Patanjali – the snake bodied saint

We have already seen the interesting post of the Tiger legged saint Vyagrapadhar. Today we are going to see his contemporary – The snake bodied saint – Patanjali. There are many versions and legends associated with this interesting person again liked to Chidambaram and the Dance of Shiva.
( Thanks to Mrs. Geetha Sambasivam for the excellent narration in tamil and Picasa contributor Ms. Komilla for the stunning pictures)

The dating of his time is difficult – some say its from time primordial. Legends associate him as an incarnation of Adhi Sesha, the mount of Vishnu with an interesting anecdote. Some say when Vishnu took the different incarnations, Adhi Sesha took to the earth as a Rishi- as he fell, he was found as though prostrating at the feet of a pious women and hence the name – Paadha – feet, anjali – oferring salutation. There is another interesting anecdoate – Once Vishnu was resting on Adhi sesha he was able to visualise the cosmic dance of Shiva in his dreams. As he smiled in his sleep, Adhi Sesha also realised the weight of the Lord increasing. When He asked the Lord for reasons for the same, Vishnu beautifully explained the delightful dance of Lord Shiva, hearing this Aadhi Sesha was filled with desire to personally witness the dance of Shiva, and hence Vishnu directed him to go to Chidambaram to wait to see the performance! I due course Adhi Seshan was born as the son of Rishi Athirki and Anusuya.

His contemporary is said to be Pusha Mitra ascertained to BC 3 rd C, so he is also dated to that period by some. Others ascertian him to be a contemporary of noted Siddhar Tirumoolar – one of the 18 Siddhars. Some others opine that Tirumoolar’s Tirumanthiram is the translation of the sanskrit work Maha Bhasyam of Patanjali. All these are theories and its very difficult to pass judgements on them. Lets see what Tirumoolar writes about him

Patanjali was born to Athiri maharishi and Anusuya. The Rishi had desired to have the three main gods of the Hindu trinity – and hence were born Thatatreyar, Durvasar and Patanjali. Also was born Arundathi who later married Vashistar. About 100 kms from Coimbatore is a place called tirumurthi hills, is ascertained as his birthplace ( in days of yore this area was referrred to as Southern Kailash). Athiri Rishi prayed to the Amanilingeshvaram shrine there and he counts Patanjali as one of the 18 Siddhars.

He also mentions that Patanjali along with his 7 friends learnt Yoga under the direct tutelage of Nandhi.

One of Siddhar, Bogar 7000 writes thus about Patanjali. In his quest for ultimate enlightenment through Yoga, he is led to the right part of Kundalini Yoga and asked to study the path set by Patanjali, Vyagrapadhar, sivayogi Munivar. There are many more references to patanjali in Bogar’s 7000.

The Patanajli who authored the dance scriptures and the one who authored Yoga scriptures along with the one who wrote the Maha Bhasyam – are they one and the same or different individuals. Is a questions that is difficult to answer.

It is said that since Patanjali’s very breath was toxic, he always tutored his pupils from behind a screen. However, one day, one of pupils had just left to answer natures call outside his class, when the rest got the best of human curiosity and lifted the veil – and were all destroyed. The only surviving pupil was the one who had gone out and he brought out the texts and since he missed part of the lecture there are missing infos!!

Here is an interesting anecdote on him: The very first people who witnessed the cosmic dance of Shiva are Patanjali , vyagrapathar but nandhi always claimed that he was the foremost to witness the divine spectacle. He had watched it standing by the side and it got to his head. Similarly Vyagrapahar also felt a bit heady that the feet of the tiger that the Lord gave him to fetch the fresh blooms even before the sun rose, made him resemble the lord who wore the Tiger skin as his garment. Further the tiger legs also gave him swifter speed to match the dancing steps of the Lord. So both of had great pride in themselves and looked down at Patanjali.

Further during the special days of Pradhosham, the Lord danced within the two horns of Nandhi – Nandhi visualised this eternally and even heard the ringing of his ankle bells and rhythmically shook his head often to keep the beat. Oneday, Shiva decided to introduce a new form of dance and there was a huge audience gathered comprising of Devas, Patanjali, Vyagrapadhar – Nandhi was standing with his Drum.

