No ordinary sink

While writing about the Tanjore Brihadeeshwara temple, you tend to get lost praising the chola sculptor, but then there are a few later day contributions which need to be acknowledged as well. It might already be well known that i am not particularly a great fan of sculpture post 13th C – but then there are few vestigial remains that are a tribute to the great traditions of stone work. We have seen a few examples like the Srirangam sesharaya mandabam, the pillars from the great Kanakasabhai of Perur – in that line there does exist a splendid structure inside the big temple environs, that needs to be featured. The Nayak contributions to the big temple via the Subramanya Shrine is notable. We will see just a sample from the Subramanya temple – well, just a spout and a sink.

Locating the Subramanya shrine is not difficult, 3/4 into circumambulating the Vimana, you cannot miss the shrine, but credit to the artist, it does merge into the overall theme seamlessly despite a 600 year gap. Using a mixture of British Library antiquesand images from the net to get you a look feel.

What we are going to see, comes into view as you are 3/4 th ( again) into circum ambulating the subramanya shrine.

There is something surreal about black and white photography!!

Well, we have come to the subject of todays post – there is word in tamil, which i cannot correctly translate into english ” menakkedarathu ” – it would mean going to great extent to do a small job.

Lets look at our subject a little closer.

Yes, its a spout for the ablution water to pass from inside the shrine into a receptacle below. Take a look at the splendid stone work on this spout, simply master class, the curves and the graceful lines accentuate the form.

Now, for the sink. Its no common sink mind you!

With Lion mot tiffs as its base, this sink carved of a single block of stone, has more to it that offers the eye. Its got an interesting tale to tell as well.


If you have been following the posts regularly you would have already known the tale, we featured it in

Feed Half of Bheema to

Once you read it, find out what Bheema has in his hands.

and now is caught as his hand is empty

200th Post – May your praise be sung for eons – The Chola Monalisa Tripurantaka fresco

This site has been an eventful journey. For, getting inspired is one thing, but quite often to nurture the spark to ensure that it stays alive is the toughest part. Maybe for me, the flame that lit the spark was so powerful that it still provides the energy to keep pushing ahead on the chosen path. What better to write on to celebrate the remarkable journey as a 200th post, than about the flame itself !! Udayar Sri Raja Raja Chola, and to his chosen brand he will always be ArunMozhiVarman – a lasting legacy – remembered, revered, impacting us and continuing to lead in his footsteps to sing the glory of his splendid land. Its not just vain praise that i seek or promote my senseless idol worship of him via this post professing my love and adoration for this special person, for i am not alone in this select band, who have felt his presence. The big temple evokes different reactions from different people, some are in awe at this size stuck by its imposing proportions, some others by its architectural beauty and technology beyond its times, some others for its sheer sustenance, others for its epigraphical richness, but for us – the select tribe, its a sense of coming home, of returning to his fold, under his loving embrace.

i edit Shakespeare’s text into this context!!

The love I dedicate to your lordship is without end; whereof this “site”, without beginning, is but a superfluous moiety. The warrant I have of your honorable disposition, not the worth of my untutored lines, makes it assured of acceptance. What I have done is yours; what I have to do is yours; being part in all I have, devoted yours. Were my worth greater, my duty would show greater; meantime, as it is, it is bound to your lordship, to whom I wish long life “and after”, still lengthened with all happiness.

AD 1010.
We travel back in time, exactly 1000 years ago.

