Seduction of the deer headed sage

Today we are going to see a rare sculpture from Hampi ( Hazara Rama temple again). The splendid photograph is courtesy Kathie and the explanation thanks to Mrs. Geetha Sambasivam. I was intrigued by a friends site about the murals in Alagar Koil of the famous Yagna done by Dasaratha.

Mr. Bhaskar wonderful site on temple murals

For it involved a very special officiating Priest, brought in under special recommendation. Whats so special about him. Well he has a deer’s head to start with. Before we see the main plot, lets look into the peculiar origins of this sage. What set me on this is a chance reading of an article in the hindu.

The Hindu Article

It shows only a part of the sculptural panel and I too took it as per this mention – The deer headed saint as Rishyasingar ( as per Valmiki Ramayan) and Kalaikottu Munivar ( as per Kamban) distributing the child giving potion to the 3 wives of Dasartha. Though there were still a few loose ends, as both the literature and the murals show that he personally did not distribute it and the sculpture in question doesnt seem to show the potion /cup or pot. Thankfully Kathie managed to provide this excellent photograph of the entire panel – which ( thanks to Mrs Geetha) clears up the air. This is a different but equally interesting account of the same sage but happened much earlier.

Rishi Vibandanga, son of Rishi Kashyapa, once casts a passing glance a beautiful female deer. So great is his prowess that his very glance made the deer pregnant. In due course she gave birth – a boy with a deer’s head and human body ! His father brought him up in total isolation ( celibacy) – not even allowing the scent of women near him. ( wonder why?)

In an adjoining land, a King by name Romapathan was disturbed by an unending drought troubling his subjects for years together. It seems ( ok, i am only repeating legend – fairer sex please excuse me) that pious men who have totally abstained from you know what – will bring rain. So King Romapathan decides to bring Rishyasingar to his land, but how does he do it. Well, we have seen it happen many times – carrot of course. He sent ` talented’ women dancers to entice the poor boy. Imagine the plight of the poor boy, having being depraved their company since birth, he gets an overdose. He stands no chance against the guile of these women and follows them to the Kings Land. As foretold he brings rain along with him to the parched land. Well all is well that ends well. The King did it for a good cause i guess, but he could have just gone their explained the situation and brought him. Guess epics wouldn’t be so simple.

The depiction of the plot is superbly handled by the sculptor. see how the gay abandon of the youthful Rishyasingar ` appreciating ‘ dancing damsel. Net we see him being waited upon by three ladies ( the nonchalant stylistic crossing of the legs – cant be when he facing royal queens of Dasarata) – plus as per the epic, he gave the ` potion’ to Dasaratha to distribute.

Anyway, some more good things happen. The pleased King marries his daughter Sandhai ( Santham is calm in tamil – wow, hope she lived upto her name). After that another king sought the services of Rishyasingar but for a totally different act. What is that…we will see it shortly.

A blunder, a loss and a curse – Ramayana Origins

Today we are seeing a very rare sculpture which takes us back to the very beginning of the Ramayana. Its a subtle reminder that the you are accountable for your acts, irrespective of whether committed knowingly or unknowingly – the consequences have to be faced.

When Dasaratha (father of Rama) was a young Prince, he reveled in all sport. He is a charioteer unparalleled but so are his archery skills. His skill is so great that he could put an arrow from just the sound of an animal moving. But this very skill proved to be his undoing. Yes, we are going to see the legend of Shravana Kumara from a rare sculpture from the Hazara Rama temple in Hampi.

updating with anotehr view ( thanks to Manju)

The story goes thus. In his youthful jest, Dasaratha is hunting in the forests adjoining the river Sarayu. But despite his best efforts, he is not able to bag anything till late in the evening. Just as the Sun, was setting, as he was hiding behind tree cover, he heard a familiar sound of elephants drinking water in the river. Impatient to get his prize, Dasartha relies purely on his skill and lets loose a deadly arrow, guided purely by the sound. But as it found its mark, he was shocked to hear a man scream in mortal pain.

Can you spot the above plot in the sculpture.

As he rushed to the spot, he found that he had mistakenly shot a young boy filling water in a pot.

The boy is actually Shravana Kumaran, the dutiful son – who takes such good care of his aged and blind parents – that he transports them on a sling balancing on his shoulders. His parents are totally dependent on him. As he was passing through the forest they had asked him to fetch some water as they were thirsty and it was in this act that he was felled by the fateful arrow.

The young boy, despite his mortal wound, is still thinking about his parents.Dasartha begs for his forgivness, but the boy requests him to take the water to his parents. He also tells him to disclose the bad news of their son’s death after their thirst is quenched! such a noble soul. So requesting he moves to realm of the heavens.

Dasartha is all remorse personified as he goes to the place where the aged couple are resting. Just as he approaches they realise from the sound of his footsteps that its not their son and insist Dasartha to tell them the truth. Dasartha tries his best to dampen the blow, by offering to be their Son – but on hearing from him that their dearest son is no more, the mother falls down dead. The father is filled with great anger that he curses Dasartha thus :

” you too will suffer this pain of separation from your loved son and die of that ”

The rest – well is history