Nandhi started talking to Patanjali and Vyagrapadhar on he witnessing the Lord cosmic dance in Chidambaram. Vyagrapadhar sang the praise of his tiger legs and how with their benefit he too could match the Lord, and hence he is the one who enjoyed the dance more. And since he was watching, the Lord too showed his entrordinary prowess in dance on that day ! Hearing this Nandhi laughed, dismissing Vyagrapadhar claims, he talked of the special dance of shiva during Pradhosa days, for he dances specially for him. so saying both of them look down at Patanjali – belittling him, for he has no horns or tiger legs. Patanjali felt really sad and for once tought that maybe since he had a snakes body and a human head he could not fully appreciate the dance of Shiva.

Just at that time Shiva entered with tremendous fanfare, having known of the banter of Nandhi and Vyagrapadha, and wanting to teach them a lesson, he tells Patanjali – that he should set the rhythm and the song for his new dance. The specialty would be that there would be no horns or legs in the song ( pun – in tamil – the long vowels are written with additional marks – which are called horns and legs) – so Patanjali was filled with joy and gleefully composed a song without any long vowels. Thereby teaching both his learned friends a lesson in humility

We now see an interesting mural from Tanjore big temple corridor – The Lord of dance blissfully dancing away with Vyagrapadhar and Patanjali in rapt attention.

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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Shiva burns the Lord of Love – Tanjore

Today we are going to see another interesting panel from the Tanjore temple ( thanks again to Satheesh). The burning of the Lord of Love – Kama by Siva.

To the uninitiated a short brief on Kamadeva – the god of love – fair complexioned, handsome and the best looking among the gods. He carries a bow made of sugarcane and strung with a line of humming bees. He shoots with his bow the five flower-tipped shafts of desire * . RATI (passion) his wife and his friend VASANTA (spring), who selects for him the shaft to be used on the current victim accompanies him. Kamadeva’s vehicle is the parrot.

{ *couple of months ago in agathiar forum Mr. K. Srikanth posted an interesting article on the flowers that make up Kama’s arrow and his targets / effects. am giving that below – His arrows are of five varieties of flowers. Aravindam which is Lotus, Asokam – Hellebore, Chootham – Mango flower, Navamallika – new Jasmine, and Nilotpala – blue lotus are the five arrows of manmadha. With these arrows he hits five places in the body and creates five different effects.
Unmaadana – ‘unmattam’ or craziness/sillyness happens when manmatha hits with Lotus flower on the chest, rodana – the asoka flower hits the lips makes the person lament/cry with excitement, sosna – the jasmine flower hits the eyes and reddens it (loss of sleep), sammohana – the tender mango flower when hit at the head; makes the person loose their mind and finally the deadly Nilotapal flower stupifies the person to standstillness (Stambhanam).
http://manoranjitam.wordpress.com/2008/01/21/legend-of-kaama/ }

Ok, enough of introductions, we plunge into the story / legend.

The story immediately follows our earlier panel – that of Dhaksha’s beheading. Not able to put up with the insults heaped on her husband by her father, Dhakshayini has immolated herself in the sacrificial fire of Dhaksha. Heartbroken at this, Shiva is deeply immersed in penance. He is hardly aware of what is happening around and in deep meditation.

So when the destroyer is in such state, the forces of evil raise their heads. A demon named Taraka performs a great number of austerities for a great number of years, as usual Brahma is forced to grant an audition – usual dialogue – demon seeks boon of immortality – Brahma refuses – offers something short – This time the demon is wise ( or so he thinks), he knows that Shiva is in deep trance and there is no sign of his consort – he is leading a life of absolute austerity. So he seeks absolute invulnerability from every creation in the universe except a son of Shiva.

Ok, back to familiar script – armed with the boon, Taraka has none to stop him from conquering the worlds and inflicting tremendous hardships on humans and the gods. He defeated the gods one by one and forced them to pay him tribute. Indra was forced to part with his wonderful white horse, Uchchaisravas, which was one of the fourteen precious things that had turned up at the Churning of the Ocean at the beginning of creation. Jamadagni, the great sage, had to give up his celestial cow Kamdhenu, a creature which could fulfill all desires. Kubera, the god of wealth, had to pay tribute to Taraka in the form of a thousand precious sea-horses and Vayu had to obey all of the wicked asura’s commands. Even the sun and the moon were in terror of Taraka and while the sun could not give out any heat the moon was forced to shine all the time. The gods were forced out of their respective heavens and wander about in forests.

