Chola sacred bronzes of south east asia


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Cholas - A great indian historical period and their culture, history through their art objects

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Chola sacred bronzes of south east asia

  1. 1. CHOL A Sacred Bronzes of Southern IndiaThis guide is given out free to teachers and studentswith an exhibition ticket and student or teacher IDat the Education Desk. It is available to other visitors from the RA Shopat a cost of £3.95 (while stocks last).
  2. 2. IntroductionCHOL ASacred Bronzes of Southern India An imperial dynasty that emerged in the ninth century, the Cholas went on to rule over much of southern India for the next four hundred years, during which time they undertook an extensive programme of temple construction that transformed the landscape of the region. Rich endowments funded the ritual activities of these temples and bronze representations of Hindu gods, especially those associated with Shiva and Vishnu, were specially commissioned from master craftsmen for ritual worship in the new temples. These figures, many of which are still the objects of devotion in temples a thousand years after their creation, constitute one of the greatest bodies of cast-bronze sculpture in world art. It is these objects that are the focus of this exhibition.Sackler Galleries11 November 2006 – 25 February 2007 Hinduism Hinduism, the religion of the Cholas, is a multifaceted religion that has come to be specifically associated with India. Indeed the terms Hindu and India both have origins in the Persian word for the river Indus. Hindu literally means religion of the Indians. India can be divided into four regions: the mountain chains of the north including the Himalayas; the great southward-flowing river valleys such as those formed by the sacred Indus and Ganges rivers; the high central plateau of the Deccan; and the coastal plains of the far south which is where the Cholas rose to prominence. Marked by regional differences, there is a very strong emotional bond that ties Hinduism to the land of India. Sanskrit, which became the lingua franca of Hinduism, is a language thatAN INTRODUCTION TO THE evolved through the presence of the Indo-Aryans who conquered northwestEXHIBITION FOR TEACHERS India in the second millennium BC and is the language of ancient scripts.AND STUDENTS This gives some idea of the complexity of Hindu, a religion which has evolved from, and absorbed elements of, a wide range of influences over some fourWritten by Adrian K. Locke millennia. Sanskrit, an Indo-Aryan language, belongs to the Indo-EuropeanFor the Education Department family of languages that includes Persian, Greek, Latin and most European© Royal Academy of Arts languages. Sanskrit counts Gujarati, Hindi and Bengali as among its many linguistic descendants. The languages of the south of India, however, are not descended from Sanskrit but form part of the independent Dravidian language group, which boasts some 73 different languages. One of the most widely spoken and purest of the Dravidian languages is Tamil, hence Tamil Nadu, a living classical language over 2,000 years old. Tamil was the language of the Cholas and was, therefore, used to compose the poetry of the saints and the founding texts which can be found decorating temples. Dravidian can also be used to refer to the region and people of South India. Hindu belief is based on oral traditions from a wide range of influences that were passed down over generations, although some of these were also recorded in Sanskrit manuscripts. There is thought to be great continuity in Indian religion that originates in the period referred to as the Vedic, pre-Hindu India of the first and second millennia BC. The Vedas, which FRONT COVER Detail of Cat. 13 Trident with Shiva mean knowledge, are texts that date from this period and collectively this as Vrishabhavana (Rider of the Bull) group of books is considered to be the foundation on which later Hindu BACK COVER Cat. 14 Ganesha [reverse view ] activity is based. There are four Vedas, namely Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yayur Veda and Atharva Veda. Designed by Isambard Thomas, London These are followed by two great Sanskrit epics of Hindu India called Printed by Burlington the smriti or remembered literature. The first of these is the Mahabharata, 1
