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 !
Tamil valor has been sung from time immemorial…stabbing from behind is considered to be the most demeaning act, similarly taking a hit in the back ( kind of give away that you turned and ran away from battle)…it’s a clear clue about the scene.
Lets analyse the main characters in more detail…
The man in front is a brave tamil warrior….he sports a traditional tamil hairstyle, the dhoti and the upturned mustache…look at his ornaments…chains, ear rings and anklets…and the radiant bravery in his face inspiring generations..
The lady on top is every more beautiful.. She carries an entire jewelery store on her, resplendent in all her glory. The minutest details being sculpted….the chains, the bangles, anklets…..a a bewitching smile to top it all.
Thus against this if we compare the back stabber (!) you can see the differentiation in the clothing…a long sleeve shirt, track pants ( his assistant too)…and the down turned mustache….maybe this depicts the sack of sri rangam during the raid of malik Kafur ( 1314 AD)
But still not able to figure out the canopy which the lady is holding ….its got two parrots on each side,
similar depictions have been identified as a gypsy women ….you can see a similar pillar sculpture at another locations ( sans the parrots)…
but for a gypsy to sport such a stack of jewellary is indeed amazing, for these days they are reduced to parading bead chains … Maybe she was an imporant character…there are varying accounts of a temple dancer who sacrificed her life for to safeguard the temple during Malik’s assault….pillars do speak !! Don’t they?
Well after all those serious posts…time to take a break… In todays fast world, fashions keep changing by the minute. Women’s fashion and hair styles have spawned many an industry….a professor of mine would jokingly remark that todays indian women have very long hair that reaches to their SHOULDERS…( ok traditional indian women are known for their bewitchingly long dark raven black hair neatly plaited…reaching down atleast till their waists) 743 Gone are those days….yet captured for eternity in this pillar from a temple in thirumullaivoil….a dancer strikes a pose….flaunting her toe length hair….what grace. would styles like these go retro and we get to see such again…not sure if they will… with dresses not going below waistlines…its hard to imagine this….