(Yes, 1000 years have since passed – Inscriptional which documents Sri Raja Raja donating gold for making the top filial – kalasam or pot- ceremonially the final work to be completed – and it corresponds to 275th day of his 25th year of reign. its ironical that He, who was destined to such greatness, was not even first in line for the throne – but fate deemed otherwise – for those who want to know how we date his year of ascension to 985 AD see first comment)

The temple bells are clanging – the noise resonates through around the granite walls of the sanctum, the pillars offer temporary respite absorbing the ding dong, but against them a horde of musicians and percussionists are drawn into a fair battle, the air is filled with a myriad of scents – the aroma of burning camphor, to melting ghee to the freshly ground sandalwood paste, but wait there are some more exotic fragrances that seem to drop from above – yes, indeed – an impressive line of dancing girls, their hair done up with rows and rows of sweet smelling jasmine – seem to frozen in time – like a fawn caught in a lion’s gaze, their practised eyes on their teacher, whose eyes are on the door – as is everyone else, waiting for the arrival of he – the Lord of Lords.

They have all seen him before, on many occasions, be it his radiant armor shining as he rode to battle on his magnificent chariot, or in his regal attire as he gracefully sauntered along on top of the royal elephant in the ceremonial victory procession – but today was different. He was coming to them, to see them perform, to see the fulfillment of his dream – the consecration of the big temple – the tallest edifice on the planet, a work of devotion built to last, to sing the praise of their clan for the millenniums to come. A sudden hush descends, the royal entourage passes through the massive door frame, for a minute the light from the doorway is blocked by a big frame, and then as the rising sun shines through, you see him – he has shed all his royal insignia today – just a flowing garment of the purest white is his dhoti, another matching white garment goes around his towering frame – he has smeared ash over his forehead and his mighty arms and chest, and it seems to show in more glory than the golden vest which he just left behind – on seeing him the trusted aide starts the legendary invocation – a queer sonnet that rid the hearts of his enemies with dread, but his subjects with pride… his prasithi –

Swasthisri ( Hail propserity)
Thirumakal pol perunilach selviyum
thanakkeyurimai poondamai manakolak

Immediately, his eyebrows arch, the right hand starts to go up, instinctively the aide stops in mid sentence – the protocol being broken, his trusted bodyguards make a move to encircle him, but then the eyebrow hasn’t gone up fully – its breaks into a curve to compliment the smile that has just born to make his face look even more benevolent – if it were ever possible.

“My praise fades before my lord, i am but his humble servant – for i am no longer Raja Raja or ArunMozhi but Siva Paadha Sekeren here”

On hearing this, the big drums beat, the bell ringers take the clue and another round of acoustic symphony fills the air – just then – from above come the sound of 400 pairs of anklets – and their ankleted feet – complementing the expert call of their guru – “Tha”

Like a child who has seen his wish fulfilled, the eyes of the greatest king light up in glee, as he stands in front of Peruvudayar – he calls for the man who made it possible – the chief architect Kunjara Mallan

“May it be written that henceforth you shall be known as Raja Raja Perunthachan, and let it also be known that no longer will your clan prefer to remain anonymous – let you name be sculpted along with mine in stone on the very walls of this great temple, forever interweaving your name with mine and your greatest creation till the Sun and the Moon shine – proclaiming this achievement of ours. “

Eyes moist the master sculptor looks lovingly on his benefactor –” Its this greatness in you that makes us your servants for eternity, but pray in this moment, i forget to show you something that will make your heart swell more. I have brought in some expert artists to paint your favorite act of valor of siva on the walls of the ambulatory. “

So, this is the reason why you have not been allowing me to go around , wanting to surprise me. Lets us see.

Sir, its a bit dark there, let me get some torches. Hey, you there, don’t go very near the walls with the torches, every inch is being covered with paintings.

“Your excellency, since you chose to show so many Tripura vijaya sculptures in stone in the vimana sculptures, we guessed that it was your favorite and chose it for this painting.”

‘ Wow, you do know me well, yes, Tripurantaka story was my favorite – though my aunt Sembian Madevi always recited the Sundar or Chandeshwarar legends, my elder sister told me the Tripurantaka so many times that the valor of Shiva has continued to inspire me since. So how have you shown the story, is it like a story board like you do in sculpture, showing one scene after another in sequence?”

