Prasad is no new comer to us, we have seen his gifted art in our pages many times. But today he takes on a new avatar and coinciding with Janmastami – the birthday of Krishna, he teams up with Ashok, who has been kind enough to share his wonderful pictures of an amazing Bronze, to create a post on the famed Kalinga Nardhana of Oothukadu.
There is no introduction required to the immense and sublime brilliance of Chola artisans of the tamil country. Fully knowing that words cannot capture the essence of my experience, I shall try to lead the readers towards having this divine experience themselves. I shall today humbly attempt to describe, share and perhaps motivate some of you to enjoy this immense wealth even more keenly. I begin with an invocation to the almighty and pray to him to bestow upon me the power to describe what I feel as something that can be better experienced than described.
Today we shall see a sculpture of kalinga Mardhana Krishna, an epic dance to subdue a snakes arrogance captured most exceptionally in metal.
Let us look at the sculpture first as a whole, he is represented as performing his divine dance atop the head of Kalinga, evidently teaching a lesson to the monstrous snake about humility and at the same time showing to the world who he really is. The chola artist are masters in capturing action, its force and also encapsulating a story into it. They are so good at it that one look at the sculpture and the ensuing sequence of actions is completely captured in minds eye.
So let us follow an aarthi starting at the sculptures right foot., only in the opposite direction in which an aarthi it is generally performed. Let us start appreciating the mastery of the sculptures by looking at it not just as a static pose. It is actually a part of the sequence of actions and the perhaps captures the force of the moment most magnificently.
Observe the raised foot, can you now visualize how the foot will land on the head of the snake in a few seconds? Can you feel the immense pressure that step is going to exert, not a death blow but something that will send strong message to the arrogant snake.
Perhaps this is how it might land on the snakes head.
Let us now observe the left hand, grasping the tail of the snake ever slow elegantly. Please try to imagine how your hand will be when you are trying to hold something heavy (wriggling uncontrollably) at shoulder height, Imagine how stiff and strained the muscles will be, imagine the discomfort, but what do we see here?
A bent hand, holding the tail of the snake as if it were a piece of silk, can you now vizualize that this very posture indicates child’s play. To him this snake is no big deal, all he needs to do is hold this giant snake’s tail like a small piece of cloth. However, when you see the whole composition in context, you will understand the complexity of depiction vs actual modelling dynamics.
Next we observe the face. The bewitching smile indicates that he is not intending to hurt the snake nor does it show an ounce of arrogance, anger, strain or pride, all it radiates is pure child like glee. Also observe that he is not looking at the snake nor is he looking at anything specific, his gaze spans the whole universe. His face is slightly bent, here again we need to visualize the force or the grace of his dance. His head sways gently behind before he stamps his foot again on the head of the snake.
How the classical dancer’s body moves, the slight sway of the head.
Finally let us rest our eyes upon his abhaya hasta. It is often said that the eye sees what it wants to see. To his cowherd friends it conveys the message not to worry and that he is in control. To the innumerable saints and gods it tells them that he is there to protect. To the arrogant snake and those who seek to destroy peace and harmony it shows a sign of warning! (ready to slap them). To the family of the snake it shows that he has heard their pleas and granted mercy. And thousand more meaning that I am unable to elaborate simply because my language inhibits me.
The dynamics of this unique bronze upon closer scrutiny lends upon the viewer the fact that there is small gap between his left feet and the head of the snake – so the entire weight of Krishna is on the hand holding the tail – a lasting memory of the bronze craftsmen and his amazing craft.
I now complete this post with a faith that I have been able to express what I experienced when I saw this sculpture. Also I wish to take the liberty to put forward a honest plea to the readers. Our heritage is EXTREMELY precious, to have survived the innumerable invasions, greed of men and the force of nature by itself is a miracle. I urge all the readers to henceforth make a determined effort to look at the idols in altogether new angle. Each sculpture has so many things to reveal, each sculpture is abound with energy, pain, toil and passion of the ancient sculptors. To preserve them is not only our responsibility but our sacred duty.
Please appreciate these timeless marvels. Always remember that it is not a gift by your ancestors but a loan given to you by your children. We need to give it back to the future generations with accrued interest. 🙂
Special thanks to Mr Ashok and Ms.Neeraja Srinivasan ( Dancer) for allowing us the use of the photos.
As a special gift Ashok share this.
All the views above are purely based on intuitive feeling of the writer and may or may not agree upon with scientific and actual meaning according to shilpa shastra. The writer apologizes for any mistakes in the content and wishes to declare that they are solely his views and have been caused due to ignorance. Many thanks to Vijay for the providing an opportunity to express my views and a big round of applause for his commendable efforts to bring forth our rich heritage. May this initiative snowball into a big revolution. Vanakam.