  3. 3. which at more than 74,000 verses is one of the longest poems ever written. Perhaps the best known part of the Mahabharata is the Bhagavad Gita which describes the events preceding the battle between the Pandyas and the Kauravas, when the Pandya leader Arjuna turns to Krishna for spiritual BAY OF advice. The second Sanskrit epic is the Ramayana which recounts the many BENGAL adventures of Rama, his wife Sita, his brother Lakshmana and the monkey general Hanuman. Pennar River Hinduism is primarily a devotional religion which means that the presence of a god or gods is acknowledged by the individual. These gods are usually worshipped in structures which can range from very simple man-made The Chola territories in buildings to very elaborate stone-built temples. Sculpture, painting and southern India, c.850–1250 ritual objects are used in the worship of these gods. Although the space Cartography by Isambard Thomas Map relief © 1995 Digital Wisdom Inc. where the god is enshrined in a temple, referred to as the inner sanctum, is not normally very large, the temple complex can be extensive. Part of the reason for these large temple complexes is the need to provide space for processions, essential components of temple activity and Hindu worship. For the devotees, participating in processions and annual pilgrimages is a very important aspect of their devotion, as it allows the individual the opportunity to supplicate or offer thanks to the god or gods. The ability r to participate in these activities also allows the devotee to come into direct ive rR contact with the gods and allows the individual to make puja (offerings Pala such as incense, fruit, milk and ghee-fuelled lamps) and, more significantly, T AS darshan, in which the participant communicates with the deity through CO direct eye contact. Hindus also believe in the immortality of the soul and EL in reincarnation. Two central concepts of Hinduism are dharma, a complex ND term meaning among many things duty, and karma, which determines the MA quality of present and future lives. RO Pon nai CO Riv There are three main gods in Hinduism: Shiva, Vishnu and Devi reflect er Hinduism’s abilities for multiplicity, variety and unity. The majority of Hindus are either followers of Shiva or Vishnu. Temples, like the followers, devoted to either one of these two principal deities are referred to as Shaivite Kaveri River or Vaishnavite. A short history of the Chola Before the middle of the ninth century the Cholas were one of a number of powerful independent cultural groups jockeying for position in southern INDIAN India, the region today known as the state of Tamil Nadu. Their rivals were Ve OCEAN tta principally the Pallavas, the Pandyas, the Cheras and, further to the north, rR the Chalukyas. Together these groups vied with each other for control ive r over the rich fertile flood plains of southern India centred around the sacred river Kaveri. Little is known about the early Cholas until the rise of Vijayalaya (ruled ?848–871), whose exploits are known because they were recorded in stone inscriptions and copper-plate foundation documents. Cat. 1 [overleaf] Taking advantage of a conflict between the Pallava and the Pandya, Shiva as Nataraja Vijayalaya captured the town of Tanjavur where he established a royal court (Lord of Dance) Eleventh century and founded the dynastic line of the Cholas. Tanjavur became the imperial Bronze Chola capital which was later moved to Gangaikondacholapuram. In 111.5 × 101.65 cm addition, Kanchipuram and Madurai both became established as important The Cleveland Museum of Art, regional centres. The Chola dynasty ruled for a further four hundred years Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund, 1930.331 during which time they became extremely powerful politically, economically Photo © The Cleveland Museum of Art, Purchase from the J.H. Wade and, significantly, culturally. Although their fortunes fluctuated over this 0 100 200 miles Fund 1930.331 period, at their height the Cholas ruled over much of southern India, 0 100 200 300 kilometres2 3
  4. 4. Cosmic Dance of Shiva as Lord of the Dance Nataraja (symbol of the eternal movement of the universe) Drum damaruA symbol of creation: the universe was set in motion by the regular rhythm of the dance. Also combination of male and female Fire agni attributes Representing destruction as well as energy in its purest form but also creation Abhaya position blessing, protection, reassurance Gesture of Ring of Fire prabha an Elephant Representing the cyclical, gesture of cosmic concept of greatest strength time, an endless cycle of and power creation and destruction Raised foot gesture of liberation Demon Dwarf Mushalagan Representing ignorance
