The soft embrace of a loving savior Vs the crushing grasp of an abductor!

Happy Deepavali Wishes to friends !! Trying to post on something associated with the basic theme on the origins of the festival. We head back to Mamallapuram, to our favorite relief Panel, to see Vishnu as Varaha, rescuing mother earth – the damsel in distress, rescuing her from the dark depth after slaying Hiranyaksha.

The subtle emotions depicted in this masterpiece of stone crafting – cut into hard granite, as a wall in a rock cut cave shrine, is a feast for our eyes. But then, a chance glance at another sculpture ( haven’t had the good fortune to travel to Rome – yet to marvel at these beauties, but hope someday i would get it – so these images are from the internet and credits given at the end of the post) – a marble masterpiece of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, which he fashioned even before he was 23 years of age, made me wonder. If only the Pallava sculptor had tried his hand at sculpting in marble. Why?? Read on.

The piece we are going to see today is the famed The Rape of Proserpina.

The scene depicted is very interesting indeed. The main characters are Pluto, Proserpina and below them Cerebrus !

You can read the full story on wiki, but jist is

” Venus, in order to bring love to Pluto, sent her son Amor also known as Cupid to hit Pluto with one of his arrows. Hmmmm, vaguely familiar story. Ok, we wont digress, Proserpina was in Sicily, at the Pergusa Lake near Enna, where she was playing with some nymphs and collecting flowers, when Pluto came out from the volcano Etna with four black horses named Orphnaeus, Aethon, Nycteus and Alastor. He abducted her in order to marry her and live with her in Inferi, the Roman Underworld, of which he was the ruler.

Her mother Ceres, the goddess of agriculture or of the Earth, went looking for her in vain to every corner of the earth, but wasn’t able to find anything but a small belt that was floating upon a little lake (made with the tears of the nymphs). In her desperation Ceres angrily stopped the growth of fruits and vegetables, bestowing a malediction on Sicily. Ceres refused to go back to Mount Olympus and started walking on the Earth, making a desert at every step.

Worried, Jupiter sent Mercury to order Pluto (Jupiter’s brother) to free Proserpina. Pluto obeyed, but before letting her go he made her eat six pomegranate seeds, because those who have eaten the food of the dead could not return to the world of the living. This meant that she would have to live six months of each year with him, and stay the rest with her mother. This story was undoubtedly meant to illustrate the changing of the seasons: when Ceres welcomes her daughter back in the spring the earth blossoms, and when Proserpina must be returned to her husband it withers.”

Now, this looks as very much a prelude scene to the Varaha. If the Pallava sculptor had sculpted Hiranyaksha taking Boomadevi, lets imagine so and see this beauty in marble.

From Pluto’s side, see the rippling muscles and masculine force

On the side of Proserpine, its all serpentine curves, the anguish and despair gushes through

Lets compare with Varaha. He holds her up majestically and seats her on his thigh , while she is gentleness personified.

Proserpina is pushing out at her abductor and trying to break free

Whereas, Devi is making eye contact with him.

The masterpiece of the young artist, she how he brings in the feel of flesh into stone. How the rough handling of an abductor – The Hands of Pluto on her

and how she pushes at him, the flesh on his face .

Compare the hands of Varaha on Devi, its almost a caress, a loving embrace of the right hand, while the left hand holds a steady yet soft grip on his leg.

You can see the anguish and the tears on the Face of Proserpine

Compare to the shyness in the face of Devi, as her right hand is almost moving to touch and feel the chest of her Lord ( notice the left hand is bent under her chin to complete the expression !!)

A thousand years split the two creations, both great masters – One whose praise is sung to this day and the other who chose to remain anonymous.

Want to end the post with these two once again.

