The soft embrace of a loving savior Vs the crushing grasp of an abductor!

Happy Deepavali Wishes to friends !! Trying to post on something associated with the basic theme on the origins of the festival. We head back to Mamallapuram, to our favorite relief Panel, to see Vishnu as Varaha, rescuing mother earth – the damsel in distress, rescuing her from the dark depth after slaying Hiranyaksha.

The subtle emotions depicted in this masterpiece of stone crafting – cut into hard granite, as a wall in a rock cut cave shrine, is a feast for our eyes. But then, a chance glance at another sculpture ( haven’t had the good fortune to travel to Rome – yet to marvel at these beauties, but hope someday i would get it – so these images are from the internet and credits given at the end of the post) – a marble masterpiece of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, which he fashioned even before he was 23 years of age, made me wonder. If only the Pallava sculptor had tried his hand at sculpting in marble. Why?? Read on.

The piece we are going to see today is the famed The Rape of Proserpina.

The scene depicted is very interesting indeed. The main characters are Pluto, Proserpina and below them Cerebrus !

You can read the full story on wiki, but jist is

” Venus, in order to bring love to Pluto, sent her son Amor also known as Cupid to hit Pluto with one of his arrows. Hmmmm, vaguely familiar story. Ok, we wont digress, Proserpina was in Sicily, at the Pergusa Lake near Enna, where she was playing with some nymphs and collecting flowers, when Pluto came out from the volcano Etna with four black horses named Orphnaeus, Aethon, Nycteus and Alastor. He abducted her in order to marry her and live with her in Inferi, the Roman Underworld, of which he was the ruler.

Her mother Ceres, the goddess of agriculture or of the Earth, went looking for her in vain to every corner of the earth, but wasn’t able to find anything but a small belt that was floating upon a little lake (made with the tears of the nymphs). In her desperation Ceres angrily stopped the growth of fruits and vegetables, bestowing a malediction on Sicily. Ceres refused to go back to Mount Olympus and started walking on the Earth, making a desert at every step.

Worried, Jupiter sent Mercury to order Pluto (Jupiter’s brother) to free Proserpina. Pluto obeyed, but before letting her go he made her eat six pomegranate seeds, because those who have eaten the food of the dead could not return to the world of the living. This meant that she would have to live six months of each year with him, and stay the rest with her mother. This story was undoubtedly meant to illustrate the changing of the seasons: when Ceres welcomes her daughter back in the spring the earth blossoms, and when Proserpina must be returned to her husband it withers.”

Now, this looks as very much a prelude scene to the Varaha. If the Pallava sculptor had sculpted Hiranyaksha taking Boomadevi, lets imagine so and see this beauty in marble.

From Pluto’s side, see the rippling muscles and masculine force

On the side of Proserpine, its all serpentine curves, the anguish and despair gushes through

Lets compare with Varaha. He holds her up majestically and seats her on his thigh , while she is gentleness personified.

Proserpina is pushing out at her abductor and trying to break free

Whereas, Devi is making eye contact with him.

The masterpiece of the young artist, she how he brings in the feel of flesh into stone. How the rough handling of an abductor – The Hands of Pluto on her

and how she pushes at him, the flesh on his face .

Compare the hands of Varaha on Devi, its almost a caress, a loving embrace of the right hand, while the left hand holds a steady yet soft grip on his leg.

You can see the anguish and the tears on the Face of Proserpine

Compare to the shyness in the face of Devi, as her right hand is almost moving to touch and feel the chest of her Lord ( notice the left hand is bent under her chin to complete the expression !!)

A thousand years split the two creations, both great masters – One whose praise is sung to this day and the other who chose to remain anonymous.

Want to end the post with these two once again.

Image and content credits :
Ashok and Shriram for Mallai.
Rest: ( if i have inadvertently missed out please let me know, will include)
Bernini's "Rape of Proserpine"!

18 thoughts on “The soft embrace of a loving savior Vs the crushing grasp of an abductor!

  1. 1. This the best Dipavali Gift to me. I greet Vijay & Group on this Happy Occasion.

    2. There are five types of incomparable Creations here. Non-pareil. They are:
    a. The Indian Sculpture. Perfect, Aesthetic & the Divine.
    b. The lovely and gracious marble Creations from far ashore, in Time & Location.
    c. Vijay & Group’s exquisite, understanding comparison – in detail & in concept.
    d. The Divinities
    e. The Greek Goddess & Company

    Vijay, There is this last,but, one pillar ito the right,facing in the Ramasami Temple Sannadhi in Kumbakonam. The Nayaka is pressing the breast of Nayika – in granite: as supple as in
    ‘CANT + CALL +THIS +STONE.’ Go and Grab it, if not already done.
    regards, Innamburan

  2. thanks manii

    Innamburan sir – I have it, and some more ` rated’ sculptures. But then feel audiences in India esp tamilnadu are yet to mature to these concepts. ilai maraiva kaai paraivaa thaan sollanum !!!


  3. The comparison is probably to the advantage of the Europeans, because of the difference between granite and marble, but even then, the Pallava artisan holds his own. But both are really breathtaking!

    Incidentally, the story of Pluto and Prosperine/Persephone is one of the first stories from Greek mythology that I ever read, and it’s always been one of my favourites.

    Thank you, Vijay!

    • Hi shash,

      Art transcends mediums, time, race, nationality. Marble is such a perfect medium for sculpting as compared to granite, but then……

      idea is to showcase both and not being biased towards something dear/near to the heart !!


  4. nice one, Shilpa shastras mention that the snout must be very close to Lakshmi, checking with the sense of smell that it is indeed lakshmi. How magnificent this would have looked when it was painted!

  5. Came across translation of Ovid’s Rape of Prosperina… the language is as tasteful as these stone sculptures

    “….. And here Proserpina was playfully picking its white lilies and violets, and, while competing to gather up more than her playmates, filling her basket and stuffing the rest in her bosom,
    Dis (Haides) saw her, was smitten, seized her and carried her off; his love was that hasty.
    The terrified goddess cried out for her mother, her playmates—but for her mother most often,
    since she had torn the uppermost seam of her garment, and the gathered flowers rained down from her negligent tunic;
    because of her tender years and her childish simplicity, even this loss could move her to maidenly sorrow.
    ‘Her abductor rushed off in his chariot, urging his horses, calling each one by its name and flicking the somber, rust-colored reins over their backs as they galloped through the deep lakes and the sulphurous pools of Palike
    that boil up through the ruptured earth,…”

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