The disposed gods regrouped in the forest and tried to come up with the way to vanquish the demon – they blamed Brhama squarely for their debacle and at that point Brahma reminded them of the loophole in the boon. Immediately the Gods set about working on the acilles heel of Tarakasura. But the problem was that Shiva was still mourning Dhakshayini and was living a life of complete celibacy.

Fortunately the divine mother was already reborn as Parvathi ( parvatham – mountain – daugter off) daughter of the Himavan ( Himaalaya mountain) and his wife Manorama.
Parvati was born, exceedingly beautiful and worthy of a potent god like Shiva. When she came of age she realised her mission in life and she herself began to perform many austerities in the hope of attracting Shiva’s attention but that god was still in grief and impervious to all her best efforts.

Indra then turns to Kama, the god of love and desire, to go to Mount Kailash and somehow make Shiva break his self-imposed celibacy. That flighty god fearfully went to Kailash and found Shiva deep in meditation, impervious to all around him. Even the birds and animals in that holy place made no noise. Even the leaves on the trees stayed still and made no sound. Kama dared not proceed with what he had been sent to do and hung about the place wondering what he could do.

So Kama dithered about the place quite uncertain as to how to rouse Shiva’s desire to wed with Parvati. This uncertain situation went on for many days till, one day, suddenly, Kama saw Parvati approach gently and quietly and start picking flowers to offer to her desired lord, Shiva. Kama immediately saw his opportunity and, setting aside his fear of the hot-tempered god, fitted an arrow to his famed bow and aimed at Shiva and let fly. The arrow flew true to its mark, Shiva’s breast. Shiva was rudely shaken out of his meditative trance and his eyes flew open. The first person he saw was the lovely Parvati charmingly picking the colorful flowers. He immediately felt a warm surge of love for her course through his body. Then he saw Kama and he instantly understood the reason for his unforeseen desire. He flew into a rage at what he thought of as Kama’s imprudence and, turning his terrible third eye on that hapless god, reduced him to ashes.

Taking pity at the woes and responding to the pleas of his widow, Rati, Lord Shiva restored her husband but only as a mental image, representing true love and affection and not just physical lust. Hence the other name of Kama Deva is ANANGA (the bodiless).

The rest – is the birth of skanda/muruga and how he becomes the warrior chieftain of the Gods and leads them to a successful campaign to destroy Tarakasura. ( the entire legend is beautifully described in kalidaasa’s immortal work – Kumarasambhava )

A long post but an interesting legend. Lets look at the sculpture now.

The entire panel coming up first for you. The top most row is a groups of ascetics and the bottom most row -Shiva’s faithful assistants. The main story described in three scenes in between.

The first scene – shiva is in deep meditation – watch the beauty of the sculpture, even in this miniature scale the sculptor has managed to sculpt shiva’s closed – meditating eyes ! The handsome Kama ofcourse is aiming his arrow on shiva. (you can vaguely see the smile on his lips)

The second scene, immdly below – we see a falling Kama and a wailing Rathi. Again a slightly damaged sculpture, but the falling kama is shown beautifully. You can also see Rathi wailing beating her hands on her heads ( a very south Indian emotional act)

The last one, to the right of the second scene – we see a resurrected Kama in all devotion and a visibly happy Rathi – taking the blessings of shiva ( who has a large assitant – bootha gana beside him)

This reminds me of a similar scene in cambodia – Banteay Srei complex, which we will see in the next post.