‘” Oh, we are blessed to have Kundavai pirattiyar to have molded you since young. No, your highness, we have chosen a novel and unique manner to show the entire legend in a single panel”

” In a single panel – interesting, how would you do that – meaning – there are atleast 6 key acts with the tripurantaka legend?”

” Sir, thanks to the richness of talent in our land, take a look at the painting now ”

‘ Wait,let me get Madurantakan also to see”

‘ yes sir, he looks exactly like how you were 20 years ago

“Yes, but amplified 20 fold for battle. Rajendra see this master painting. Remember, the story of Tripurantaka – of how the three demons Taarakaaksha, Kamalaaksha and Vidyunmaali – sons of Taraka – with their boon from Brahma and being Shiva devotees – tormented the earth. They had their cities which could fly in the air and could be destroyed only by Shiva. The power got to their head and they tormented the people and when the devas appealed to Shiva, he could not go against his own devotees. So he sent Vishnu as Buddha to lead them out of the faith and then summoned all the devas, concentrating all the powers of the Gods – the earth became his chariot, the Sun and the Moon the wheels, the very Meru mountain his bow, Brahma as his charioteer and Vishnu the arrow. Am i right Perunthachan”

” Ofcourse Sir, the chariot was crafted by Viswakarma himself who we trace our lineage from. We have painted Brahma here – as the charioteer”

” Father, but why is brahma shown as though he is speaking to Shiva rather than facing the enemies?”

‘ Yes, my son – this is an emotive panel – the painter is trying to tell a story in a single panel”

:Sirs, you can see Vishnu on top seated like Buddha with the demons worshiping him. you can also see Ganesh on his mouse mount, Muruga on his peacock and Devi on her Lion accompanying shiva into battle along with a host of Ganas.”

” Yes, the demons look really cruel – can you ask you man to take the torch nearer – i can see something here, which i think is what you want to show me – Rajendra can you find out?”

‘ Remember hearing the two thevaram verses refer to this incident – very contrasting references. One verse says he was angered and another verse says he smiled.

Thevaram Verse1

Thevaram Verse2

” That is fantastic, you have been concentrating on reading the verses as well. My guru interpreted it – that as Shiva in all his war attire, accompanied by all the devas – confronts the army of the Tripura asuras, he is red with anger, eyes bulging out – your dancer friend would be able to tell you the correct name – i think it is called Raudra drishti in Natya Sastra of Bharata. In depicting this pitiless sentiment, the eye balls should be lifted up, rough, and reddish in line. The eyebrows should be kept crooked.”

” Father, do we have to bring her into this conversation !! Well, yes i can see the painter has depicted that emotion here – Shiva is fully red with rage like you when you get angry.”

‘ son, you seem to have turned a bit red now as well, why? but do you notice something different in the face of Shiva’

” Father, i do notice something more different in the way he is shown holding the bow. The bow is facing inward and not at the enemy”

‘ son, that is the greatness of the painter. to continue to story, there are two versions. One says, the devas grew a bit arrogant and their ego made them think that Shiva needed their help to destroy the demons- while the other version says that Brahma asked Shiva, why he needed the assortment of weapons and entrouge of ganas for this fight. Anyway, at that point, Shiva bends his bow holding hand curling it inwards and just smiled – the next instant – the asuras were burnt to ashes”

” Now, can you see the smile of Shiva – masterly portrayed by the artist. One half of the face he has shown rage and the lower portion a childish smile”

Oh, great work father, i cant wait to see the rest of the works””

Photos courtesy: I am indebted to Dr Kudavoil Balasubramaniam for his guidance and support. This post just scrapes the surface of these fantastic paintings. Please read his masterly work on the Big temple. HIndu paper article on sir’s book release

Thanks for support of REACH Chandra and all others.

