It has been an extraordinary journey for me and must thank all those who have stood by me and traveled along with me on this incredible odyssey. Yes, we are coming up with the 250th post today. They are all in my hearts and though i mention only one today – each and everyone of them is dear to the cause. Sri Maravanpulavu K. Sachithananthan is the force behind the effort to see the Thevaram verses translated into so many languages via his site and many a times, have used his search engine to pickup verses to compliment posting here. So it was my honor to ask him to pen a few words about the spectacular event which is captured in the Bronze sculpture we are to see today.
In the previous post, we saw the churning of the Milk ocean. Such a massive operation akin to today’s multi billion dollar projects would not have gone without hindrances. One such instance was as the intensity of churning increased, the mountain going round back and forth, the Devas signifying all that is good pulling it on one side and the Asuras or demons pulling from the side of the bad. Though the mind yearns for oneness with God, the mortal pleasures pull you back into their midst. The mind never rests in peace permanently, as it is under the control of the senses and ego. We learn from a mistake and even before we repent, the next desire seems to engulf us. Such is the state of our lives as we swing from good and bad.
This is brilliantly captured in the Verses of Sri Abirami Battar in verse 7 of Abhirami Andadhi
Ruling my life, you always have,
Churn it like curd,
Birth after birth,
In miseries great,
And take me to salvation great,
This could be a divine game as well and the interplay gets repeated many a time. So too in the churning episode, instead of the immortal life giving portion, out came the deadliest venom, threatening to end all the worlds. So what does Shiva do ?
Lets look at this rare and magnificent bronze currently in the Chennai Museum. Its that of Vishapaharana and is stylistically dated to the 9th Century – Pallava change over phase to Chola.
We had earlier seen the Pallava Somaskanda bronze of a bronze that is dated older to this current one. we shall see as to why this is considered a later work.
The expression on the face of Siva is what makes this bronze such a beauty.
The contemplation on his face replaces the usual bliss and joy, as he is evaluating his next action. the third eye is clearly seen.
The formation of an almost conical head dress or jatamakuta gets this bronze a slightly later date than the somaskanda as do several other features. The Dathura flower and moon are present, as well as a new stylistic ornament – a king of multipronged lance in the center of the headdress is seen for the first time.
The Torso is delicately modeled with the slight curves of waist aesthetically captured. The yagnopavitha is beautifully knotted in the front and splits into three with one prominently passing over the right arm ( as per some scholars a definitive Pallava feature)
The Udrabanda is embellished with simple repeating motifs.
The upper part of arms is fashioned more like thick tubes and when compared to the lower part – which is splendidly crafted, shows the early nature where the craftsmen is battling the problem of multiple arms.
However, the lower part of the arms are exceptionally crafted and the arm bands ( keyuras) are matched to the crest jewel. We saw the rather plan looking ornaments of the Okkur Nataraja earlier. Compare that to this,
The two upper arms hold the Axe and the Deer respectively and see how the Axe is now held in the palm rather than with just the two fingers earlier.
The deer is quite a darling, clasping its front legs to pray to its Lord – is it asking him not to do the act that he is contemplating or knowing what he is about to do, praying to him for that ?
The artist has shown his masterly understanding of form, of skin, cloth, supple muscle with tender skin, its folds in the waist and legs. The right leg extended downwards is quite a masterly study.
We see a intricately carved ukramuka belt clasp with the edges of his dress flowing out of it. The image itself must have been cast for use as a processional deity,as you can see the strong base and attachments on the side to secure for ease of lifting.
The flowing tresses of Shiva fall beautifully over his shoulders and he has stylistically anointed himself with two flower on each.
The brilliance of the styling of the hair is seen more splendidly as we swing to the other side of the bronze.
Once again, the appearance of the Siras chakra – a later feature helps the craftsmen to ply the locks into a magical spread. He even make one lock of hair flow over the clasp of the neck chain.
They continue right up to his shoulder, beautifully curling up.
All that apart the most vital aspect of this bronze is shown in the two lower hands.
The left hand is holding a magnificent Cobra which has his huge hood open and is looking up at him.
Maybe signifying the potent nature of the poison which he is holding on the right hand.
The gravity of the situation warrants the serene calm of the whole composition.
He is ready to swallow the bitter poison for the good of all. He is Shiva as Vishapaharana. The blue poison is passing through his neck, coloring his tonsils. The Thevaram Hymns abound in the references to his blue colored neck.
What happened next, we will see in the next post.
Our salutations to the team behind the effort and do show your support for such noble efforts of Sri Maravanpulavu.