There are many references in Thevaram on this episode, ( thanks to Mr.V. Subramaniam ) quoting a couple below;

http://www.thevaaram.org/thirumurai_1/songview.php?thiru=4&Song_idField=41030&padhi=103&startLimit=3&limitPerPage=1&sortBy=&sortOrder=DESC


fixing the pure and soft flowers as arrows in the bow of the sugar-cane.
putting into use the fire the Lord in nākaikkārōṇam who destroyed with the frontal eye kāmaṉ to become ash!
praising your names.
grant your grace to utter the five letters of namaccivāya on the day when I die.
our Lord who does good to devotees!
Translation: V.M.Subramanya Aiyar–Courtesy: French Institute of Pondichery / EFEO (2006)

http://www.thevaaram.org/thirumurai_1/songview.php?thiru=12&Song_idField=1228&padhi=72&startLimit=476&limitPerPage=1&sortBy=&sortOrder=DESC


“O Nectar that devoured the venom of the ocean
To save the Deva-throng of devotees,
O pure and purifying Lord unknowable
To the tall Vishnu and the Four-faced Brahma,
O One whose jewel is the snake of blue-hued poison!
O Holy Lord who, when Rati prayed to You,
Resurrected Kaaman who was reduced to cinders!
O beauteous Lord of Marukal girt with fragrant
And flowery gardens! Pray, save me!
Translation: T.N. Ramachandran

Muruga masquerades as an old man to marry valli

Thanks to Satheesh, today we return to Tanjore Big temple – for another visual feast. The marriage of Valli with Muruga. ( the Tamil portion of this post has been composed – couldnt call it written, by Sri Dhivakar sir). First to give you an idea of the location of the main sculpture of Muruga on his peacock mount and the story panel sculptures around it.


I am basing the explanation of the legend, using the text of Mr. Zvelebil from below site with some slight modifications to suit `our’ audience:: http://murugan.org/research/zvelebil.htm

There is a mountain called Valli Malai or Valli Verpu, not far from the village of Merpati, in the Tontainatu country. In a village beneath the hill lived a hunter called Nampi; all his children being boys, he longed for a little girl. On the mountain slope, an ascetic by name of Śivamuni was engaged in austerities. One day a gazelle went by, and the ascetic was aroused by its lovely shape; his lascivious thoughts made the gazelle pregnant.

In due time, the gazelle gave birth to a girl in a pit dug out by the women of the hunter-tribe when they searched for the tubers of edible yam (valli kodi – yam creeper in tamil). The female deer, having found out that she had given birth to a strange being, abandoned the child which was discovered by the hunter-chief Nampi and his wife. Overwhelmed with joy, they took the little girl to their hut and named her Valli.

When Valli reached the age of twelve, she was sent to the millet field – in agreement with the custom of the hillmen – to guard the crop against parrots and other birds, sitting in an elevated platform called itanam (paran), and chasing the birds and other beasts away.

Watch the lovely depiction of valli on the platfrom down to even detailing of the sling.

The sage Narada, who visited Valli-malai and saw the girl, went to Tanikai to informed god Murugan about Valve’s exceptional beauty and her devotion to the god of the hunters.

Murugan assumed the form of a hunter and, as soon as he arrived at Valli’s field, he addressed the lovely girl enquiring after her home and family. However, at that moment Nampi and his hunters brought some food for Valli (honey, millet flour, valli roots, mangoes, milk of the wild cow) and Murugan assumed the form of a tree (venkai, Pterocarpus bilobus).

Watch the sculpture of the tree, at first it puzzled me as to why a tree must be sculpted in a millet field – but after reading more, found the sculpture has gone to the minutest detail …

When Nampi and his company disappeared, the god reappeared in human form, approached Valli and proposed to her. Valli was shocked, lowered her head, and said she would only wed the Lord Muruga. At that moment they heard the sound of approaching drumming and music. Valli warned Murugan that the hunters are wild and angry men, and the god transformed into an old Saiva devotee. Nampi and his hunter’s took his blessings and returned home.

The old man asked Valli for food, and she gave him some millet flour mixed with honey. Then she took him to a small forest pond, where she quenched his thirst from the palms of her hands. Then he told her, “Now that you have satisfied my hunger and my thirst, do satisfy my love for you.” Valli reproached him, and wanted to return to her field.

At that moment, Murugan invoked the help of his brother Vināyaka who appeared behind Valli in the shape of a frightening elephant. The terror-stricken girl rushed into the arms of the Saiva ascetic for protection. The Ascetic asked her to promise that she would marry him, terror stricked ( another version is that the Elephant actually lifted valli in his trunk was about to fling her – and when she accepted, dropped her into the hands of muruga) – she agreed.

