Nandhi on Tanjore Temple Vimanam – a debate on its size

There are many myths surrounding the Big temple – from the claim that its shadow never falls on the ground ( it does!!), to that its top is made of single block of stone weighing XX tonnes ( its multiple blocks), that its builder Raja Raja built it to get cured of black leprosy etc.

In my intro post on the tanjore big temple, i had mentioned about this particular picture in this lovely site ( but my views slightly differ from what is shown in this picture alone)
http://www.kumbakonam.info/kumbakonam/thanjavur/images/arcpho/arph31.jpg


I take the above for a critical analysis, with some help from friends – Sri Kudavoil Balsubramaniam sir, gracefully allowed me to share these pictures ( for those of you who have not met him in person, here is a chance to see him) and also Mr. Shriram – shared his excellent closeup of the replaced nandhi and the Vimanam Nandhi’s

Lets first look at the claim on the size of the vimaanam nandhi in the site above. The Nandhi thats on the side corridor is actually the original nandhi installed by Raja Raja. This was later replaced during Nayak times with the now signature black one. ( why was it replaced ! maybe it suffered some damage during Malik Kafur’s infamous raids) – but why is it still retained – need to check. The person next to it is the great man himself – Balu sir. Am putting it not only this, but for you to judge the size of the Nandhi.

Now lets, look at the Vimanam. One is the closeup from Shriram and another is a long shot and a very important one for this post – from Balu sir – taken during the consecration ceremony. It clearly shows us the comparison against the person on the scaffolding.

Lets just zoom in on the pictures and analyse them to scale with the person standing below on the scaffolding as a guide.

Its clear that the Nandhi on the corridor is atleast a foot taller and different stylistically to the one on the vimana. However, it doesnt take any credit away from the size of Raja Raja pinnacle – giving you an idea of its massive dimensions. Just take a minute to sequentially view these amazing captures of the Maha Meru.
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Vizhinjam Cave – compare with Pallava mallai

As soon as Cheenu saw this post, he remarked the close resemblance to the Tripurantaka Shiva of Vizinjam to the Mallai penance panel Shiva. The ear rings and the facial features are remarkably similar. Let see both of them side by side and try to spot the similarities.
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I did this screen grab from the video of vizinjam – the scratch marks were too familiar. This must have been the way rock was scraped away to cut the caves. Yes, had seen the same in the Govardhana panel in mallai – just by the panel – behind the amazing seated bull ( to the extreme right – at an elevated height)
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The styling is the same, the methods seem to be the same. So the Verdict?

An interesting cave temple from Vizhinjam – Trivandrum

I was discussing Pallava rock cut sculpture and showing ( off) my site to a few friends over the weekend, when a friend from Trivandrum commented he had seen similar in a cave in Vizhinjam near Trivandrum. This set me off to search for that cave, and surprisingly very few information is available.

While i did manage to locate the cave and its amazing sculptures, very little information is available on the same. Some sites mention of it as a 18th C creation, while to me the style resembles pallava sculpture more ( kathie please help). Guess, i need to go back to reading more about cave sculpture in south india and when the tradition stopped. I was of the opinion that is stopped with the structural temples gaining prominence closer to Rajasimha Pallava. Anyway stylistically this looks much much ancient that whats its credited with.

Some anomalies though, instead of the standard door guardians at the entrance we see sculptures of Shiva holding a bow ( surmise as Tripuranthaka ) and Shiva with Parvathi ( in a sad state). the main deity i head is that of Vinadhari Dhakshinmurthy, which however, is not carved out of the bed rock – but is a separate sculpture.

Please have a look at the sculptures below.

Chanced on this lovely video as well.

A lovely detailed video of the cave

Picture courtesy: Mr. Hari
http://picasaweb.google.com/vihar7/TemplesOfVizhinjam#5225771479151879650

Birungi – The three legged skeleton saint

While we were discussing the posts on karaikkal ammai and Puli Kaal muni, we had mentioned about Bringhi Rishi. He is quite a character but very rarely seen in sculpture.

He was such a staunch shiva devotee that he refused to pray to anyone other God. Once when he went to visit Shiva in his holy abode of Kailash, he saw much to his discomfort that he was giving darshan ( private audience) with his consort Parvathi seated beside him. Such was the saints devotion to Shiva that he felt that he could not even pray to his consort.

Inorder to overcome the problem, the saint morphed into a bee and flew around shiva three times. There is a version of story which says that its due to this that Parvathi got shiva to offer her half his body ( as Artha naari) . Anyway, she was greatly enraged that this devotee refused to worship her and would only pray to her husband. Enraged, she took back her strength ( parvathi is called shakthi – the life force) since he did not want to pray to her, why would be want her strength alone.

Deprived off this, the saint became a mere skeletal form and could even balance himself, Shiva took pity on him and lent him his staff to learn on which got transformed to a third leg. What happened after this is a longer story which we will see later. ( There is another version which states that as the Saint was walking towards Shiva, Parvathi realised his intentions not to worship her and hence edged closer and closer to Shiva. When the Saint still managed to squeeze through inbetween them,she demanded one half of Shiva’s body – and hence he became Ardhanaari.. yet the rishi persisted and taking the form of a bee, bored through the shiva part and came out !!! so much for devotion)

But we return to the sculpture, had searched high and dry for this sculpture and at last found it in the outside hall pillar in tiruchendur. Though the skeletal form is not well sculpted, you can clearly see the three legs and the arms raised in devotion.