  5. 5. extending their control to include Sri Lanka, the Maldives, parts of Indonesia earlier iconography associated with the Pallavas, the image was adopted and north up the coast of the Bay of Bengal to the Godavari basin (in the and developed by the Chola monarchs, becoming established as a kind modern state of Pradesh). of royal emblem. Two early rulers, Aditya I (ruled 871–907) and Parantaka (ruled 907–947), State patronage of the arts, including temple construction, decoration established the distinctive Chola architectural style in which elegant stone- and substantial endowments of gold and jewellery, clearly reflects the wealth built temples boasted well proportioned exteriors with a fine balance of Chola society, further demonstrating the status of their political and between carved detail and plain surfaces. Painted stone sculptures were economic power. In order to get a sense of the magnitude of the Cholas’s then added. deliberate determination to demonstrate this authority, the Rajarajeshvara The most celebrated rulers during this Medieval period (848–1070) were temple at Tanjavur (fig. 1) which was completed in 1010 was, at 216 feet, Vijayayala, Rajaraja I (ruled 985–1014), who adopted an aggressive policy of the tallest building in India at the time. Its rich endowment included territorial and maritime expansion, and his son Rajendra I (ruled 1012–1044), a huge gift of 60 bronzes of which 22 were given by King Rajaraja I. who consolidated Chola power throughout the region. The great agricultural Hindu belief, like that of many religions, requires deities to fulfil public wealth of the region combined with control of the seaboard gave the Cholas ‘I hold it a blasphemy to functions and preside over specific festivities as well as those particular to access to the prosperous maritime trade routes which included those of the say that the Creator resides the temple in which they reside. To this end, small, portable images were Tang dynasty in China, Jewish traders in Aden (Yemen), the Srivijaya empire in a temple from which created in bronze for use in processions. These were treated as physical in the Malaysian archipelago and the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad. a particular class of His manifestations of the gods themselves and were ritually bathed, dressed and devotees sharing the Following the Medieval period the Cholas intermarried and formed faith in it are excluded.’ decorated with jewels and garlands of flowers inside the inner sanctum of political alliances with the Chaluka dynasty to consolidate their regional MAHATMA GANDHI the temple, a place of restricted access. When processed in elaborate temple position. The Chaluka-Chola period, lasted from 1070 to 1279, during carriages, these images became accessible to those individuals who were not which time Kulottunga I (ruled 1070–1125), who oversaw an important Fig. 1 allowed into these restricted areas of the temple (fig. 2). Great festivities and flourishing of the arts, is perhaps their most celebrated king. This period Rajarajeshvara Temple, celebrations accompanied also witnessed the gradual decline of the Cholas, beginning with the loss Tanjavur these processions that serve of Sri Lanka and the increasing threat of a revitalised Pandyan empire to 2006 both a social and a religious Photo: John Millar the south and the Hoysalas to the north. Following the death of Rajendra III function which continue to (ruled 1246–1279), the already shrinking Chola empire was absorbed by this day (fig. 3). It is worth the increasingly forceful Pandya monarchs. remembering that it was only after a campaign by Mahatma Gandhi (1869–1948) that the Chola Patronage of the Arts inner sanctum of Hindu Throughout their rule the Cholas were great patrons of the arts and temples was made accessible oversaw an extensive programme of temple construction. In some cases to Indians of all castes in 1936. this amounted to the reconstruction of earlier brick temples such as those undertaken by Queen Sembiyan Mahadevi, grandmother of Rajaraja I. Considered one of the greatest patrons of the arts, Queen Sembiyan’s first Chola Bronzes known temple donation is dated 941. She continued to patronise the arts The bronzes are made using The swollen, prominent until her death in 1006. mouth, with its wealth the lost wax process. Already These stone-built temple complexes are externally richly decorated with of sensual expressions. established at the time the depictions of Hindu gods. Poems and music were composed to accompany The tenderness of the Cholas rose to power, this religious processions and, like dance, consequently prospered during this mouth and of the eyes ancient process was taken are in harmony. period. Each individual temple was endowed with great riches which took to new heights by artists and Like a well of pleasure the form of gold, jewellery, textiles and bronze sculptures as well as meeting the lips are surmounted bronze-smiths of the period. The process is an intricate one, imbued with the cost of providing food, sandal wood paste, incense and lamps. The by the