The goat headed attendants of Karthikeya ( Ellora)

The caves of Ellora are a sculpture enthusiasts delight. Not only for the sheer effort but also the detailing for the relief sculptures. Today we are going to see a very unique sculpture from Ellora Cave 21.

Its that of Karthikeya

Photo credits:

This is a fantasitc sculpture of Karthikeya – he is depicted standing in Samabhanga ( straight profile) with his right hand resting on his hip ( a pose that is called Katyavalambita )

Originally the sculpture was four armed, but has sufferred much damage. The second right hand ( upper) is totally gone. While the second left hand ( upper) is gently holding his peacock mount. The lower left hand seems to be holding a kind of pot or vessel. He wears the Yagnopavitha and some heavy jewellery across his neck – his elaborate crown is also a sight to watch.

His mount the peacock has lost its head to time, but identification is easy with its wings clearly being displayed, though the legs are a bit stout ( to be strong enough to carry his Lord ??)

There are two sets of Clesestial couples depicted flying above the panel on its two sides. The couple to the left of the image seem to be in awe of the splendor of Karthikeya ( both their right hands held up in vismaya pose), while the male on the right is holding his hands in prayer ( anjalai pose) – the lady seems to be quite non chalant !!

Now, we come to the two attendants. Very unique to see two Goat headed attendants.

The one to the left of the image, is a bit feminine in its stance and general build ( sadly the sculpture is much worn) and is smelling a flower ( lotus?) in its right hand while left hand is resting on its ( sorry for the usage – dont know if i can use his or her) hip. There is a certain shyness associated with the twist of the head etc, so i would take it as a her.

The right side attendant is definitely a male, but his hand pose is quite unique. If you notice closely, the right hand is coming into an angali pose but the left hand is holding his right elbow – almost like how a Kung Fo student will salute his master ( master – teach me Kungfo type !!!)

Who could these two represent. There is one eligible candidate for the lady goat head – Ajamukhi, the sister of the Surabadman and the daughter of Maya and sage Kasyapa ( they are said to have taken the form of goats and gave birth to Ajamukhi)

For more read here on this legend.

That leaves the right side attendant. The only other Goat headed person ( though not directly associated) is Dhaksha whom we had seen earlier in the panel in tanjore. Could it be he ?

Leaving on a two week break – with big plans of covering Chidambaram, Tanjore, trichy, madurai and coimbatore – to bring you more rare beauties. Till then we bid adieu and wish all readers a Merry Xmas and a happy, prosperous and rewarding new year 2010.

Salvation while being Lynched – Part 2 – Ellora

We had earlier seen the Andhaka Legend in detail. Today, we are seeing another depiction of the same legend in one of the inner wall sculptures of Ellora.

Sadly the sculpture is much worn out and we cannot make much out of the facial features. Yet this seems to be a slightly more sedate depiction or maybe the last act of surrender of Andhaka – so brilliantly depicted by the sculpture, has calmed shiva’s anger.

For even without the intricate facial expressions, there seem to be some gentleness in the way Shiva is holding up the speared Andhaka – almost in a tender manner. But the depiction of the speared Andhaka – is spectacular – the trident has passed clean through his torso and he is impaled on it – but you can see him raising his hands and submitting to the divine grace of shiva.

Down below, we see a visibly unmoved, rather firm posture of Parvathi – unfortunately very much damaged, we cant clearly see what is depicted – but you can vaguely make out the shape of a demon holding a club/mace in his hand ( under the left feet of shiva) – shiva seems to be stamping on him – maybe this is act 1 of the legend, with Andhaka trying to go for Parvathi!!!

Amazing sculpture, beautiful depiction of Andhaka.

Salvation while being lynched – Ellora

We saw the sculpture of Gajasamharam previously, today we take Adhakasamharam. Since we saw a minitature last time around, lets take a massive one for a change – An amazing sculpture from Ellora.

As usual the story first, once while Shiva was in deep meditation, a sporting Paravathi playfully covered the three eyes of Shiva with her soft hands. Immediately the entire cosmos was bereft of light, became just an expanse of darkness. the heat from the third eye of shiva caused beads of sweat to form on Parvathi’s hands. Out of this came a ugly, angry baby who was blind with matted hair – Andhaka ( the blind one). He was given away to the demon Hiranyaksa ( who was childless and prayed for an offspring) . Hiranyaksha was killed by Vishnu and in due course Andhaka grew up to be no better. He did severe penance to strengthen himself – tearing his body flesh to offer – Brahma finally obliged with a boon – for Andhaka wanted vision and divine vision and deathlessness. Brahma couldnt oblige with this – and asked him to vary his. – There is a version that in his deep heart Andhaka wanted to see his mother, so he asked a boon that if every he lusted for his mother he would die but slowly. Having recd the boon, he harrassed every mortal and did not leave the celestial at peace either. He lusted after the divine women and chased them to the heavens. There he heard of the beauty of Parvathi and destiny drove him to his death. Shiva speared him and in that moment he hung there for eternity – atlast seeing his divine parents.

Now See the masterfull depiction in sculpture ( at a towering 15 feet – the proportions are immaculate) – Parvathi being scared of the approaching demon and the fight – holds her hand to her bosom to calm her heart beat. Shiva as usual is mad with rage, eye balls popping out, fangs bared – he painfully spears his own offspring – but the pinnacle of the sculpture is the depiction of the speared Andhaka, despite all his pain and impending miserable death – turns back with folded hands, offers respects to his beloved parents. Maybe the Lord is not fair at times, for what wrong did Andhaka do – to be born blind and as an ugly creature, because of a playful act of his parents, abandoned among demons in his infancy ………once you read the story, you are filled with pity for him, amazing that the sculptor managed to bring this emotion into his creation.