Image and content credits :
Ashok and Shriram for Mallai.
Rest: ( if i have inadvertently missed out please let me know, will include)
Bernini's "Rape of Proserpine"
http://www.students.sbc.edu/vermilya08/Bernini/Pluto%20and%20Proserpina.htm
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXR2YZxgDV4&feature=player_embedded#!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rape_of_Proserpina

Our friend tiger belly again – Srinivasanallur Koranganatha Temple

We had seen earlier the interesting belly face of Shiva’s assistant in the Mahabalipuram great penance panel. While i was discussing this with Kathie sometime back, she immediately recognised a similar face ( brilliantly) this time from an early Chola temple – situated 50 kms from Trichy – compared to the later temples this pocket sized temple is packed with so much of sculptural beauty – The magnificent Koranganathar temple in Srinivasanallur,

The temple is situated on the banks of the river Cauvery at Srinivasanallur. It is not a ‘living’ temple. “..Early Chola temples were small with no walls around them. Koranganatha temple 50 km from Trichy is the garbhagriha-and-mandapa type with beautiful sculptures on every surface. The base of the wall has a row of sculpted mythical animals called yazhi that is a special feature of Chola architecture. The first floor is made of bricks which have been plastered. This temple is a prototype of south-style architecture…” Takeo Kamiya in Architecture of the Indian SubContinent

Well, beautiful sculptures is putting it mildly, we will see the beauty of its sculptures in subsequent posts. But today we are to see just a panel – a decorative lintel panel, called Thorana or more correctly a Magara Thorana. This sculpture kind of symbolises the entire temple, for the amount of detailing that’s gone into this piece of stone is mind blowing. Lets take a look at the panel now.

Set high above the wall above two spectacular damsels ( we will see them later – just that dont want to divulge from the subject) the myriad of creatures – from mythical riders riding spectacular lion yaazhis, who themselves emerge from the mouths of larger Yaazhis, they seem to be at war with each other or just sporting ( This seems to be a popular motif among Cholas – with more definition for such sculptures in Pullamangai, Big temple and Darasuram – we will see them also soon)

The main character in the panel seems to be Vishnu as the Boar saving Mother Earth – he is shown with four hands – with the top two hands holding up his standard weapons, he is full of victorious/ triumphant energy – see him sporting her on his left lap – Mother Earth is all devotion, relieved at being rescued shown praying with folded hands. That the sculptor has gone to such lengths to portray even the Naga King and queen in such a miniature but with intricate details ( see them just coming into frame under Varaha murthy)

Noticeably one of the Ganas has the head of a bull – the one to the extreme left bottom. – just abvoe him is our little friend. We saw him in the Mallai penance panel – her he is again, this time upto more mischief, making faces by pulling his mouth with his index finger. The tiger yazhi in the belly seems more gruesome here. Have one more instance of such a belly faced Gana in Pullamangai ( if readers find any more please send us), not all Ganas are depicted thus. So do they have a name, a specific role – like the bull head one, the tiger belly etc??

Words cant be found, no praise too much to drink in this splendid creation. Just makes you sit back and let it fill your senses.

Thanks to Shriram for the temple pictures ( more to come) and Kathie for the panel and for identifying this for me.

Two versions of the same story, or are they, a comparison of two special depictions of Varaha ( boar) incarnations – mallai and Udayagiri

One of the favorite depictions of the Indian sculptor was the act of saving the earth ( lady earth…booma devi) by Lord Vishnu – who takes the form of a boar. There are many different depictions of this but to see the beauty of the sculpture and the delicate interplay of sculpture with literature is seen in these two forms…

what started off as comparison between the varaha images in udayagiri n
mallai lead to this post . Was always fascinated by so many depictions of this scene n had
wrongly surmised that canons for such sculpture was not existent then.

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For eg, u hv already seen the mallai explanation when the lord is lovingly embracing mother earth

( ok he is lovingly nuzzling her)….

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but in udayagiri she is shown as dangling from his tusks……The mallai sculpture brings out the delicate emotions as the lord gently lays down the earth on his lap….( ok this image needs a seperate post by itself)

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It was only after i read Andaal’s verses that I realised both were
correct……just that they were two acts of the same story

Aandaal had ….. Fallen in love with the lord n composed some of the most divinely inspired verses on the Lord …of her love to him

She sings thus…. The lord who sleeps in srirangam n stands in
tirupathy who took the form of the shameless boar having dug up the
earth from the deep depths … Seeing her beauty just swallows her up
( like a boar would do witha tuber he found) but immdly realises his
folly spits her out….n seeing her disheveled beauty embraces her in
his broad shoulders…… N then continues that he wears the victory
garland vyjayanthi mala for the feat of restoring the earth.

Now if u look at the pictures… Udayagiri is the first act n mallai the next.