See the lovely depiction incl the expression of great fear in valli and the calming ( watch the protective hand over her – a la MGR).

The last panel shows the Old ascetic in the act of throwing is disguise – as you move from right to left, you see him still in his aged form but going into his classic benevolent stance – and above removing his full disguise.


He then embraced valli revealing his real form, with six heads, twelve arms, and seated on his peacock.

Shiva kicks Yama – the God of death

Today, once again thanks to some delightful camera work by Satheesh, we are going to see one of my favorite sculptures. But this time not as much for the sculptural beauty but more for its story content. The story of Markandeya, was a popular bedtime song for us and my dad used to put us to sleep often with the rendition – have heard it so many times and today my son goes to sleep hearing the same, that i was overjoyed at seeing this sculpture.

Ok, story first.

Mrikandu was a devote saint ( rishi). He lived offering daily prayers to Lord Shiva with his wife Marudvati. Though they lived a peaceful existence, the couple had one unfullfilled wish – they did not have any children and they longed for a son. The rishi prayed to Shiva and pleased with his devotion, Shiva appeared and granted him the boon, but as usual he put a twist in it. He offerred them a choice, either they have a hundred sons who will be dumb and foolish but live a long life or have one very intelligent son, but will live for only sixteen years.

The rishi contemplated and decided to have the one intelligent son. Shiva blessed the couple and in due course they had a baby boy – they named him Markandeya. The boy grew to be very intelligent and handsome. Markandeya was a born genius and learnt the Vedas and Sastras easily. He was the darling of everyone, but as he got older, he noticed that his father seemed to nurse some bad news – for he was getting more and more sadder. Markandeya was smart enough to notice this and he asked his dad to tell him the truth. His dad wept and told him that as per the deal of the boon, by the end of that year, he would be sixteen and hence they had to give him up. He could not bear to even think of giving up such a splendid son.

Hearing this, Markandeya immediately took stock – his parents gave birth to him, his teachers his knowledge but only shiva coud give him prolonged life – so he set his heart into utmost devotion to Shiva and promised his Dad that he would do enough to please shiva that he will not let him die. Thus he made a shiva linga and was eternally offering prayers to it.

On the appointed day, Yama, the Lord of death, came on his black buffalo vehicle, swinging his lasso ( he uses it to pull the souls whose time on the earth is over, out of the physical body) – seeing him Markandeya ran to the shiva lingam, with yama close on heels chasing him, swirling his rope. Markandeya ran and hugged the shiva linga so close, that the only way Yama could fasten the rope around him was with the shiva linga. Yama in his haste did exactly that, he threw his noose round the boy’s neck, and pulled him along with the Shiva- Linga.

At that instant, The shiva Linga burst open and Shiva came out of it, Shiva was in great rage, he kicked Yama so violently that the Lord of death almost died!! Shiva thus saved his devotee and since the boon/curse was that Markandeya would have only 16years to live on this earth, he blessed Markandeya to be forever 16 ( endrum Pathinaaru ) – how many of us would love to have such a boon today !!

Now, have a look at the delightful panel from Tanjore Big temple – split into three frames, top to bottom. the top frame, we have a fiery Yama chasing Markandeya and the hapless boy clinging on to the Siva lingam for dear life.

The second frame, you have an angry Shiva kicking Yama who is sprawled on the floor ( one of the images is from another friend Srivatsan taken a year back – you can see the damage that these 1000 year old miniatures are undergoing – the Trident in the hands of shiva has been worn off this year !!!)

The last frame – the detailing is lost on the left, but you get to see a visibly relieved Markandeya offering thanks to Shiva with folded hands.

