Treasures of Cham (vietnam) sculpture – part 2 – Ravana

Ever since i visited the Ho Chi Minh Museum and got bitten and smitten by the beauty of Cham art – the ruins of MySon ( in central vietnam) and the Danang Museum of Cham sculpture had steadily crept up to the top of the charts of my bucket list. The checkbox got ticked off recently and what a weekend it turned out to be.

Wanting to beat the heat and the tourists (!!) and hoping to catch the early rays of the Sun amidst the sacred valley of My Son – kept the alarm for 4.30 AM start ( stayed at Hoi An instead of Danang – which is closer to My Son) – Sadly being peak summer the sun was already up by the time we arrived at the beautifully manicured lawns of the newly opened site museum, just before the short drive up the hills. Vehicles are not allowed nearer to the ruins and a steady 5 min walk gets you the first look.

But you will have to wait a bit longer for a detailed post on MySon persay as i am still reading and classifying my images. However, as an interesting start I choose this fanstastic Tymphanum which sadly has been left on the floor of one of the standing towers of MySon – i think it will be moved shortly down to the site Museum. At first glance am not sure how many visitors would understand the panel ( no labels as well).

Yes, it is a very intricately carved Ravana Anugraha murthy – should be dated to the 10th C CE i think. Surprisingly there is not much literature available on this particular beauty. A chance search made available this reference though and what a reference it turned out to be

Champa and the Archaeology of Mỹ Sơn (Vietnam)

The label in the book reads as : Tympanum depicting Ravana shaking Mt. Kailash. Recovered at My Son. Present location unknown ( photograph Musee Guimet Archive, undated)

Thanks to our gifted artist Muralidharan – he agreed to sketch it for better study. Clearly the panel has suffered further damage with the lower torso of ravana completely damaged as it stands now !.

It is interesting to note that Ganesha is seen prominently along with Nandhi in the panel. Remember the one we discussed earlier from Cambodia also has Ganesha seated.

There are many unique things in this panel – one of course is the depiction of a Vimana / tower / temple – classically modeled. There is a large elephant below it and also what seems like a forest complete with animals inside caves.

The beauty of this panel is in the portryal of Ravana’s massive arms – interestingly they seem to be trying to juxtapose two different poses for his legs – thereby coming with three legs.

That Ravana is facing into the panel takes up the difficulty quotient and there is a tendency to compare it with the panel in Ellora

But the masterstroke here is how the sculptor has chosen to depict the heads of Ravana.

Is a stunning solution to a complex problem one which i feel even the master Pallava sculptors of Rajasimha Pallava could not conquer in the Mallai Olakkaneshwara Panel.

Hats off to the master sculptors of Cham for creating this dynamic beauty. Just as i was to complete the post, Murali sends across his completed sketch or should i say masterpiece ! Art lives on.

Temple Vahanas of Tamil Nadu – Pradeep Chakravarthy

I have never met Pradeep ( yet) and my interaction with him started only in early May this year over a few brief email and facebook exchanges. Must confess that even the few initial interactions made quite an impression. Some googling threw up his columns in the papers, other articles about his Temple walk campaigns ( 30 such in a year is no mean achievement), they made me sit up and take notice that I was dealing with someone special. A few more weeks of email interactions, and I was pretty sure that I was dealing with someone not just special, but an extraordinary person, a dedicated professional who did meticulous preparations and indepth research for even his newspaper columns. Later thanks to technology, managed to view some of the recordings of his talks and realised that inside this modern profile ( definitely not the current avtar of a techie) and attire, there was a vestigial being – the remnants of the rich tradition of Kathakalakshepam, where the versatility and humor of the one man performer held sway over the audience for an entire evening.

So, when he told me that two of his books are scheduled for release shortly, I was more than excited at the prospect of a special treat for heritage lovers and was eagerly awaiting their formal launch. One was ” Thanjavur – A Cultural History” and the other ” Temple Vahanas of Tamil Nadu“. While we wait for the official release of the first book, the second one has been released recently by Kalamkriya, the publishing house of the Sanmar Group of Companies.

Vahanas or vehicles have always been my passion – be it my first BSA SLR and then graduating to an Atlas MTB during my school days, seeing Dad’s trusted Lamby and then on to the popular Chetak, when the affluent could afford either an Amby or a Fiat ( ok Bangaloreans would go for their Premier Padimini) – a slight flicker of hope was the Standard 2000’s and then the Invasion by the Maruti 800’s till the flood gates opened. But then to me – it was always an Arnie inspired bike rage, but had to settle for the Indian Harley – our very own Royal Enfield. Each of these were special in their own right but with the passage of time, most of them have been stripped of their positions. But what we are see today is from a bygone Era, an era when human energy or at best animals were the only means, and how tradition is still ensuring that they are alive to this day.

Combined to this, the fact that these adorable creations get their brief time under the sun ok moon ! once or twice a year ( if at all) – during the annual festival or some special days for the deity, and then being consigned to dingy bat infested confines for the rest of the year, where no one even acknowledges their existence. Its always been our endeavor to champion the cause of Temple Art, more so the beauties that escape our notice most often – a pillar sculpture here, a wood carving on a temple chariot or a magnificent Vahanam. Credit goes to Pradeep for bringing out this work to champion their cause.

What immediately caught my attention was the Pencil sketches – not just for the cover art but the entire book has been wonderfully illustrated by Sri V. Vijayakumar. I hope he does more such and hones his skills to follow the illustrious steps of greats like Sri Silpi, Sri Padmavasan. The team has also made it a bilingual ( in English & Tamil) which is a very good trend. The layouts bring a old world charm and the book in landscape mode is surely a collectors item.

The Foreword starts off on a really bold note and was actually quite surprised that the author chose to start on those lines, but as I read on it was more like the author wanting to clarify his stance on the “great divide”. But the real intensity of the work and the author’s passion hits you as you read the Introduction. He couldn’t have picked a better inscription to set the tone – an inscription from 1274 CE.

The contents cover an exhaustive list including some very special delightful Vahanas.

Here is a sample chapter on Adhikara Nandhi, for you all to read and enjoy

My personal favorite was the Kailasa Vahanam with Ravana shown stuck under the mountain, playing the instrument that he fashioned out of one of his heads and hands with his veins as the string.

Of the specials there is one Aadu ( Goat) Vahana. The extent of background research done by the author is evident as he quotes from literature to support the deity who would ride it !

To me the beauty of our heritage is in its complexity and in its own idiosyncrasies,on how even a simple description of a Puli Vahanam for the “Son” of God can be portrayed.

Surprisingly not all Vahanas are animals, reptiles and Demi Gods, some are Trees as well like the Punnai Mara Vahana or the Kalpa Vrisha Vahana. a pointer to strong nature worship prevalent among out ancestors ( are we learning ?)

Credit to the Author, the Artist and the team behind the book for successfully bringing out the significance of each Vahana, in a crisp manner, interlacing narration with choice selection of hymns and verses that transport you to the temple precincts, to visualise the lilting motion of the vahana bearers, to the accompaniment of characteristic drums and trumpets, and even maybe smell the kerosene from a leaking Petromax lamp.

p.s The book is currently under reprint and will update as soon as they are off the press !!

The earliest recorded bird hit

The recent bird hit on flight 1549 of US Airways and its subsequent ditching or expert crash into the Hudson river caught the world’s attention. From the time planes have been invented we have had many such bird strikes and not all have had a happy ending as the one above. But what we are going to see today is possibly the earliest account of a bird strike.

Jataayu – the son of Garuda’s elder brother Aruna ( the charioteer to the Sun god), his valiant battle with Ravana as he is abducting Sita on his Pushpaka Vimana ( aerial chariot aka plane) is stuff of legends.

There are not many sculptural depictions of this battle, the most famous and often shown depiction is the painting by Raja Ravi Varma.

However, there are two sculptural depictions of this battle – one in Ellora Kailasantha ( thanks to flickr friend Mr Murali) and the other in Parambanan, Indonesia. We will visit the Indonesian one a bit later. But of most interest to us is the Ellora panel.

The mighty King Ravana is shown just as he is about to strike at the vulture Jatayu with a sword. Its no ordinary sword as we will see shortly. To the upper right we are just shown a piece of the flying machine.

Who is this Jatayu. We had read when we saw the Garuda story that his elder brother Aruna, who due to his mother’s hastiness is born premature – leaves to serve the Sun God as his charioteer. Well Jatayu and his brother Sampathi are the sons of Aruna.

Once while both the brothers were playing, they tried to fly higher and higher – when Jatayu trying to outsmart his brother flew too high, he went dangerously close to the hot sun ( sounds vaguely familiar – Greek – Icarus ) Well the plot changes a bit here. Sampathi protectively covered his brother with his extended wingspan – while the sun burnt off his wings he fell to the ground while Jatayu was saved. ( Sampathi does get healed but at a much later stage – just by chanting the name of Rama!!)

Ok, back to the bird strike. So great is the resistance shown by Jatayu and his valor in battling Ravana, that the Thevaram verse actually credits him with victory over Ravana. Why so ?

The place where the Lord, Who elucidated the shivadharma
with virtue as the basis freeing the capable devotees from

the disease of bad karma, sits is thiruppuLLirukkuvELUr
of jaTAyu who defeated the rAvaNa who came aggressive
counting his power!

It all comes down to the sword. Chandrahas, Shiva’s invincible sword – Moonblade, a divine gift. How did Ravana come in possession of such a weapon. Again an interesting story.

We have seen Ravana being humbled once before – by Vaali

There is another one by the 20 armed kaarthveeryarjunan ( not found a sculpture for this yet) – but there is another instance – by Siva when Ravana attempted to lift Kailash – we have seen it at many places.


Well after he went through the Ordeal and pleased Shiva by playing his ” hand” crafted veena – Shiva cured his wounds and along with his blessings, gave him his special sword. Chandrahas ( moon blade)

So by saying that Jatayu defeated Ravana – but for the divine weapon, Jatayu had valiantly fought and defeated Ravana. His powerful wings, claws and beak had wrecked havoc, while at the very edge of losing, Ravana not being a match for Jatayu with his powers, had used the divine weapon to clinch victory and slay Jatayu.

That my friends, that is the earliest recorded bird strike.
(Thanks to Murali again for the rare snap of Ellora. On content indebted to Sri Subramaniam, Mrs. Geetha Sambasivam and Dhivakar sir ofcourse)

Origins of the Srirangam Vimana – story in sculpture

Today, we are going to see a very rare and unique sculpture. It gives me great pleasure to present this post, since it brings out the true essence of our blog site. We had earlier seen the amazing pillar sculptures of Sesharaya Mandabam, while i was posting about this in mintamil forum, Sir Srirangam Mohanarangan, asked me about a unique sculpture in one of those pillars. I did not have it then and hence requested my ever resourceful friend Mr. Ashok to source it for me. Being such an ardent enthusiast, Ashok made the trip and ensured that i get the correct pictures ( he did get many more – and we will see this in subsequent posts). Writing about the foremost of shrines of Vishnu and one of the most revered of holy places gives me great joy, i thank the will of God for making this possible.

Rudra expounds to Narada the origin, growth and greatness of Srirangam thus:

When God created Brahma from his navel and deputed him to create the earth the latter was at his wit’s end when he saw a sheer expanse of a water. When he was thus perplexed God came to him in the form of a swan (hamsa) and saying ‘Om’ disappeared. Then Brahma worshipped God saying ‘Om’. Once again God appeared to him as a swan and preached the Vedas, which were stolen away by the two asuras, Madhu and Kaitabha. Brahma, unable to trace them even after an elaborate search, appealed to God, who appeared to him in the form of a fish, killed the asuras in His manifestation of a horse (hayagriva) and disappeared after restoring the Vedas. Then Brahma created the universe.