wonderfully noble Fig. 2 religious meaning. The various proscribed stages are laid down in an Cholas also ruled that a proportion of income from communities should palpitating nostrils. Temple car being drawn unwritten law. The mouth, with its in procession by devotees go towards supporting temples which served to further underline their Beeswax mixed with dammar (resin of the shal tree, otherwise known as damp delights, undulates Anonymous, by a Tanjore commitment to, and the central importance of, religious worship. as sinuously as a snake: sallow-wood (Shorea robusta), the sacred tree under which Buddha lay down artist There is no question that as part of their patronage of Hindu religion the eyes are shut, rounded, c.1800, gouache, 16.75 × 12in to die) is softened and used to create the desired image using a wooden the Cholas elevated the art of bronze sculpture to new heights. Although closed by a seam of © The British Library chisel. Once complete, the wax model is hardened in cold water before being the Pallavas worked with bronze, producing portable temple sculptures, eyelashes. encased in three layers of a finely ground clay. The mould is fired, melting the AUGUSTE RODIN the Cholas adapted and perfected the art, perhaps as a sign of their deep wax which drains out through specially positioned spouts. Molten bronze, devotion to Hinduism and as a way of underlining their own specific and an alloy of copper and tin, is then poured in and fills the now empty mould. easily distinguishable style. Perhaps the greatest example of this new style Once the bronze has been allowed to cool down the mould is broken open is the celebrated representation of Shiva as Nataraja (nata = dance, raja = and any finishing touches are made to the piece. Since the clay mould is king), seen by many as the quintessential image of the Chola. Based on an destroyed in order to remove the solid bronze sculpture each piece is unique.6 7
  6. 6. The bronzes were placed in the temples, O Lord Shiva include the trishula (trident), the parashu (axe), which serves as the weapon where they received ritual worship, which On that day when that conquers darkness and ignorance thus liberating man from the ties of you looked at me, included bathing, dressing and decoration worldly matters, mriga (antelope) which in south India reflects his status as you enslaved me with jewels. It is important to recognise that in grace entered me Lord of Nature, agni (fire), symbolising destruction, a condition necessary for these bronzes were not representations of and out of love melted the creation of new life, and damaru (drum), symbolising creation and also the god or gods but were actual physical my mind. referring to the god who resides in cremation grounds (the traditional Hindu SAINT MANIKKAVACHAKAR embodiments of them and as such were method of disposing of man’s earthly remains). (See key on p7) acknowledged as divine. Today many of the bronzes have unusual Cat 3 Nataraja ‘Lord of Dance’ [see p16] patinas (surface appearances) brought about This is undoubtedly the most recognisable manifestation of Shiva and, as by ageing. The surfaces are often pitted and Vidya Dehejia states in the exhibition catalogue, is ‘the quintessential deity discoloured which is in sharp contrast to the of the Tamil country of south India’. Here Shiva is depicted within the ring often highly polished bronzes of those images of fire, the prabha, as both the creator and destroyer of the world, shown that are still worshipped in temples (fig. 4). through the drum and the flame which can be seen in his two rear hands. This is normally because many of the His front hand left extends in a dance gesture and his front right hand is in sculptures were buried in order to escape the abhaya position which indicates protection; this forms part of a dance their being captured by invading Muslim representative of the cyclical cosmic concept of time in India. Shiva can be armies. Sometimes sculptures were hidden within temples in specially Fig. 3 seen standing on Mushalagan, the demon dwarf, who represents darkness constructed secret compartments. The most famous cache of Chola bronze Temple car pulled through and ignorance to be overcome. Shiva is shown with a serpent around his the Madras streets during sculptures, discovered at Tiruvenkadu in the 1950s and now housed at the waist and flowing matted locks or dreadlocks (called jatamukuta), within a festival Art Museum in Tanjavur , is considered to be the finest of all Chola bronzes. 