This legend has been sung by Appar in many verses and you can look them up here.

http://www.thevaaram.org/thirumurai_1/songview.php?thiru=4&Song_idField=4107&padhi=113+&button=%E0%AE%9A%E0%AF%86%E0%AE%B2%E0%AF%8D%E0%AE%95

to save Mārkkāṇṭēyaṉ, the bachelor, who worshipped him with flowers to be free from the sufferings of birth born of ignorance.
kicking the cruel god of death who had a twisted tongue, hairs as red as fire, curved white teeth and a dark body, [causing him] to tremble with fear.
the superior god who dwells in Kaṭavūr has the lotus red feet with which he caused the god of death to roll on the ground in this manner.
The central idea of the first nine verses is Civaṉ killing the god of death to protect Mārkkaṇṭēyaṉ who worshipped Civaṉ in this shrine.
Translation: V.M.Subramanya Aiyar–Courtesy: French Institute of Pondichery / EFEO (2006)

Shiva cuts off the head of his Father in Law – Tanjore Big temple

My friend Mr.Satheesh Kumar is an ardent sculpture lover like me and he offered to get me some nice photos of the tanjore big temple. Little did i realise that he will get me such a rich collection. We are going to see one interesting panel from his collection today.

As usual, we go for the story first:

Shiva’s consort Parvathi is born to Dhaksha – the king of mountains ( she is fondly called malai magal – in tamil – malai – mountain, magal – daughter). When she comes of age, she expresses desire to marry Shiva ( as is destined), but being a vain king, Dhaksha ( he himself being the son of Brahma) refuses to give his youngest daughter, whom he so lovingly brought up, in marriage to shiva – for he considers him uncouth, wearing animal hides and living in the cemetery, accompanied by ghouls/demons/ etc.But Shiva marries Parvathi and Dhaksha is not able to stand this insult.

He plots his revenge,and tries to insult Shiva, by organising a massive penance/sacrifice, but doesn’t invite Shiva, the foremost of Gods. However,hearing of this big event in her home, Parvathi’s heart and love for her family, makes her plead with shiva to let her go and attend the function. Shiva cautions her, that she will not be welcome and doesnt give her permission to go. However, love blinds the eyes of paravathi and despite the advise of Shiva, she lands us as an uninvited guest in Dhaksha’s palace. There she is not given any respect and is witness to all insults thrown at Shiva. Not being able to bear these and having acted against the advise of her husband, in anguish she kills herself in the sacrificial fire ( meaning, she gets rid of her material body which had affection to family there itself and takes her divine form). However, this enrages Shiva and he cuts the head of dhaksha and throws it into the sacrificial fire.

A bit later, Brahma and other rishis come and plead with Shiva, to forgive Dhaksha. Shiva obliges, but since the original head has already been consigned to flames,he cuts off the head of a sacrificial lamp and fits it on Dhaksha’s head ( inter species head transplant – how is it?)

Now lets look at the sculpture – Satheesh has masterfully taken the pictures to give you an idea size ( with ball pens for scale)

The story board is broke into two sides of the staircase – on one side is the beheading episode and on the other is the head transplant. wonderful depictions.

See the first part, the assembled guests are shown – towards the back of the composition against the wall. Then you see Shiva seated in a lovely pose, with Parvathi leaning non nonchalantly with one arm on nandhi. she is flanked by her assistant to her right.


The crucial scene kind of flow through the entire panel – Dhaksha’s severed torso is shown, fallen to the ground, with his wife lamenting with her hands towards the sky, and shiva is shown clutching the severed head by the hair and dropping into the sacrificial fire ( he has an evil looking sword in his hand – kind of reminds of the blade – neck cutting video’s we saw from iraq)…the priest who is next to the fire is turning away in disgust.


To the right of the composition, we see three ladies and three men – faces turned in aghast at the beheading and almost freezing to flee – their highly strung bodies about to run away – towards the end we see much mutilated but clearly – two beings running away from the scene ( note the size of the composition with the ball pen scale)

The other side – is a prettier picture – a beautiful standing depiction of Shiva, complete with his axe and deer, with a snake adorning his waist – being pleaded to by Brahma, looked on by three rishis. The final scene, we see a revived Dhaksha with a Ram’s head, in all humility,bowed along with the others – showing deep respect for shiva.


A delightful panel. Trust you enjoyed it as much as i did. i loved the depiction of shiva with the snake hanging by the waist.

The saint with Tiger Paws

Today we are going to see a very special pillar from the tanjore big temple. Who is this man depicted? Do you notice anything unusual ? Well the topic of this post does give it away !!

Its special because it portrays a very special person, who was so great a devote that the most sacred of towns is named after him – yes, we are talking of Puli Kaal Muni in tamil – puli ( tiger), Kaal ( legs), Muni ( saint) or Vyagrapadhar in sanskrit.