He was displeased, however, with his creation, for he found that everything was transient and disappeared in course of time. He went to Ksirasagar (‘Ocean of milk’) and worshiped God, who appeared to him as a tortoise. Brahma was puzzled and prayed to God to show him His real form. Thereupon God advised him to worship Him by repeating the Astaksara or the eight-lettered mantra (Om Namo Narayanaya). Brahma, so doing, lost himself in penance and contemplation. As a result of his penance the Sriranga Vaimana sprang from the Ksirasagar radiating luster allround.5 (The expression Sriranga Vimana is used to denote the turret as well as the oval shaped sanctum beneath it, containing the image of the reclining Ranganatha. The turret, the sanctum and the image form a single whole and are inseparably associated with one another.) It was borne by Garuda. Sesa, the Serpent God, had spread his hood over it. Visvaksena, with a stick in hand, cleared the way for the God. The sun and moon were fanning the deity with chowries. Narada and Tumburu followed singing. There was the Jayaghosa of Rudra and other gods and the ‘Dundubighosa’. The celestial courtesans danced. Clouds rained flowers. There were great hurrahs and tumult.

Brahma awoke from his penance and prostrated himself before the vimana. He stood up saying the four Vedas through his four mouths and was lost in amazement. Sunanda, a celestial watch at the gate (dwarapalaka), told him that the three lettered Vimana, ‘Sri-ra-nga’ was the result of his penance, that God was resting with His consort inside and that he could see Him and worship Him. Then Brahma worshiped the Almighty for a long time. Finally the God spoke to him thus: “Listen O Brahma! I have appeared as a result of your penance.” Then he explained to him the four types of idols and vimanas, – (1) Svayamvykta – created by God, i.e., God Himself choosing to come down as an idol, (2) Divya – created by the Devas, (3) Saiddha – created by a great seers and (4) Manusya – created by mortals. “The Vimanas of the first class, viz., Svayamvyakta will appear in eight places – Srirangam, Srimusnam, Venkatadri, Saligram, Naimisaranyam, Totadri, Puskara and Badrikasrama. Rangavimana is the first and the earliest of these” Speaking of the second class of idols the God said, “I will come to Kanci as Varadaraja, where my idol will be installed by you. Ananta will instal my idol in the south, Rudra in Kandikapura, Visvakarma at Nanda, Dharma at Vrisabagiri, Asvini at Asvatirtha, Indra at Cakratirtha, etc. So also great seers will install me in certain places and men everywhere.” Then the God explained to Brahma the procedure for conducting the worship and lay down in the characteristic pose at Srirangam and kept silent.

Brahma took the vimana from Ksirasagar to his abode in Satyaloka and established it on the banks of the Vraja. He appointed Viwasvan, the sun god, to do the daily puja of the God. After Viwasvan his son Vaivasvata Manu continued the puja. Iksvaku, a son of Manu, became the king of Ayodhya and found it difficult to worship the vimana at Satyaloka. Hence he did penance, which extended over hundreds of years, and obtained the permission of Brahma to take it to Ayodhya. After Iksvaku his descendants worshiped the God. Rama gave the vimana to Vibhisana, who established it on the banks of the Kaveri.

At this stage Narada asks Rudra to give details of the above account, viz., the coming of the vimana to Srirangam. Rudra replies:

Vasista told Iksvaku, his disciple, the origin of the Sriranga Vimana and added that after being worshiped by him and his generations, it would establish itself in Srirangam and be worshiped by the Cola monarchs. As advised by his guru Iksvaku did penance near the former’s asrama with the object of bringing the vimana to Ayodhya from Satyaloka. Indra, the king of the gods knew the purpose of the penance and consulted Brahma about the possibility of their losing the vimana. Brahma went to Visnu, who told him that it was His intention to go to Ayodhya and thence to Srirangam. Then Brahma brought the vimana to Iksvaku on the back of Garuda. Iksvaku carried the vimana to Ayodhya, established it between the rivers Sarayu and Tamasa, built a shrine and organised worship.