1930s which can be seen Ganga, the goddess of the Ganges, another of Shiva’s Images which have seen long years of worship ordinarily have a very worn Topographical photograph consorts. Once a celestial river, the gods granted that the river could flow surface due to the ritual bathing that they undergo in the temples. In order 12.7 × 10.2 cm on earth for the benefit of man. In order to break the fall of her descent Photo: Klein and Peyerl to allow for the essential ritual of darshan to take place, the eyes are often © The British Library Shiva agreed to catch her in his hair. re-cut because they have become worn away through continuous lustration. The gods stand on lotus pedestals known as the padmapitha or Is any one symbol dominant in this representation of Shiva padmasana. These indicate the origin of all life, including that of the gods, as Nataraja? Does the fact that Nataraja has four arms appear and are among the most highly valued pedestals. The bronzes are rich with to give him extra powers, both of representation and of dexterity? iconographic detail including pose, hair styles, hand gestures, ornamentation and attributes which are all imbued with meaning (see key on p7). This sculpture seems to convey a sense of liberation and freedom Fig. 4 despite being encircled. How has the sculptor represented Shiva’s Ritual worship of Shiva energy, expressiveness and carefreeness? Nataraja and Parvati, Shiva and his manifestations Rajarajeshvara Temple, The origins of Shiva have long since been lost in the mists of time although Tanjavur What role is the dwarf playing in the partnership with Shiva? it is certain that he cannot be traced back to any one single source. That 2006 Do you think the juxtaposition of the dwarf’s vanquished ignorance said, it is thought that a number of elements attached to Shiva appear to Photo: John Millar and the supreme confidence of the god conveys a sense of harmony originate with the Vedic wild god Rudra. Shiva is an unorthodox god, or not? Why? who delights in stepping outside of the norms of human behaviour and clearly relishes his outrageous conduct and moral ambivalence. With his Tripuravijaya ‘Victor of the Three Cities’ characteristic dreadlocks he is both beautiful and unpredictable and the It was said that in return for their worship Shiva granted three powerful object of intense devotion. He is known as Mahadeva (Great God), demons the right to live and rule over cities built of gold, silver and iron, Nataraja (Lord of Dance), Mahakala (Great Black One) and Sundareshvara located respectively in the heavens, in the air and on earth. For over (Beautiful Lord). a thousand years these demons resided in these cities increasing their Shiva is essentially found in two forms; aniconic, that is symbolised power. Believing themselves to be invincible, since they could only jointly be without aiming at resemblance, and iconic, in which the god is represented. destroyed by a single arrow, they terrorised the world. Fearing the power of In respect to the aniconic form Shiva is represented as a linga, essentially these demons, the gods and humans appealed to Shiva for help who, aided a phallic pillar, which in Shaivite temples is the central object of worship. by the gods, created a magical chariot and bow and arrow from the entire Lingas can vary in size and each temple will have many lingas. The female universe, destroyed all three cities with a single arrow, thus defeating the equivalent of the linga is the yoni. Not surprisingly Shiva is representative three demons. The bow and arrow on this sculpture (bana-dhanus) are lost. of fertility which is further enhanced with his association with snakes and Nandi, his bull mount. Somaskanda ‘Shiva with Uma and Skanda’ Shiva has a number of different manifestations in his iconic form, some of This manifestation of Shiva seated on a platform with his consort Uma which are included in this exhibition and indicated below. His main attributes (also known as Parvati) and their son Skanda (who, because he was so hot,8 9
  7. 7. was carried by Ganga and then the six Krittikas (Pleiades), who gave birth of the Himalayas. Since Parvati has no great cult of her own, she is one of to him) is considered to be his main manifest form. According to the Shaiva the manifestations of the third great Indian Hindu deity, the Great Goddess Siddhanta philosophy, it is only when Shiva is in the company of Uma that Devi, who has both benevolent and malevolent aspects and is accepted as he can bestow grace upon an individual soul. This is the most popular the fertile mother. Given both Shiva’s and Devi’s connection with fertility, bronze, as it can be used as a substitute in ceremonies for specific Parvati is often seen as the male and female aspects of the same cult and, iconographies which the temple may not possess. thereby, indivisible aspects of the same whole. Regarded as a goddess of abundance, Parvati carries no weapons. Together, Shiva and Parvati Vinaharamurti ‘Holder of the Vina (Lute)’ represent the ideals of human physical love. Her vahana (mount) is the lion. The vina is a seven-string instrument comprising a fret board with two resonating hollow gourds at either end. Shiva’s front hands once played How do the contours of the fabric around Parvati’s legs enhance a now missing instrument. His rear two hands hold an axe and an antelope. their form? Given that the sculpture is inanimate, what else do Shiva plays the vina in his manifestation as Dakshinamurti, Dispenser the ripples of cloth suggest? of Divine Wisdom. Examine the axis created by the figure. Which leg holds the Shrikantha ‘Lord of the Auspicious Neck’ vertical line and how is Parvati’s sense of strength affected by this? This title refers to Shiva’s redeeming role as the imbiber of poison at the time of the universal deluge of Hindu myth in which the earth and everything on Note the curvy line along Parvati’s pelvis and waistline which it including the divine nectar of immortality and the lethal halahala poison continues into her bracelet. What does this suggests about Parvati? were submerged. The story begins when Vishnu in his tortoise incarnation, Kurma, was involved in the creation myth when, like milk is churned to make butter, the cosmic ocean was agitated to secure the nectar and hence secure Skanda immortality for the gods. In order to do this the mountain Mandara was set God of battle Skanda, seen in the Somaskanda group, is the son of Shiva on the back of Kurma and turned by the serpent Vasuki. The churning, and Parvati. Skanda’s vahana is the peacock, symbolic of immortality. however, released the halahala poison from the bottom of the sea, thereby threatening the world. Shiva was beseeched by the gods for his help and Cat. 14 Ganesha [see pp18 and 19] he dove down into the waters, where he imbibed the poison, retaining it The second son of Shiva and Parvati, Ganesha has an elephant head. in his throat and thereby allowing the nectar of immortality to rise and Referred to as the Remover of Obstacles, he is also known when angered save the world. as the Placer of Obstacles. It is said that Parvati became pregnant while washing dirt from her legs and gave birth to Ganesha in Shiva’s absence. Cat. 13 Vrishabhavana ‘Rider of the Bull’ [see p24] Shiva returned home to discover a handsome youth guarding the entrance In this manifestation, Shiva is shown leaning on Nandi, his bull mount, to Parvati’s bathroom where he was instructed to allow no-one to pass. on the trishura (trident). The trident is Shiva’s most recognisable attribute. Not recognising his father and Shiva not knowing who this presumptuous Although it appears to be a weapon, the trident is actually imbued with youth was, the two began to fight. During their struggle Shiva cut off deep philosophical meaning. Rather than as a weapon of violence, it is seen Ganesha’s human head. When Parvati found out what had happened, as a weapon of grace which is used to destroy the bonds that hold captive she challenged Shiva who promised to bring the child back to life. He the human soul. The prongs represent the three aspects of god as Creator, ordered his followers to bring him the head of the first being they meet, Protector and Destroyer. The long shaft represents the axis of the universe. which happened to be an elephant. Restored to life, and as a form of As a whole, the trident can be seen, like a bolt of lightening, as a magic compensation for what had happened, Shiva entrusted Ganesha with the means of destroying demons. The iconography of the trident varies from leadership of his retinue of dwarves (the ganas), hence Ganesha ‘Lord of the the austere to the decorative, as seen in this example. Ganas’. Ganesha is also custodian of doorways and thus is seen as Lord of Beginnings. Ganesha is usually portrayed holding ankusha (elephant goad), How does this representation of Shiva differ from the one on used to distinguish spiritual movements and direct them, a pasha (noose), pages 4 and 5? used to capture evil and ignorance, a bhikshapatra (bowl) representative of the wandering aesetic or single laddu (type of Indian sweetmeat) and Shiva is a very active god. Do you think this scene portrays a moment a broken tusk which he removed in order to use it as a pen when asked of rest? What is the relationship between the god and the bull? by the sage Vyasa to act as his scribe. There are also a large number of deities and saints associated with Shiva. Although Ganesha’s body is rounded and elephantine, it is posed in the same shape as Parvati’s on page 17. What effect does this have on the representation of Ganesha? Cat. 10 Parvati or Uma [see p17] Shiva’s consort Parvati (referred to as Uma in the south of India), usually Why do you think Ganesha is one of the most popular Hindu gods? portrayed as a woman of great physical beauty, is considered to be a child10 11
  8. 8. Nandi the bull, the vahana of Shiva, is associated with Shiva because of often shown without hair. She thenceforth became known as the his strength and fertility. At Shiva temples, Nandi is placed between the Mother of Karaikkal. courtyard and the temple, where he marks the entrance and sits facing the inner shrine where the linga is located. The sculptor has been asked to sculpt someone who has forfeited There are a number of saints associated with Shiva. These are referred beauty. How has the artist done this? What has been taken away to as the nayanmars and total sixty-three, not including the ninth-century to represent the absence of beauty? saint Manikkavachakar. These saints lived between the sixth and early ninth centuries and helped make up a community of holy people who Does this sculpture remind you of any modern sculptures? travelled across the Tamil countryside as part of a popularising movement called bhakti. These saints would stop at each temple to sing the glories Saint Manikkavachakar (lived in the second half of the ninth century) of the enshrined deity. Referring to themselves as adiyar or tontar, slaves A minister to the Varaguna Pandya of Madurai, Manikkavachakar was sent or servants of Shiva, they composed around seven hundred hymns known to the west to purchase horses for the Pandya calvalry. En route, he came collectively as Tevaram. Stone representations of all sixty-three nayanmars across Shiva disguised as a teacher. Manikkavachakar was so taken with are usually found in Shaivite temples. the teacher that he used the money intended for the horses to build a temple. The king, outraged by his behaviour, recalled his minister and Saint Sambandar (probably lived in the second half of the seventh century) imprisoned him twice. On both occasions Shiva intervened to secure his Sambandar often accompanied his Brahmin father to the temple in Sirkali. release. Eventually he was permitted to join the teacher, Shiva, and his One day the father left his son on the steps of the temple tank as he took followers. Manikkavachakar wrote a large body of poems. his ritual dip. Sambandar was hungry and began to cry. When his father returned he found the child playing with a golden cup with milk running down his chin. When the father asked his son where the milk came from, Vishnu and his incarnations Sambandar pointed to the temple tower where there was a representation Vishnu has several characteristics which have evolved over the last thousand of Uma seated next to Shiva and began singing a song praising the divine years and probably has more devotees than either Shiva or Devi. Vishnu has couple. Saint Sambandar is often shown holding a cup in one hand and ten avatars or bodily incarnations, which are Matsya (fish), Kurma (turtle), pointing with the other. As a lover of music and composer of verses he Varaha (boar), Narasimha (lion), Vamana (dwarf), Parasurama, Rama, is often depicted dancing. Krishna, Buddha and Kalki (an incarnation which is yet to manifest itself). Vishnu, seen as the preserver and maintainer of established order, holds Saint Chandesha (also known as Chandeshvara) sway over intervening time (that is, the time not ruled by Shiva as Lord of The young Chandesha, a cowherd, used to lustrate a mud linga that he the Beginning and Lord of the End). Known for avoiding extremes, unlike worshipped with milk. His father, concerned with this misuse of milk, came Shiva, Vishnu is seen as maintaining orthodox standards, placing his strong out one day to see what his son was doing. Oblivious to his father’s presence belief in the family and caste system above the good of the individual. and his angry words, Chandesha remained deep in devotion to Shiva. His As such, Vishnu is regarded as the god of accepted behaviour and the home father was so enraged by his behaviour that he kicked out at the mud linga as well as of love and emotion. Vishnu became increasingly popular during causing Chandesha to lash out with his staff knocking his father to the the time of the Mughals, when the power of Hinduism was challenged by ground. On witnessing this, Shiva and Uma appeared to Chandesha and Islam in India. His most popular cults since the fifteenth to sixteenth centuries blessed him with a divine garland. Chandesha is usually shown with his have been Rama and Krishna, who are discussed below. hands joined in a position of worship, anjali. Vishnu is normally seen wearing a crown reflecting his regal quality and carrying a sankha (conch shell), whose sound wards off demons and Cat. 17 Saint Karaikkal Ammaiyar (lived in the sixth century) [see p20] whose spiralling is symbolic of infinite space and padma (lotus flower) A beautiful young woman called Punitavati and her husband symbol of beauty, happiness and eternal renewal. His distinctive weapons Paramadatta, a trader in Karaikkal, were both devotees of Shiva. One are the gada (club) which provides protection and represents the power day Paramadatta sent home two mangoes which he instructed were to of natural laws and time and chakra (discus), the symbol of the cycle of be served as part of his lunch. Before he returned home, Punitavati gave life and death. one to a sage who appeared at their door begging for food. While having his lunch, Paramadatta ate one of the mangoes and asked for the other. Bhu-Varaha At that moment Punitavati thought of Shiva and a mango appeared in Bhu-Varaha embraces goddess earth Prithivi, who had been abducted by her hand, although it differed from the two that her husband had sent a demon and hidden at the bottom of the ocean. Varaha defeats the demon home. On realising this, Paramadatta asked where it had come from and, and rescues Prithivi and makes her habitable for living creatures by creating not believing his wife’s reply, reached out for it, only for it to disappear. the continents and mountains. Perceiving his wife to be divine, Paramadatta left the family home only to return to worship her. Punitavati appealed to Shiva to take away her Cat. 22 Yoga Narasimha [see p21] beauty so that she could devote herself to his worship. As a result her The man-lion Narasimha vanquishes a gatekeeper, Hiranyakasipu, whom beauty disappeared and she became an emaciated old woman who is he had condemned to live as a demon. Granted special powers by Brahma,12 13
  9. 9. which meant that he could not be injured by any weapon wielded by man ‘You who are the most They trembled Krishna can also be seen in the family group which is a rare example or animal, day or night, inside or outside, the demon began to create many ancient supreme being, the gopis and gopas. of a familial group created by the same artist or workshop. Krishna is problems for the gods. Assuming the head of a lion and thus appearing as they call you the best body He climbed upon accompanied by two of his consorts Rukmini and Satyabhama and his and the supreme the flowering blue neither man or animal, Yoga Narasimha hid in a pillar at the entrance to the Brahma, the highest yoga katampa oak, mount, the divine eagle Garuda, king of birds and symbolic of the wind house of the demon and grabbing him at dusk (neither night nor day) and and the most excellent he dived into the waters, and sun, is able to move at the speed of light. on the threshold of his house (neither inside nor outside) Yoga Narasimha speech, danced on captive Kaliya. mauled the demon with his claws (that is without weapons) and thus the supreme mystery, This sculpture of Krishna is one of the biggest and most important and the highest path.’ defeated Hiranyakasipu. Chola bronzes in a Western collection. Made of solid bronze, it must NAMMALVAR TIRUVAYMOLI be extremely heavy. How has the sculptor conveyed lightness? Thinking of Narasimha’s story and the way he conquered the demon, do you think he seems wise? How has the sculptor conveyed a sense The medium of dance is vital to Indian culture. Do you think the idea of wisdom or authority? of dance been incorporated into this sculpture? How? Can you see any evidence in this sculpture of the machinery involved in taking it on procession? Conclusion There can be little doubt that the Cholas had a major impact on the Rama development of culture across southern India. Although the dynasty only Rama is the great hero of the Hindu epic, the Ramayana, which recounts the lasted some four hundred years, it left a lasting and highly visible legacy adventures he undergoes after being exiled to the forest by his father, king throughout the region. The Cholas influence is most tangible through the Dasharatha to fulfil a promise made to his youngest queen. Rama is exiled numerous temple complexes that they built and the corpus of magnificent with his wife Sita and his brother Lakshmana. Sita, seen as a model wife for bronze sculpture, the like of which many would argue has never been following her husband into exile, is left unguarded in the forest. Abducted by equalled. In promoting the cult of Shiva Nataraja, the Chola also created the demon king Ravana, Sita is taken to the island of Lanka (Sri or Shri is a one of the most recognisable, widely used and enduring symbols, which Sanskrit term of respect meaning illuminated one). Rama, suspecting Sita’s has come to epitomise India. chastity, rejects her, berating himself for allowing the situation to happen. