you remember me? Am Rajakesari. I would like to share some photographs i took in Kanchipuram with u. I would be happy if these photos will be useful to you.”

And inside we see the exact photos which we wanted, the exact angles and he sent me the high resolution images as well. What a coincidence !! I can see you asking me, why all this about high resolution images, well you will understand as we see the recreation process.

Here is our Hero, Jagadesh, studying 11th Std now in Vellore.

The art of the Pallavas, so superbly nurtured by Rajasimha Pallava, finds release through the lens of a 11std Boy today and feeds our aspirations to recreate them.




The need for high resolution images, comes to the fore as we explore the numerous highlights and new motiffs and features come to the fore. This Gana and lady attendant are spotted.

We try and experiment with Lion motifs for the legs of the throne – like the ones we saw in the Mallai Mahishasuramardhini Mandabam

To come up with the next versions of the sketch.

Its shaping up quite well, but you have to wait for the next part of this post to see more !!

23 thoughts on “Recreating a lost treasure – Somaskanda Paintings of Kanchi Kailasanatha – Part 1

  1. மிக அற்புதம்!!! இப்பதிவின் தொடர்ச்சியைக் காண ஆவலுடன் காத்திருக்கிறோம்!

  2. thank you all for the great attempt to restore the ancient heritage of us. I expect that you will colour the whole as its original.

  3. சிலர் உதவுவதற்காக பிறக்கின்றார்கள். தக்க நேரத்தில் புகைப்படம் தந்து எங்களுக்கும், அடுத்த தலைமுறைக்கும் ஓவியங்களை கொண்டு செல்ல உதவியது. ஈசனின் சித்தமாக தெரிகிறது.

    ஈசன் உடனிருப்பான் நண்பரே!

  4. எனக்கு இப்போதே அழகுடன் இருக்கும் முழுமையான படம் எப்படி இருக்கும் என கற்பனை செய்ய தோன்றுகிறது. சீக்கிரம் இடுங்கள்.

  5. Thank you very much for your comments. Actually the credit goes to Mr Vijay for being able to provde all the necessary images and to give exact references for the lost part. I have learnt a lot through this effort.

    And definitely should thank Jagadesh for sending the hi res images at the right time.

  6. Good effort by Vijay and Subashini.

    Vijay, have you seen the stone carvings in the sanctum behind the Lingam in Thirukazhunkuntram Hill temple. If I remember correctly Somaskanthar as as Arthanari, Inthiran Vishnu and some more. Dont exactly remember. They are all huge cave carvings.

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