Dasaratha, in the line of Iksvaku, performed the sacrifices of Asvamedha and Putrakamesti for which celebrations he invited monarchs of all India, one of whom was Dharmavarma, the Cola. Dharmavarma saw the Rangavimana, knew its history and wanted to have it in his country. So, when he returned home he began performing penance on the banks of the Candrapuskarani.6 (A tank in the Srirangam temple.) The risis around said to him, “Nearby lies your old city in ruins.7 (The reference is to Uraiyur, the capital of the Colas.) Rudradeva burnt it in anger. Close to it there was a risi-asram, where we had congregated under the leadership of Dalbya risi, who worshipped God. When God appeared to him, he requested Him to stay there and sanctify the place, to which the latter replied that in His avatar as Rama, He would come to that place as Ranganatha, for the sake of Vibhisana. We are expecting the Sriranga Vimana even now. Hence your penance is unnecessary”. On hearing this Dharmavarma stopped his penance and retired to Nisula.

Rama worsted Ravana in battle, crowned Vibhisana king of Lanka and performed the ‘asvamedha’ sacrifice in Ayodhya. To it all were invited including Dharmavarma. Rama presented the Rangavimana to Vibhisana out of his munificence as the latter was very much helpful to him in his fight against Ravana.

Vibhisana bore the vimana on his head and, on his way to Lanka, stopped at Srirangam and placed the vimana on the banks of the Candrapuskarani. The risis immediately informed Dharmavarma about the arrival of the vimana. The Cola king came to the spot and received Vibhisana with great delight. The latter bathed in the sacred waters of the Kaveri and worshipped the vimana. Dharmavarma also performed puja and requested Vibhisana to stay with him for a few days. To this Vibhisana did not agree and said that an utsava had to be performed in Lanka the next day. The cola replied that the festival might as well be performed in his own country and that he would meet all the expenses. Vibhisana then agreed to stay, and the festival was begun and celebrated for nine days in a grand fashion. After a stay of a fortnight Vibhisana started for Lanka. To his utter amazement and sorrow the vimana had got itself fixed to the spot where he had placed it and had become irremovable.8 (According to the popular local version Vibhisana had been instructed by Rama not to place the vimana on the ground. At Srirangam Vibhisana entrusted it to a Brahmana boy for a short while. The latter placed it on the ground as the former did not return in time, as promised. When he returned Vibhisana found the vimana on the ground and irremovable. He became angry and chased the boy, who ran up the rock on the other side of the Kaveri. He was no other than Ganesa (Uccipillaiyar). See also Parameswara Samhita (10:279-281) ) Vibhisana shed tears. The God then said to him, “This place is good, so also its king and people. I desire to stay here. You may retire to Lanka”. He also related to Vibhisana the sanctity of the river Kaveri. “Visvavasu, a Gandharva of the Vindhyas, met on the hill side a congregation of river goddesses and made his obeisance to them. Immediately a debate arose as to whom it was meant. All except Ganga and Kaveri withdrew from the contest. Both the disputants went to Brahma, who declared that Ganga was superior. Kaveri did penance as a result of which Brahma granted to her a status of equality. Still dissatisfied she is performing penance at Saraksetra. To give her the first place among the rivers I have to raise her sanctity to the utmost by remaining in her midst. I will recline here facing your country. You may go back to Lanka.”

Dharmavarma built a shrine for the vimana, the surrounding prakaras and organised worship.

Long post, but here come the pillar sculpture. You can see Vibhisana in his royal bearings – crown and staff, lovingly carrying the Srirangam Vimanam. Sadly this amazing treasure trove of sculptural beauty – the sesharaya mandabam is currently neglected and used as a …..ok, dont want to end a good post on a sad note, we see that in a subsequent post. Enjoy the sculpture for now.

The vimanam pictures ( for comment of shiv) – images are from the net


Waking up Kumbakarna

Well, all of us at one point of time or the other have been shouted at, using the sleeping giant kumbakarna as an example. Its always tough to wake up in the mornings, that too when you are a kid and the evenings are too long and the mornings are too short. But seeing this freeze of the story sculpted into stone in far off Indonesia jolted me wide awake.

