Vriddachalam to Australia – Ardhanariswara’s murky details

There are some sculptures that imprint themselves into your memory – this androgyne was one such. From the moment i chanced on the picture of him/her i could never take my eyes of the beauty of this sculpture.

I had used it to show the refinement of the Ardhanari image post – little did I realise then that the beauty had been robbed !!

Readers must have read the post on the Sivapuram Somaskanda and it was with great interest that i read today’s Hindu article of the Australia Nataraja. Interestingly there was a mention of the site Chasing Aphrodite in the article as source for the images. One led to another and the detailed article and the Ardhanari begun to haunt me – vaguely familiar !!

It is quite interesting that the Museum records show the following proofs for its Provenance

Quote: Ardhanarishvara

In 2004, the Gallery purchased this Chola-period sculpture from Kapoor for more than $300,000. The 44-inch stone figure represents Ardhanarishvara, the androgynous form of Shiva and Parvati. It comes from Tamil Nadu, home to some 2500 important temples to Shiva. The image of Ardhanarishvara was likely in a niche on an external wall.

Kapoor provided two documents with the sculpture.

One is a receipt dated 1970, purportedly from Uttam Singh and Sons, the Delhi “copper and brass palace” that sold the sculpture to a private collector.

The second document purports to be a 2003 “Letter of Provenance” on letterhead from Art of the Past, Kapoor’s Madison Ave. gallery. It is signed by “Raj Mehgoub,” who claims to be the wife of a diplomat who lived in Delhi from 1968 to 1971.”

I ran back to my collections to trace the source of my reference.

Early Cola Architecture and Sculpture
; 866-1014 A.D.
Douglas E. Barrett – Published in 1974 !! intact in its Kosta in the temple !

and there in his plates is the same Kosta sculpture.

It is pretty clear even for a layman from the slab’s outline and the detailing in the sculpture as to the origin. I hope the authorities would be able to get their act together now and work towards bringing this invaluable treasure back to the Temple.

Treasures of Cham (vietnam) sculpture – part 2 – Ravana

Ever since i visited the Ho Chi Minh Museum and got bitten and smitten by the beauty of Cham art – the ruins of MySon ( in central vietnam) and the Danang Museum of Cham sculpture had steadily crept up to the top of the charts of my bucket list. The checkbox got ticked off recently and what a weekend it turned out to be.

Wanting to beat the heat and the tourists (!!) and hoping to catch the early rays of the Sun amidst the sacred valley of My Son – kept the alarm for 4.30 AM start ( stayed at Hoi An instead of Danang – which is closer to My Son) – Sadly being peak summer the sun was already up by the time we arrived at the beautifully manicured lawns of the newly opened site museum, just before the short drive up the hills. Vehicles are not allowed nearer to the ruins and a steady 5 min walk gets you the first look.

But you will have to wait a bit longer for a detailed post on MySon persay as i am still reading and classifying my images. However, as an interesting start I choose this fanstastic Tymphanum which sadly has been left on the floor of one of the standing towers of MySon – i think it will be moved shortly down to the site Museum. At first glance am not sure how many visitors would understand the panel ( no labels as well).

Yes, it is a very intricately carved Ravana Anugraha murthy – should be dated to the 10th C CE i think. Surprisingly there is not much literature available on this particular beauty. A chance search made available this reference though and what a reference it turned out to be

Champa and the Archaeology of Mỹ Sơn (Vietnam)

The label in the book reads as : Tympanum depicting Ravana shaking Mt. Kailash. Recovered at My Son. Present location unknown ( photograph Musee Guimet Archive, undated)

Thanks to our gifted artist Muralidharan – he agreed to sketch it for better study. Clearly the panel has suffered further damage with the lower torso of ravana completely damaged as it stands now !.

It is interesting to note that Ganesha is seen prominently along with Nandhi in the panel. Remember the one we discussed earlier from Cambodia also has Ganesha seated.

There are many unique things in this panel – one of course is the depiction of a Vimana / tower / temple – classically modeled. There is a large elephant below it and also what seems like a forest complete with animals inside caves.

The beauty of this panel is in the portryal of Ravana’s massive arms – interestingly they seem to be trying to juxtapose two different poses for his legs – thereby coming with three legs.

That Ravana is facing into the panel takes up the difficulty quotient and there is a tendency to compare it with the panel in Ellora

But the masterstroke here is how the sculptor has chosen to depict the heads of Ravana.

Is a stunning solution to a complex problem one which i feel even the master Pallava sculptors of Rajasimha Pallava could not conquer in the Mallai Olakkaneshwara Panel.

Hats off to the master sculptors of Cham for creating this dynamic beauty. Just as i was to complete the post, Murali sends across his completed sketch or should i say masterpiece ! Art lives on.

In search of the Snake Earring

It is always a thrill to match objects – we had such a thrill the last time we went in search of a ring. We continue on that path once again but this time is an ear ring ! Not any ordinary ear ring – but a snake earring !!

We had absolutely no clue of what it was when Raman Sir showed it to us. First question was if it were some amulet ! Even when he told us that it was an ear ring we were apprehensive. Even still when he told us that these were very much prevalent in Tamil Nadu right upto the 19th C we were not really sure. It looked too complex but then when we started comparing these with the modern day version of the heavy ( looks heavy but is mostly hollow – plated) earrings worn on dis intended earlobes by the village folk – could not but imagine at these the root word of the ear ring could be the same – Pambadam ( Paambu – snake) !

He proceeded to show us the same design in multiple materials – silver and copper.

Some googling helped us to land on this interesting article “Snake earrings of India” There the author had given a name to it – Nagavadura.

Further searches led us to sites assigned dates in the 19th C to the specimens.


Yet, despite multiple searches we have not been able to photograph of an actual person wearing this beautiful ornament. Raman sir made our task easier by letting us know that there exists a Paavai vilakku ( Deepa Lakshmi) in a popular temple with the same Ornament. So we had our antennas up when we visited the shrine and there she was. However, we couldn’t take obtain good photographs then.

Luckily our friend Mr. Veeren managed to source them thanks to mr. Vasanth Kathirvel (of Pondicherry.) – a big thank you to both of you. ( you will know why after seeing the photos next !!)

Such a masterly bronze – dating to the 17th – 18th C. Beautiful ornamentation and there is our Nagavadura.

I do hope some modern day jewellery designer works on this design but maybe he needs to find a way for it to be worn on a normal ear !!