He was one of the earliest devotees of Lord Shiva of Thillai ( Chidambaram) which was called from time immemorial as Puliyur or Perumpatrup puliyur ( perum – great, patru – devotion – puli – tiger, ur – city or town)

The legend goes that the great saint, would go early into the forest to collect the choicest of flowers to offer the Lord of Dance. But however early he went, the bees and ants would still get to the blossoms, so he went even earlier – even before the sun rose to find the flowers before the insects. This gave him problems as the dew drops wouldn’t have evaporated yet and he found the branches slippery.

So great was his devotion and his intent to get the best for his Lord, that he prayed to the Lord to endow him tiger paws, so that he could climb the trees effortless – and the Lord obliged. With great delight, he went on to collect the flowers before the first rays of dawn, beating the insects to the race to find the most beautiful and aromatic flowers, that so delighted his Lord. There are many references to him in literature ( pl see tamil portion of this post to read the references)

Now see him beautifully sculpted in the pillars of the big temple, down to the last detail imbibed into the pillar.
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Karaikkal Ammai in Tanjore Nataraja Panel too

How did i miss this. We had earlier seen the amazing dancing from of shiva as natraja in Tanjore Big temple, and then on our focus on Karaikkal ammai we saw her fantastic depiction in Gangai konda cholapuram. But i missed the panel in Tanjore Nataraja – which too had a beautiful sculpture of ammai – the place has changed a bit – but who can deny the rightful place of ammai. There she is enjoying the dance while clapping her hands. Nandhi on the drum retains his place.

Just showing them side by side for you to enjoy. After all the son did his best to outshine his father ( Rajendra to his dad Raja Raja – in all except the height of his temple ‘s Vimanam – Maybe that was his way of showing his respect for his dad)

The two kings of dance.
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Nandhi on the drum
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Pei ( ghost) ammai ( lady) in both the sculptures.
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Enjoy

Exotic Meat for the Lord – A monitor Lizard

We had earlier seen how Kannappar defied conventional practise by wearing sandals. Today we are going to see him present a monitor lizard to Shiva. Again, the Tanjore Big temple sculpture – the deeds of the shaivite saints so en captured the fertile mind of Raja Raja Chola, that he loved their amazing lives and depicted them on the walls of his great temple.
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Its a small sculpture, more like a story board of sculptures depicted the story of Saint Kannappar, but what interested me was this depiction of him presenting this meat ( being a hunter you can see him still clinging on to his boy and arrow, plus his hunting dog comes into the frame as well). The divine bliss resplendent on his radiant face, as he, with total devotion, presents the meat to the shiva lingam.

Is there a devaram reference to this,ofcourse there is, how else would the chola sculpture depict such an act!!
Eleventh Thirumurai

As per the verse out of his extreme love for the lord, he presents a fat uncooked lizard to him.

For more of this amazing story and depiction in the big temple, please read this lovely post of Mr. Gokul ( watch the Priest Siva Gochariar, hiding behind the tree, in the climax scene)

Gokul’s lovely post

Images courtesy: www.varalaaru.com

A historical graffiti

My friend Lakshmi’s blog post on graffiti below reminded me of my earlier post in mintamil forum on such acts of vandalism.

http://backpakker.blogspot.com/2008/09/india-through-my-eyes_21.html

April 1819, John smith, a Captain from the Madras regiment, with his mates was hunting tigers in the forests. He came across a horse shoe shaped canyon with many caves – yes, he is the one who is credited with rediscovering Ajanta ( how could such a marvel ever get to be forgotten !!)

Admiring the marvelous creations there, he went on to inscribe his signature along with the date on the fresco painting. you can still see it there.
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Yes, this made him immortal along with the paintings.

Maybe, our friends ( tanjore mani ?) consider their exploits to be parallel to the great accomplishments of our kings who conquered far off lands, and etched their praise in stone, and hence scribble their names on this magnificent creations!
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This amazing wall panel of Gangai konda cholapuram has not been spared from the wanton acts of these people, who have little respect for the cultural heritage of the land they hail from, the greatness of these works. Let us try and educate these people to learn to respect art.