Lets brush up our memories of the story from Ramayana, Ravana’s mighty brother, the giant Kumbakarna, sleeps for 6 months at a time. Well, this was actually not a curse but a boon which he himself sought ( ok with some nimble work by Indra).

Having born to mixed parents ( mother was a demon and father a high born), the children are advised by their mother to seek the blessings of Brahma, the creator. So all four, Ravana, kumbakarna, Surpanka and Vibeeshana undertake a stiff penance.

Ravana performs intense penance , lasting several years. Pleased with his austerity, Brahma appears and offers him a boon. Ravana asks for immortality, which Brahma refuses saying everyone has to die someday. Ravana then askes for absolute invulnerability and supremacy before gods and heavenly spirits, other demons, serpents and wild beasts. Contemptuous of mortal men, he did not ask for protection from them. Brahma granted him these boons, and additionally gave him great strength by way of knowledge of divine weapons and sorcery.

Next, its the turn of Kumbakarna, who is already a giant, and Indra the Lord of devas is scared stiff, that any boon would make him invincible. So he seeks the help of the Goddess of Learning, Saraswathi, who at the appropriate moment holds his tongue back. So instead of asking for endless life, he asks for endless sleep. Brahma too glady obliges by granting him this boon. The others are shell shocked and plead with Brahma, that such a boon is akin to death, so he modifies it a bit – saying he will sleep for 6 months and be awake for 6 months. However, he cautions that if he is woken up in the 6 month hibernation, he would become vulnerable.

Ok, now the story spans a few years, the main events of Ramayana are over and we are nearing the climax. Ravana fights Rama – and the brilliance of Rama’s archery makes him loose his divine weapons, chariot and Crowns, and he is left, unarmed, on the battlefield. Rama humbles him more by telling him to go back and come tomorrow with arms.

Smitten by this insult, Ravana commits a blunder by asking his troops to wake up Kumbakarana. Now this is what is depicted on the sculpture. The mountain like colossal figure of the sleeping giant, with soldiers using spears and swords to prod him, one horsemen is riding on him ( see the brilliance of the sculptor – he depicts the previous horse and rider, tired and getting off – towards the left) – we also have an elephant trumpeting into his ear and another demon blowing a conch into his ear.

Guess, my folks didn’t have to go through all this to wake me up.

Image courtesy:

Mallai Olakkaneswara temple

Today we are going to see a unique structure in mallai, sadly not many go to view this amazing place, not just for its beauty but also for its great view. With the new lighthouse ( which itself was commissioned in 1887 !) offering a nice offset, lot of people do capture this structure albeit in long shots. Kind of Old vs new but its more sad since this is probably one of the most unique structures of Mallai.

Why we call it unique, is because its a structural temple and not a rock cut/cave temple like the rest of the sculpture and unlike the shore temple, its build on top of a small hillock. Today the structure is in pretty sad state – nature and the british ( using it as a lighthouse) have taken its toll on the structure. ( images courtesy British library)16891686
From the pictures you could get a good idea on the location, it can reached by climbing a flight of steps adjoining the Mahishasuramardhini cave.
But the temple is still braving the odds and has some very unique sculptures. The rajasimha lions / vyala’s are there on the corner pillars of Garbha Griham and ardha mandabam, and a few of our favorite shiva ganas – amazingly funny and endearing characters these dwarfs.( like children waiting for their dad to come back from work with trinkets)
Now the name, i learnt it after reading Mr. Swaminathan’s work on mallai ( shortly coming out as a book and a must read)

We understand that it was the practice in those days of collecting a measure of oil (Uzhakku-ennai) from the community for the permanent light of this temple. Thus it came to be called Uzhakku-Ennai-Isvarar Temple. Olakkaneswra is its corruption is a view.”
1705 170917651767
There are three relief sculptures on the outer walls: on the south is Dakshinamurti, Siva as a teacher, heralding a practice in all Siva temple then on, Siva as the divine dancer ( visitors to Kanchi kailasanatha would recognise this )on the eastern wall and finally, on the north side, an exquisite relief of Siva subduing Ravana who had the temerity to lift Mount Kailasa.”
The beauty of this sculpture is amazing, you can still see the crescent moon gracing shiva’s locks and the scream emanating from ravana’s mouths.