Understanding the greatness of Ellora – Part three

Well we saw that the elephants and other animals with burdened with a load in the last post. What are they carrying?
We look at the string of pictures once more to get into the flow.
Now we take a zoom upwards, no do you get the picture. The entire rock cut temple is fashioned as though its supported on this line of elephants. Just to put things in right perspective, reminding you once again that this cut into a mountain rock face. Meaning, the sculptor has to sculpt this in situ – top down in one single piece.
Now that you understand the intricate work, lets look at the larger picture of the Ellora Kailasantha temple. From different angles with people occupying the frames to give you an idea of scale of this spectacular composition. The pictures show you the sheer rock face from which the skilled artist has fashioned this entire creation. Doesn’t it blow your minds off, just to imagine a scale of this size is mind bloggling. How on earth could someone have the courage to envision something of this nature, with technology that was prevalent a 1000 years ago.
Step to the right, to the left, to the back – every inch is breath taking. Stone art its very best. For once i am short of words and take refuge in the visual overflow. Enjoy and drink up this fountain of art.

The last picture has an interesting story board – of an epic carved into stone, which we will visit later.

Understanding the greatness of Ellora – Part 2

I have been summoning the courage to attempt this post for a long time. We had earlier seen what is so great about Ellora. This is part two of the post and certainly one in a long line of posts to come.

This is a large post and hence i would request you keep all your work aside, take your time – make sure you are on a stable chair ( lest you might fall off your chair) – such are the contents that are to follow.

I first introduced you to the fact that this is a mountain cut structure – ie the sculptors have cut this entire composition into the face of a mountain – so now i am going to detail the size of this composition, its complexity and innate beauty.

Inorder to do this, i adopt a bottoms up approach.
Do you see this elephant, peacefully threshing some vegetation in its trunk – watch the detailing of the small bump of its skeleton as its trunk starts, the slight twist of it trunk to the right and the curl of it holding the grass – the beautiful symmetry of its ears and the delicate curl of the ear.
We move a bit back – oh, maybe there are more like this one, NO, its a whole line of such elephants ( some have not withstood the forces of nature n time – lost a limb, a trunk)
Now we zoom out – to see what this actually is – is an entire foundation of elephants who are sculpted as though they are carrying the whole structure. And what a structure, the man walking int he frame gives you an idea of scale.
We try another place – oh,here elephants are combining delightfully with lions to form a nice one two combo. Oh, some delightlful Yazhi’s are also there. Some of lions and elephants seem to be bored of this work and are playfully fighting with each other.1243

What are they carrying on their mightly shoulders…well wait for the next post…

If pride goes before the Fall – this is the lowest it can fall

We saw the Cambodian version of the humbling of Ravana by Shiva when he tried to uproot Mount Kailash in an earlier post. This is another interesting depiction from Ellora.
This verse has been sung often in Shivite saint Appar’s works, but those have been discussed in depth in the tamil version of this post. However, crux of the story is Ravana is stuck and humbled. To what extent. Have a look at the sculpture.
You can see the massive twenty armed, ten headed asura stretched underneath the mount, on top the sublime divine calmness in the faces ( though heavily damaged) of Shiva and Parvati are still evident.
If you notice carefully, Shiva Bootha Gana – demon assistants are making fun of ravana. As you face the image to the left, you can see a Gana making obscene gestures by bending down and showing his back to ravana, while the other one has taken a stick and is hitting his knuckles. On to the right the little gana pulls out his tongue and is making faces at him. What an insult to the King of Lanka.
To get to truly appreciate the composition i kept this picture ( of a friend) to the last – now you get a fair idea of the size and scale of this sculpture.
Btw, how did Ravana get out of this predicament, and how he was humbled many more times we will see in coming posts, along with some more beautiful depictions of the above story in various places.

Whats so great about Ellora Kailasanatha temple?

A friend casually asked me…whats so great about Ellora Kailasanatha temple…India is strewn with such temples everywhere….? My friend this is unique ..infact its so unique that it cannot be envisaged as a human creation…that too going back 1400-1500 years ago. Envisaging such projects in todays ` advanced’ technology itself is mindboggling…but for that period its magical.


Look at the pictures…this is just a bird’s eye view. Incourse of our travels we will revisit this splendid creation many time.


There is a similar work deep into the tamil country…vettuvankoil..

How can this be a work of man ?

Painting and sculpture are divine arts. When both of them combine their confluence creates splendor. Rabindranath Tagore on seeing the sculptures of the Konark temple had said ” Here the language of stone surpasses the language of man”.

525 Not sure if he had seen this sculptor /art combo… from Ellora Those mesmerising eyes sorry an eye, maybe they felt two eyes would have killed you. Through centuries, nature has taken its toll but what little is left is enough to enthrall you…looking deep into you, churning your insides. How can this be a work of man..?

Spontaneous Joy, Divine Bliss

There are many different dance poses and forms of shiva and predominantly people associate his dance with destruction. Its very wrong for his dance is the dance of creation. I present to you this truly amazing confluence of man’ art and divine grace…a dancing shiva from Ellora

Amidst all the destruction around it, you can still see the amazing poise, grace …of an exuberance of life, of spontaneous joy…divine bliss. This is the essence of this sculpture…where the pinnacle of human art is towering, almost reaching the borders of divine creation. The sculptor couldn’t maybe infuse live into the creation, but we can surely say that he stopped just short of that…..truly beauty beyond compare ….