An Unique Pala Bronze – in Melaikkadambur – Part 1

Today we are going to see a very rare and unique bronze from a spectacular temple. Kadambur brings back fond memories to all History buffs ( to be read as fans of Sri Kalki’s Ponniyin Selvan). We visited Melaikkadambur an year ago !

It was the first day of our tour and we were pushing ourselves to complete this splendid temple before heading for our night halt at Chidambaram ( 30 kms away). It was already dark by the time we reached its gates and the dark clouds were threatening to open up anytime. The temple was getting ready for Prathosham the next day.

But then, i can see you asking, why it took a year to feature the same !

Two reasons – one, Sri Raja Deekshithar had done such a superlative task of documenting this temple, that i was corresponding with him to feature the same here. Unfortunately, fate intervened and the great soul left us. We are working on translating his post and featuring it here shortly. Second reason, was this bronze. He would be taken out only for Prathosha Pooja and despite all our pleadings, all we could get was a photo of the same from the temple board !

However, thanks to the net, managed to track down Sri Vijay the Managing Trustee of the temple via his site
Kadambur Temple
Regarding the origins of this temple check out

Kadambur Temple Puranam in illustrations

For starters, the temple is Amrithakadeshwarar Temple or Melaikkadambur temple. The current structure is assigned to the reign of Kulottunga Chola I (1075 -1120 C.E.). Regarding its architecture and sculptures, we will wait to feature the post of Sri Raja Deekshitar, and proceed to view the wonderful and Unique bronze first up.

This magnificent bronze is called Dasa Buja ( ten handed) Rishaba ( bull or on the bull) thandava murthy ( dancer!)

Lets take a closer look at the beauty.

The striking feature of this bronze is the high pedestal, with straight line edges and the characteristic plate fixed behind as the aureole with the flames emanating out.

Eminent scholar Sri Nagasamy writes thus about this bronze, ” The temple also houses several processional images of exquisite beauty, consecrated in the time of Kulottunga chola. The collection also includes one metal image of Siva dancing on the back of Nandi and surrounded by Ganesa, Subrahmanya, Bringi, Nandi, Bhairava and ganas. This particular image is from Bengal made in the time of the Pala rulers who were contemporaries of the Cholas of Tamilnad. This metal image belongs to 9th – 10th cent. It might have been brought by the Rajaguru of Kulottunga who hailed from Bengal. It is one of the finest and early bronze image of the Pala dynasty but found in Tamilnad. It also establishes a close link between Bengal and Chidambaram in the Chola times.”

Kadambur Temple Dr RN article

Lets compare this bronze with a Pala Bronze Buddha from the Metropolitan Museum Nyc.

You can see the resemblances as far as the pedestal and aureole go. Lets step in closer and analyse the features.

What clearly strikes you as the non local nature of this bronze is the Urdhva Linga of this bronze. We do not find this feature in South Indian bronzes.

Mr Vijay also accommodated our request to study this bronze is closer detail and without the back plate.

The style and grace of this bronze is evident in the way he is shown dancing. The attachment of the arms at the shoulders rather than at the elbow ( as we see in most early chola bronzes and even earlier Pallava bronzes) . You can study this aspect more clearly below.

There are a profusion of attendants and Gods on the aureole and on the Pedestal, whom we will see in Part 2 of this post.

22 thoughts on “An Unique Pala Bronze – in Melaikkadambur – Part 1

  1. Amazing bronze. It is interesting to note that there was a Rajaguru of Kulottunga, hailing from Bengal. Just for curiosity, is there a Tamil speaking Bengali settlement anywhere in Tamilnadu. At the Amer Fort (Jaipur) there is a temple dedicated to Shiladevi (Durga) and traditionally the priests are Bengalis. There is a large settlement of Bengalis around the Fort.

  2. அற்புதமான சிலை. கண்களை அகற்றவே இயலவில்லை.
    மிக்க நன்றி

  3. wow!! wonderful statue! Different style. Eventhough not to the level of our Cholas, this has a unique style and interesting features 🙂 Bravo for the post, Vj 🙂

  4. அழகுச் சிலை, தனித்துவமான வடிவமைப்பு, தச புஜங்கள் – கண்ணால் பார்த்திராத ஒன்றை கற்பனை கொண்டே வடிவமைத்த திறமை கொண்ட சிற்பிக்கு வந்தனம்.

    சோழர் காலத்திற்கே முற்பட்ட சிற்பமா! நம்ப முடியவில்லை…

    இந்தச் சிற்பத்தின் உயரம் என்ன இருக்கும்?

  5. >>இது குலோத்துங்கனின் ராஜ குரு கொண்டு வந்ததாக இருக்கலாம். அவர் வங்க தேசத்தில் இருந்த வந்தவர். இது தமிழ் நாட்டில் கிடைத்த மிகவும் பழமையான பால கலை சிற்பம். சிதம்பரத்துக்கும் வங்க தேசத்திற்கும் இருந்த நெருங்கிய தொடர்பை இது காட்டுகிறது<<

    Vijay! His name (Guru) is AGHORA SIVACHARI. A brilliant teacher who knows not only Vedas, also fighting skills and Dhevarams. He hails from Gowda Desa(Bengal). I have personally some craze on him and brings him in my novels too.

    Dasa Bhujanga looks marvelous.

  6. had an oppurtunity to see the the bronnze in 1993 nice to see another bronze for comparision hope to see beautiful again to refresh my memory good work my blessings to u

  7. Thanks for showing so many angles. I just sent him the text from SRM’s NATARAJA book about quite similar one, but 12armed, in Dhaka.

  8. Dear Sekhar

    The one in Darasuram is eight armed Bairavar
    Eight armed standing nude figure, wearing a garland of skulls. A big snake coils around the thighs; round ball-like eyes, protruding teeth, flame like hairs; holding a trident, parasu, sword and noose in the right arm; and with left, fire, kapala, khatvanga and bell. Behind the figure is shown an imperfectly carved hound.


  9. The best Pala Bronzes I’ve seen in photos were from Kurkihar, Bihar. Are they sure it wasn’t from around there?

  10. wonderful!! I am from Bengal and am a student of history of art. But I didnt know about this broze sculpture which relates us so closely to south India. This is a marvellous sculpture. Thank you

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