I take your hand – for eternity

To depict a wide gamut of emotions into metal casting calls for exceptional skill. who better to attempt it than the Chola craftsmen and what better scene than the drama of emotions during a wedding – the wedding of the divine parents at that. Yes, today we are going to see a stunning bronze composition – the wedding of Meenakshi with Sundareshwarar. We already saw the metamorphosis of Tadagai – the three breasted warrior queen of Madurai into Meenakshi , a stunning shy lass – true to the prophecy, at the sight of her prince charming – Shiva as the epitome of manly charm – Sundareshwarar.

Imagine the situation of such a wedding, throw in the bride’s brother – Vishnu here and his consort Lakshmi giving off their priced possession to Shiva.

Take a look at this bronze now from the Tanjore Raja Raja Museum.


The bridgegroom – heart swelling with pride, a mischievous smile on his lips, majestic in his poise, triumphantly taking the hand of his beloved.

The bride – embodiment of grace, head bent in his shyness – experiencing the first touch of her beloved as she feels his powerful hand close on top of hers, and her left hand flying up to hide her reddening cheeks.

The symbolisation of taking the hand has lot of significance – for its a promise to be with her, to protect her and live as one – for eternity.

The perfection in this composition, flows through every inch , every curve of the bronze – a visual delight.

Sadly, its all held inside glass cases and its hard to bring out the splendor in more depth and detail.


But i have with me a gifted artist, Mr Prasad – who has sketched this for us ( he says it was his early attempt – but to me its masterclass!!!)

Sketching bronzes is no easy task – for you are not sketching just a piece of art , you are sketching a deity and to bring that grace onto paper – calls for exceptional talent.

I am blessed to be even be born in the soil that brought forth these masterpieces.

Images courtesy: Our Satheesh n various on the net.

The unsung Chola painter Vs Da Vinci

In recent times, the Chola fresco paintings of Tanjore have been in the limelight for various reasons. Not many know that these 1000-year-old frescoes, were discovered as early as 1931 – by a 28-year-old historian, S.K. Govindaswami. Thankfully the HIndu did republish the article giving credit to the right person for the find.

An exciting discovery and a 1931 scoop for The Hindu

Sadly, even after 80 years – there are not many published works on these beautiful paintings and some rare attempts have been met with copyright and other issues. Normal visitors to the site are also not allowed permission to view these !! As i write this, i am forced to use already published photos on the net, but then the question lingers that when the artist himself didn’t sign the work,preferring to remain forever immortal yet anonymous, who are we to put copyrights on mere photos, thereby diminishing the great tradition of this land and depriving many of the sheer joy of viewing these.

To truly understand and appreciate the greatness of this artist, i wish to showcase one small panel in a fresco – the ascent of Saint Sundarar ( on Indra’s white elephant) along with Cheraman Perumal ( on a white horse) to the heavens. Much has been already written upon the theme of this panel and i am given to understand a few Phd thesis have been presented on it, sadly as is the case with many of our draconian policies, these are never accessible to anyone !!! Anyway, coming back to the post, we are going to see only a small portion of this panel – to be specific just Cheraman Perumal and the horse.


Photo: Courtesy
http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2008/01/india-ancient-art/behl-photography

Before we dwell further, just a short note on why i wanted to showcase this particular work. Somehow, horses have a certain raw energy in them, the ripple of the muscle, the grace of the arching limbs, the sway of the tail and mane – they are an artist’s delight ( next only to beautiful women)!. No wonder Da Vinci did considerable studies on them. Recently there was a program on Discovery or National Geographic about one of his unfinished works – a collosal 24 foot bronze horse. As i was following up on the sheer effort the great artist had put on the study of horses, there was something familar about it. See his sketches and read on..


