The splendor of Pullamangai – Brahmapurirswarar

Friends, today we are in for a feast. A real Sculptural feast..for we are to witness today the imagination and expertise of the chola sculptor running riot in Pullamangai – the famed Brahmapuriswarar Temple. The temple itself is treasure trove of stone art, but sadly forgotten by most. This is our humble attempt to showcase this magnificent edifice of Chola Art. Thanks to Satheesh and Arvind Venkataraman for taking the time to visit this temple, actually there was selfish motive behind sending them there, so that we may all drink in the sheer brilliance of that place – thanks to our two contributors again for patiently getting the lovely photos

Normally, i would start posts with long shots and then move closer. But today we are going to attempt the reverse for maximum effort. Once you read the full post, am sure you will understand what i mean.

We are going to see a series of four panels – hailing the birth of Muruga. Kumarasambhava and a few amazing Yaalis ( my personal favorites)

To start with will show you the yaalis.

How to describe these in words. Such brilliance lends credence to the thought that these are not there just for ornamental value !!

Hmm, well that’s not the post, here is a lovely Vyaala as well.

Ok, I talked of the birth of Muruga and am showing you nothing of it….ok, here they come.

Here we see, the amazing dance of Shiva and Parvathi. Splendid depiction of the synchronised dancing. The masculine grace of Shiva and the feminine charm of Parvathi is a delight to watch. and watched they are by a resurrected Kama ( manmadha) and his wife Rathi.

The next panel we are going to see is a lovely depiction of Shiva wooing his consort.

See the shy stance of the maiden and the stylish pose of Shiva.

The next panel, shows Shiva embracing Parvathi.

This is a very beautiful depiction of the sense of fluid motion that a sculptor manages to bring into stone. Just watch the right hand of Shiva. He is shown with two right hands, one resting nonchalantly on nandhi behind him – but imagine for an instant that he is moving his hand towards parvathi – the next act – the moving arm is portrayed by the second right hand. Can you sense it

And see the expression of Umai, tender love lorn shyness.

The sculptor is not finished yet, see the detailing on Nandhi.

and the two Ganas on the top and the lady attendant below

Lastly we see shanmuga being born and held by the six mothers, Karthigai Pengal.

Not clear is it, lets explain a bit. A seated Shiva is shown lovingly holding one of the babies who is reaching out to his cheek. While the other five are being held by the mothers.

I am sure some of you are already commenting on the quality of the photographs and sculpture ( both positive and negative comments for sure)

Hang on, let me show you the reason

We are not finished yet

Now for the long shot, it shows how easily we can miss these little bundles of beauty

Now, you know why i went reverse order for the zoom!!

By the way, did i mention ` little’

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.

Tiger Caves

Lot of locals miss an important site just off mahabalipuram…so spare the tourist…..its another great treat left behind by the illustrious Rajasimha Pallava…its just about a km before you enter mallai town to your left….you can see the ASI board…yes there are still excavations going on……..


seemingly simple…but deceptive..calmly nestled between gently swaying palm fronds and the beach sand….lulled by the sound of the waves….you are at saluvankuppam. There are 3 important sites for us to see here…We will visit all three in separate posts…


The tiger caves is an impressive structure….from the back its a simple rock…but that was not how the pallava sculptor visualised it…..walk around and you are stuck for words…a lovely grandstand…capped by 11 massive yaazhi’s ( yes the tiger or more closely lion is also a misnomer..if you watch carefully you will see the delightfully carved horns of these magnificent beasts)….


To truely appreciate this you got to get an idea of the gross dimensions…ok, time for me to peep in…now the ugly looking person is me…all 100 kgs….now does that give you an indication of the massiveness of this entire composition…


The stage is slightly offcentre as you see two mounted elephants to one side…in straight profile. the stage iself is capped by a set of prancing lions … a rajasimha trade mark



the identity of the riders is a not known as nature has taken its toll…you can vaguely make out just the outlines….yes we did manage to climb upto to the elephants and take a couple of shots of the rider housed inside the howdah…quite dangerous as there are no proper footholds….


ok, you are hiking up a 1300 year old pallava sculpture….where else in the world can you touch and feel such a artifact..the danger is multiplied by the fact that the audience section of the stage is set into the floor like a pond and collects rain water….so you are risking a bath in a muddled pool as well.


what a magnificent spectacle…such massive work on hard granite…and 1300 years of wind, sea …man…yet these have retained their beauty…magnificent proportions..a living tribute to the mastery of the sculptor..