To see the skeletal forms, please view this collection of pictures.
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Images courtesy:
Temple Dairies – Part 1

and

*http://www.kamat.com/kalranga/mythology/7667.htm*
South Indian shrines illustrated By P. V. Jagadisa Ayyar

Pallava inspiration for Rajini Balle Rakha song costumes !!

Its been a while since the celebrations of Rajini starrer Shivaji – the boss have died down. But i noticed one very interesting feature in the opening song of the movie.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjVm1sYuESc

Sorry again but i am not digressing from sculpture…been quite some while since we went to my favorite – mallai. So today we are going back to see a very unique sculpture, not many notice, few even realise that it is so. We cant fault them for so great is this panel – that is the largest open air bas relief sculpture in the world , hey hang on, I know regular readers are already saying that we carried a full length intro on the mallai penance panel – we also did some interesting comparisons of the test panel nearby as well and drew some conclusions on what is being depicted. However, today we are going to zoom in on a very very unique depiction and end of it you will see the links between the song and this sculpture.

When i meant zooming in, i did mean it literally. So, fasten your seat belts as we zoom in on the central figure ( ok the figure next to the central figure or inbetween the two central figures). Cant figure out who i am talking about ?







Yes, today we are going to see this diminutive dwarf or goblin ( as many books call them) – faithful assistant of shiva, a very funny guy, right by the side of the boon giving Shiva. But did you notice something wierd in his belly!! Yes, its a tiger or lion face carved splendidly into his belly. Now do you get the reason for pulling in the song !
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Back to hardcore sculpture – What does this signify, is it just the Pallava sculptor showing off his prowess carelessly – are there similar depictions of such belly faces. Thanks to kathie, I have another, which we will see in part 2 of this post plus part 3 holds a new belly face as well.

Btw, this belly face is called a Urdhva Muha ( terror face !)
How many times some of us have been past this panel and not noticed this. Next time i am sure when you visit such places, you would stare at the belly of every statue!!
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A delightful sculpture of the tiger legged saint -Madhavizhagam

I am fortunate to have met so many eager friends in the past 2-3 years – thanks to the net, without their tireless efforts and constant encouragement, this site would’nt have even been conceived. One such is Chandra – for his size, he packs quite a punch, never seen such a dedicated person, oferring constant advise, suggestions, ever eager to assist, take up issues, spearhead movements – selfless acts – such is his devotion to the cause of temple renovation.

He has today shared a very unique and beautiful sculpture of Vyakarapadar / Puli kaal muni ( tiger legged saint) – we have already seen his story in the earlier post of him in the pillar of the big temple.

This exquisite sculpture is from Madhavizhagam , a non-descript village seen next to Vayalur, an ASI monument. What struck me with this sculpture is the unusual seated position of the saint, for a second just close the top half of the sculpture and view the bottom half – you can see the classic lines of a seated or crouched tiger. Such is the beauty and intellect of the artist – that he did not just stop with depicting the feet of the saint as tiger claws, but he has shown the characteristic seated post of a tiger !
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Otherwise the sculpture is splendid, the elaborate hair do of a wandering ascetic, his rosary beads, the classic poses of his hands, the sublime devotion expressed in his face – the benign smile, the closed eyes – he is lost deep in devotion.

Sadly the temple roofing is totally gone and needs water proofing. The Flag staff ( Kodimaram) is stripped out of its copper and the bare trunk ( athi maram) is exposed.

Thanks again to Chandra for sharing this amazing sculpture with us.

Art Inspired by sculpture Series – Belur Elephant – Prasad’s Sketch

its been sometime since we ventured into our art inspired by sculpture series. Our good friend Prasad has come up with a splendid sketch to take us to Belur today.
you can see all his works at his site here
Prasad’s Sketches blogsite

Prasad is uniquely gifted to be able to sketch in such a splendid fashion by just looking at just the picture from a photograph. Inorder for us to understand the task – view the photo and the sketch side by side.

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One interesting point to note, ( actually it was the reason for this post to happen) – is this picture. Is it the same elephant ? Got us confused for a sec.

My initial exposure to reading magazine especially tamil ones was the feature where you got to spot the 6 differences. Can you spot such…between these two sets.
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Lovely work Prasad, and keep them coming. The sculptor would be mighty pleased.

2008 Fashion is 6 packs Abs – check this girl from 7th C

The ‘IN’ thing among todays macho men of the film industry ( thank God for that – else we will have Hero’s who look like beached whales running around trees romancing girls young enough to be their daugthers …we still do!! – but atleast the healthy trend is catching on ) is getting fit and flashing their 6 packs abs ( a yet to be released bollywood blockbuster claims 8 packs!!)

But check out this damsel flashing her abs – sculpted 1300 years ago. Mallai ( mamallapuram) near chennai – the Mahishasuramardhini Panel. Can you spot her, no I am not referring to the Devi. Giving you multiple angles.
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Can you spot her assistant now…crouched on one knee, brandishing a heavy sword on her right hand, beautifully attired in a breast band , she is poised to strike the leg of the demon Mahisha.

Now, can you see the justification for the tag line, 6 packs abs, take a look at hers. Women were warriors ( and some still are ) and from the shape she is in, must have been a heavily trained one at that.

Time to get up and hit the threadmill i guess.