Photos: Various sources on the net

We now come to the Chola fresco. Sri C. Sivaramamurthy, one of the greatest connoisseurs of art and chola art in particular, writes about this specific piece thus ( he has sketched the outline as well for us to enjoy)

http://www.yabaluri.org/TRIVENI/CDWEB/SomeFrescoesoftheCholasnov33.htm

The picture of the rider on the horse in fig. 2 is equally attractive in every detail. There is a grace in the way in which he holds the reins in one hand and the long wand in the other. The horse though reminding one of the animals the of that species, especially the white one in the centre in the Battle of St. Egidio by Paolo Uccello in the National Gallery, and though appearing to be defective in drawing to some extent in the so-called modern academic sense–one has to bear in mind that many pictures of great masters cannot stand this test so well, which is, to confess the truth, never a test of true greatness and worth–is yet a unique example of the skill in animal drawing in those far-off days, and testimony to this is borne by the magnificent elephant that is painted very close to it.

We will see the mentioned elephant in a subsequent post. Since the sketch is of low resolution, have retouched it for our better enjoyment. ( i wish i could get one of our more talented artists to paint it as per the original color scheme !!)

Sri C. Sivaramamurthy, does mention the resemblance to Battle of St. Egidio by Paolo Uccello in the National Gallery.

The color combinations do bear an uncanny resemblance. But to me, as i look back at Da Vinci’s sketches and this fresco, it slowly dawns on me – every detail – the roundness of the horses back, the detailing of the rear legs, the fullness of the chest, the majestic head, the neatly cropped and braided mane, the prancing of the front legs,the exactness of proportion, the inch perfect joints, the subtly hinted muscularity – though not as pronounced as Da vinci’s studies, the clarity of the hoofs…..leaves me speech less.

Take a bow, O anonymous chola painter, we salute you.

p.s Maybe, on the occasion of the 1000th anniversary of the Big temple, the authorities can bring out atleast a book on these paintings if not putting these up on their sites for the world to relish.

The moat around the Tanjore Big temple

The recent headlines for renovation of the moat around the Big temple in tanjore,
ASI submits Rs.1-crore proposal to renovate moat around Big Temple , took me back some years ago – when i had chanced on a very interesting antique photograph from the archives of the British Library.

The archives are a real treasure trove for enthusiasts. Since we are talking of the Moat around the temple complex, take a look at these rare captures in the late 1800’s and the early 1900’s ( photo courtesy – British Library Archives). Shows the moat still filled with water but the whole structure is in a bit of a mess.

But are we just going to see some antique photos today. No, of course there has to be some twist. the twist is this capture.

Dated to the year 1921, to be precise this is the description of the plate

Sawyer, Wilbur A. [Wall, moat, and outer gate tower of the Hindu temple at Thanjavur]. Photographic Print. 1 Image. [2 April 1921].

Look carefully, do you notice something.

There is a very very unusual object on the wall.

What is it, and where is it now !

Thanks to Rhoda for spotting one more ( adding now)

An interesting Sculpture chat on some confusing sculptures

Friends, when we first introduced the chat widget in the site, it was more a tool to encourage more readers to participate ( since some were shy of leaving comments). Am sharing a interesting sculpture chat with a interesting follower of our site concerning some really confusing aka interesting sculptures and statues, and has the potential to raise a few eyebrows. So please feel free to share your comments and thoughts.

Name withheld to protect identity

voice 1: Hey, i came across your post on somnathpur in which you direct to another site for this photo

http://bp0.blogger.com/_xUJrI6cswLg/SF_jI-vYY3I/AAAAAAAAAQQ/UKpNmgOUwAY/s1600-h/DSC07354.JPG

vj: sorry, which one please and may i know who i am chatting with ?

v1: Well i am ##### and am studying sculpture @…….. I am talking of the Hanuman holding the Bana Lingam sculpture from Somanthpur.

vj: Oh, Nice to hear. Yes, that one – was an interesting sculpture of Anand and he put this below note in his site.