Sadly our modern day Kings and their consorts have decided that these creations should be graced with their names as well. A thousand year heritage being defaced thus, cant they find better avenues to exhibit their love.

( Thanks to Mr. Swaminathan for taking the time to do the Mallai trip for Ponniyin selvan friends and pictures by Sri. Shriram, Sri. Plastics Chandra and Sri. Vinjamoor Venkatesh)

Ravana Humbled yet again – by who?

Thiruvizhaloor temple miniature sculptures are a treat to watch. We saw in earlier posts how Ravana the King of Lanka is humbled by Shiva. Well this is a continuation of the learning process..
Lets see the pictures first. Just to give you an idea of the scale/size of these excellent miniatures ( there are tons more to come – from darasuram, etc etc) see the Narasimha sculpture and the ball pen in front.
Now we see a very special one – lets analyse the characters in the frame…a Shiva Linga, a monkey praying with folded hands and then a man on his knees – looks bound by some rope…lots of hands and multiple heads. Hey, this is our old friend Ravana, oK – now the story is clear.

Vaali is one of the most powerful men in the universe – its is said that along with his immense personal power, whoever confronts him in a head on battle, he would get one half of their strength as well due to a boon. Hence he was killed from the back – but that becomes a subject for a different post..

Lets come back to this one – Vaali and Ravana are both devot Shiva worshipers – maybe Vaali a bit more than Ravana – every morning he would go to the four sides of the world to offer his prayers and he would be so immersed in his prayers that he would not even think of anything else.

One fine morning, our friend Ravana is on one of his flying chariots roaming around, when he sees a curious site. A monkey offering prayers to a Shiva linga…he is amused, so he gets down quitely and walks up to the monkey, intending to pick it up by its tail and fling it. Just as he catches the tail, its grows and binds him – all the while Vaali is even unaware of this.. he finishes his prayers for that direction and then jumps to the other corner of the world – tagging our hapless ravana around, till he finishes all four sides.

Then as he resumes his normal senses, he realises that someone is wimpering behind him – and finds ravana – he immdly frees him and tenders his apology. While Ravana comes to know of the greatness of Vaali and asks his forgiveness and they become great friends.

The beauty of the sculptor is that he did not depict ravana and vaali facing each other – meaning, even without aid of boon, vaali as stronger than ravana or rather his tail was stronger than ravana.

Poor guys both of them found their ends in the hands oops arrows of Rama.

thanks ( check out many more such images)

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.

Ravana Shakes Mount Kailash

Ravana is well known as the villain of the epic Ramayana …his depiction as the demon king of Lanka who abducts Rama’s wife is well known….however this is an interesting episode which is a prequel to the events of the Ramayana…Ravana as the great shiva devotee and excellent Veena player….. Ravana is humbled four times…once by Vaali, then by KaarthaVeera Arjuna ( not the Arjuna from Mahabharat), then by Rama….and prior to all that by Shiva. This sculpture is called Ravana anugrahamurthy – was sung to great glory by the Saint Appar and finds depiction in many places. But this interesting work is from Cambodia… you can see ravana in all his glory…ten heads, twenty hands 645651653 As Ravana was passing around in his flying chariot..he comes across the abode of shiva and the chariot refuses to go over the mount out of respect for shiva. Ravana is furious and drunk on his ego tries to uproot the entire mountain and hurl it out of his path….as he does so…the lions and other animals run helter skelter….Parvati is scared and leaps on to the lap of shiva…you can see Ganesha in one of the rows along with other ganas ( assistants of shiva) 659655657649 when shiva calmly presses down the mountain with his big toe….and ravana is trapped…what happened next…well thats the plot for a new post by itself… So we see how an interesting lesson in being humble was taught to Ravana …and the greatness of the cambodian sculptor who brought this into stone in such a lively manner