An amazing early Chola Miniature – Punjai

It is not often you get a chance to witness an early Chola gem in its pristine form – throw in a few miniatures and your trip is made. Such is their allure that quite often, much like school children making a dash for the candy man – we do a dash – as soon as we are through the main entrance doors, we run around to the side to see if there are any of these ( left !). Imagine our glee as we rushed into Punjai with similar anticipation.

The panels in the base are easier to spot as they have a clear boundary and also depict scenes from the epics – however, there are good chances that a few miniatures on these odd pillars are missed to be spotted.

As any accomplished artist or art critic – the most difficult forms to depict are forms that depict action – movement. Imagine the skill that is required to depict dance and music – in stone, in relief?

The artist manages to use every inch of space to suggest the mood – these ganas are not much bigger than a nail head and yet you can sense the feel of gaiety – of their gay exuberance.

The beauty of this depiction is in the grace of form and complexity of pose.

Thanks to acclaimed artist Muralidharan alagar for masterfully sketching this miniature so that we can fully appreciate its grace.

The class of the sculptor is revealed in how the weight of the drum pulls on the players neck via a sling and how she balances it on his thigh ! and to do so at this miniscule scale is mind blowing.

Coming to the dancer – imagine having to depict a dancer, but not a frontal pose but depict her from behind ! To show the folds of her garments, the ornamentation and to do it in stone that is less than the width of a car key..

A true masterclass miniature from the early half of the 10th Century dancing for a thousand years and still managing to hold its grace !

8 thoughts on “An amazing early Chola Miniature – Punjai

  1. Anna, Isnt the dancer similar to that of the dancer of Tanjore santharanazhi (circumambulatory passage) panels? Is Punjai pre-Rajaraja, or post-Rajaraja?

    Expecting ur answers,

  2. hi Jagadeesh, Similar yes but there seems to be marked difference ( improvement) in the dance post depicted in the Big temple fresco – plus a very different hair style etc. Punjai is atleast 50 years prior to the Big temple.


  3. Dear sir
    A superb article with drawings.
    I request you to elaborte a few words about the exact location (i.e. where it is?, near by town,km from the main town etc) in all your articles. For the past one week i am reading the articles (in Tamil) of your site in which i found that the elaborate location details about the site is missing in every articles. The article simply says the site/village name only.
    If you are giving elaborate details about the location will help us to visit the place.

    With regards


    • Dear Lakshmikanthan , today with Google you must be able to find the locales pretty easy with simple searches – we are working on gps tagging of our sites – hopefully we can get it up shortly. thanks for the comments. rgds vj

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