A creative sculpture showing Hanuman with the baana lingam in his hand. He was asked to bring a shiva linga from the himalayas by Rama when they had to perform a pooja at Rameshwaram to clear the brahmahaththi dosham which had been caused due to killing of Ravana(a brahmin). Since it took a long time to get one and the auspicious time was nearing Rama and Sita devi made a lingam out of sand and started the pooja. When Anjaneya arrived he was sad to see that his efforts were fruitless. So lord Rama granted him a boon that thereafter, the lingam brought by Hanuman would be worshipped first and then only the bhaktas should worship his shivalingam. Thus there are 2 lingams in Rameshwaram till today and pooja is performed as directed by Lord Rama.”

v1: But as per my teacher, this sculpture is still a puzzle and cannot be clearly identified.

vj: Is it the Hanuman or the Lingam that he is holding. Take a look again at both ( Thanks Arvind for the closeups)

v1: Well, the confusion i think is due to the fact that he is holding the Conch and Discus.


vj: Why, its not uncommon to depict such.

v1: Is it so.

vj: Ok, let me ask you this way, have you been to the bronze exhibits at the chennai museum.

v1: Well not yet, we are going to study bronzes next.

vj: Ok, take a look at this bronze, Nandhi. ( thanks to flickr url given)

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2063/2410943558_f9be866992.jpg?v=0

v1: Well, i understand what you are trying to say.

vj: But, let me confuse you more. Take a look at this stone sculpture from the Tanjore Big temple. ( thanks to arvind again !!)

v1: Oh, thats a stiff one.

vj: Yes, why is Hanuman shown as carrying the attributes of Shiva.

v1: You are not answering my question but posing more

vj: Ok, let me attempt to answer yours. Firstly, is the Somnathpur Sculpture Hanuman. Secondly, the legend of Hanuman bringing the Bana Lingam is popular and wouldn’t want to go into justifying legends.Thirdly, can vehicles or mounts carry attributes – Well you see Nandhi with the attributes of Shiva. Lastly, Hanuman is sung as a Avatar of Shiva and hence he is shown with his attributes !!

v1: Hmm, let me try explaining this to my teacher.

vj: Please note, we are novices with no formal training in art or sculpture. Just trying to explain and reason out with the information we have on hand. Dont get into trouble with your teacher arguing based on ours !!!

What is art

Today, is a first for this site. We have been showcasing heritage treasures for over a year, we carried a series on Art inspired by sculpture, which we will continue to do, but today we are entering a new sphere of art, aka breaking new ground. Inorder for any art to survive it should be capable of evolving, not to be restricted by set rules ( Agamas!!) but before that lets indulge in some notions on art…

What is art? We have seen umpteen sculptures, paintings, statues, panels, monoliths, bas reliefs, murals, frescoes, bronze figurines, wooden carvings – mostly works of men transcending time – one thing common among them is their universal appeal. Be it 400 – 500 -1000 years, yet these creations continue to capture our eye, create a sense of sheer joy when we see them. What is it that is there in art that is so universal in its appeal, that the Bas reliefs of a bygone era – a 1300 year legacy, can cast its spell on an uninitiated person, someone who traverses thousands of miles, from a culture that is alien to the craftsmen, someone who does not share the common heritage, the legends and myths sculpted in these forms,though alien, don’t shy away from inspiring him. Art appeals to something that is primeval in you.

Art is an expression, a medium through which an artist communicates his feelings, his emotions to his viewer. It is this freedom of expression, a willingness to be one with his audience, to make the viewer see what he sees, feels what he feels, that is art. There is an artist inside everyone, locked inside, waiting for a release. Training and exposure unchain this angel inside you, for your mind to fly – to seek release in an explosion of color, form – its sheer poetry on a canvas. The mind is a veritable treasure house of emotions, it captures everything it sees, how it does it is a puzzle, but the images with the strong emotions attached are stored with more priority. ( Just sit back and try to bring back a visible memory – am sure you would vision a scene thats got some powerful visual imagery associated with it). The artist seeks to release this visual imagery through a medium – which is his art. This release is universal in man and not restrained only to the creator, as a viewer, you are drawn into the canvas, sharing the anguish, joy, sorry, exuberance of the artist, a thing of beauty in front of you, brings out a feeling of sheer bliss in you – this ability to transmit your emotions, expressing them in a medium that appeals to others is true Art. Its a bonding that you feel with the creator, an invisible umblical chord, which despite being cut, somehow transmits the emotions felt by one to another. There are no set rules for this expressions, you can google for types of art today and comeup with a list of over 1000 different sounding names, some may appeal to you , some may not, but it is this lack of definition that gives art its magic sheen. An aura of sublime beauty that makes you think sometimes – is this a work of man? So this strong expression of visual imagery combined with a emotional outcry transcendenting barriers of race, creed, language is Art. So by its very nature art is subjective and with evolving times, art evolves as well. It is this constant evolution that gives rise to new styles -how long can you stick to the same staple diet. Art should be appealing to the new generation as well. So thanks to Artist Jeeva’s introduction, to Mr Bala, on whose introduction, we are going to showcase a masterful art by Sri Chalukyan.

A sadly ill maintained mural from the Tanjore temple, with its colors worn off is the inspiration for this work. The panel – Kaalasamhaaramurthy ( kaala – death, samhara – overcome) shows Shiva kicking Yama, the God of death to protect his devotee – Markandeya. We have already seen this story from the chola panel from inside the temple before, so we go straight to the stucco panel.

Proving that true art transcends time, Chalukyan has taken the panel that depicts Shiva stopping time for his devotee ( Markandeya was given a boon to remain 16 forever – how many of us would like to have that boon !!), a story of unconditional surrender to the supreme force and chosen to depict it in a medium that has been in use from prehistoric times – charcoal. A medium that mocks mortal existence, for its our ultimate end point – Ash, which is sported by Shiva.

Human existence is mortal, art is immortal.

Further works of Sri Chalukyan

http://www.chalukyan.com/

Tanjore Big Temple – Vyaala row

In the previous post, we had seen the top row …many friends, even regular visitors to the Tanjore temple confessed that they have missed that row. So we rub it in a bit more, by featuring the bottom row as well. ( Thanks again to Satheesh for his excellent observation, use of props!! and photography)

Lets see if you can spot them first.



Hmm, let me make this easier for you all

next set

next set


next set

So, lets take a closer look at these beautiful Vyalaas, aren’t they Gorgeous.

The corners of these already miniature Vyalaas are even more spectacular. They have their own emerging rider similar to their bigger cousins on the top row. For good measure they have thrown an even smaller sculpture on top!

The ball pen cover provides us with an idea of scale.

To top all this, we also see a splendid miniature of Shiva as Gajasamharamurhty – Yaaniuri porthiya murthy.

So next time you visit the big temple, don’t just stop in amazement at its massiveness, take time to appreciate the smaller and subtle beauties as well.

The Yaazhi riders of Tanjore

After a series of serious posts, felt we need something light to relax. Plus Prasad said the last post had only few photos and satheesh said i wasn’t publishing enough of his photo contributions. ( same apology to chandra as well). Been quite occupied with work n travel, plus sometimes the story need to fit – dont want to just exhibit some photos – you can go to flickr / picasa for that. So this post is a conscious effort to redress the above, but combining with my favorites…tajore, yaazhi, sculpture.

Yaazhi’s are most probably the least viewed and discussed sculptures. Despite this they find prominent position in almost all major temples. In fact in tanjore there are two rows of Yaali’s which run almost right around the vimana base.

These kind of artistically border the great edicts ( inscriptions ) of my beloved Raja Raja Chola. Being there, standing amidst the massive edifice often leaves me under a spell,the air brings in many familiar scents, to be able to see the words, to be able to read them ( standing for a 1000 years) – its doesnt inspire a sense of awe, but more a feeling of returning to ones home, as though i once belonged there!

Back to the post, we are going to see the top row of impressive Yaazhi riders in this post. there is another row down below, which we will see later ( one thousand thanks to Satheesh for patiently taking these and sending over to me)

At first glance they do look similar, the symmetry is mesmerizing. What you must also notice is that these are action frames, the riders, the prancing yaazhis, the fighters emerging from the mouths are all full of live, frozen in time.

But are they symmetrical, r they just repetitive depictions of the same.


To give you an idea of the size of these beauties, as usual we place a common object..a mineral water bottle

The riders on their part come in a myriad of forms and poses.


The corners of this row of yaazhi riders are interesting as well. An unique mythological animal – a yaazhi as well is shown framing two fighters inside its open mouth – sometimes two yaazhi riders emerge as well. This concept is also seen in various early chola temples ( Chandra and Satheesh – will showcase them as well shortly)



What beautiful miniatures, next time please do not miss them.

A Sculpture Monalisa

This is an amazing sculpture of Shiva as Gajasamhara murthy ( gaja – elephant), samhara ( vanquish) ins sanskrit or Yaani uri porthia murthy ( yaani – elephant, uri – skin, porthia – cover or clad in) in Tamil. This beauty was brought from Darasuram to Tanjore museum.

We have seen many sculptures of this episode before, so whats so great about this one? you might ask. Well when i met one of my mentors Shri. Kudavoil Balasurbramaniam, i asked him about his favorite pieces. ( incidentally the same one was picked up by master sculptor Sri Umapathy in our recent interview – will post it – he is trying out a new form of showcasing these beauties in plates !!)

Well, K Balu Sir explained to me the splendor of this creation. At first glance, i did not pick the amazing details of this sculpture. There are many repetitions of this pose in later chola temples and also in other places, but the chola style is unique. Here is one from Chidambaram.

Chandra of course will pick the Pullamangai sculpture we saw earlier as his pick – since its a miniature and the delightful baby skanda jumping off parvathi’s hands.

But the beauty of this creation – standing at almost 6 feet, the sculptor really used the proportions to bring out at sculptural marvel.

Inorder to fully appreciate the greatness of this magnificent piece, i requested my good friend Mrs. Lakshmi Sharath who was going to Tanjore to get me some closeup pictures. ( Kathie also helped with her snaps!!!)

We have already seen the episode in detail in the earlier post, however the dynamic post, quote from Sri Vidya Dehejia’s book – Art of the Imperial Cholas

Also from Darasuram is a dynamic relief carving of Siva’s jubilant dance of triumph after killing the elephant demon Gajasura. Having flayed the elephant, Shiva held its skin in his outstretched hands and danced a tempestuous dance. The exaggerated twist of his body dramatically conveys his frenzied movement. One cannot but appreciate the sentiment of Saint Manikkavachakar, who described Shiva as a madman:

i shall call you
madman draped in elephant skin
poison throated madman,
madman dancing
amid the trees
of the burning ground,
madman clad in tiger skin,
madman who enslaved
even me.

But the beauty of the piece needs more elaboration. He has four hands on each side – look at how his fingers have torn into the elephant hide and protrude out. Oh! such splendid detailing.

Look at the ornamentation on the hands, legs, neck. The elaborate headdress, flowing locks forming a crown held back by a Skull shaped diadem, his knotted waist cloth swaying in the power of his dance. Exemplary art. But what is his lower left hand doing, its pointing the viewer towards the extreme left of the sculpture ( right as you view it).

Well well well, we see Parvathi in a kind of sidewards stance – her right shoulder is slightly pushed up, as though she is shielding someone, Oh!, there he is, baby skanda, cocooned by his mother, who doesn’t want him to witness the gory scene.

Here lies the magnificence of this sculpture. As you bend down and look upwards from the position of baby skanda, parvathi’s body would block the action of Shiva totally. But we return to the face of Shiva now, for the final flair of the artist, as a singer would finish off his masterful composition with a delightful alapana. Look closely at the face of shiva.


33733386
The side facing away from Paravathi and Skanda – the right side ( left as you view it) – eyes brows are arched in anger, while the other side is more gentle