A miniature mirrors a Bronze – Gangaikonda Cholapuram

It was a very rainy day when we reached Gangai Konda Cholapuram. Fortunately the rain stopped giving us a brief window to complete our tasks on the outside. The rain swept temple gleaned in all her pristine glory as we entered her.

As usual we were subjected to some rants by the ‘ authorities’ on cameras and photography, and we put forward the same arguments that any ASI site – Photography is allowed and free of charge – except for the Sanctum. ( providing of course you cannot use a tripod – some weird logic of ASI !). We wanted to cover a few miniatures inside the main Vimana but the arguments got us nowhere. We faced the prospect of one more unsuccessful attempt to cover them, when we were shocked to see that there was a big family function happening inside with full videography ! We threatened to bring hell and after much persuasion and promise that we would not shoot the main Sanctum, managed to get our equipment out.

The power went off right on cue just as we took in the sight of the gargantuan door guardians guarding the main sanctum.

How massive are these guys?

do you notice a small black speck in the photo towards the base??

Yeah, its the Cannon lens cover

As we walked past the dynamic duo to the next chamber, a very dimly lit wall showcased a brilliant miniature, quite in contrast to the massiveness of the occupants of the other side.

Sadly, we were clicking blind due to the power outage and the most important area of the relief was missed out. But still we could make out the panel. Apart from a whole host of distinguished rishis, we could spot Brahma officiating a ceremonial gathering.

And on top, was the marriage of the divine parents – Shiva as Kalyanasundara taking the hand of Meenakshi, with Lakshmi and Vishnu giving her away on both sides.

The immediate reaction was the recollection of the splendid Kalyanasundara Bronze which we saw earlier. .

The resemblance is remarkable

The stance and posture of Lakshmi

Vishnu seems to be little more bent forward than the bronze

But the clincher were the shy stance of Meenakshi

and the kati Vasta of Vishnu ( if you notice the way the waist cloth is worn by Vishnu – you see a characteristic U ), which is absent for Shiva.

We saw this in the previous post,

Compare the depiction in the bronze

Two different mediums, each with its complexities – the miniature with its size, yet the sculptor adheres to his Canons !

In search of Angada – no not the Vaanara Prince

God knows when mankind’s obsession with ornaments began. From cowry shells to pottery beads to Palm lead ear rings, there has been quite a steady progression, till the yellow metal with its gem stone companions decided to up the ante. After that there was no looking back but today we are going back in time, when Rulers donated elephant loads of Gold and not stopping at seeing how their lockers would look like, we are going to look at how they dressed up their Gods. Why this sudden obsession you may ask, the objective is to seek out a rare ornament, a reclusive jewel, that shares its name with the famous Prince of Kishkindha – Angad.

We are aided in our search by two magnificent Chola bronzes – both from Newyork – one from the Metropolitan Museum and the other from the Brooklyn Museum.

Both are dated around the 10th C CE, we have Shiva as Chandrasekara and Vishnu – both are in Samabanga ( straight profile) with their characteristic attributes in their upper hands ie. Shiva his Axe and Deer while Vishnu has his Discus and Conch.

The Brooklyn Museum has a interesting account of how it sourced this fantastic bronze ( thanks to the link for the photo credits)

We will start with the Vishnu from the Met first.

The crown – Krita is exquisite and there is a small band that goes just at its base – this is called the Pattika. Depending on the kind of embellishments that go on it – it can be called a Rathna Pattika etc.

Being a Chola bronze, assigned to the 10th C CE ( 970 CE – am not sure how such a sure date can be assigned), the sacred thread falls in a pretty straight forward manner over the chest to the waist ( compare with the early Vishnu Bronzes post where the thread goes over the right forearm – called the niveeta manner of wearing it )

Then comes the characteristic stomach band – not essentially a belt to hold the lower garment but more like fashion accessory worn just around the floating rib – the Udara Bandana,. ( btw, the belt is called the Kati Bandana)

We cross over to the hands to see if we can spot the elusive ornament. This arm band is called the Keyura.

Thanks to Rajesh & karthik’s excellent illustrations on their site Aakruti , we have access to some wonderful Iconographic illustrations to help us understand them better.

The things to note are the belt buckle – the Simha Mukha and the lose stylishly flowing U shaped lower garment is the Kati Vastra.

Notice the right hand held in the protective Abhaya Hasta

The left hand hangs loosely and rests on the left hip in a stylish mudra – called the Katyavalambita pose with the hand resting as the Kati Hasta.

Still no sign of the Angada?

Let us see if we can spot it in the Chandrasekara Bronze.

The right hand is held in the Abhaya Hasta as in the Vishnu bronze but the left hand is different.

There are two very similar poses, the Kataka hasta and the Simha karna Hasta.

There is not much between the two, except for a slight extension on the middle finger in the Simha Karna. The Kataka Hasta however, is normally seen in bronze figurines of Goddesses, usually to hold a flower ( fresh flowers inserted in the hands of the deity). So, when we analyse the posture, we do spot the slight extension on the middle finger, we could possibly identify as Simha Karna. ( Sri Gopinath Rao in Elements of Hindu Iconography kind of uses both almost interchangeably – need to refer more works to differentiate / define)

Now for our elusive Angada – its a arm ornament, but we did not spot any so far. Well, its because it is well hidden. We actually need to go behind to notice it.

Do you spot it – yes, its the Angada. An upper arm ornament !

Picture courtesy: Aaakruti, Brooklyn Museum and the Metropolitan Museum.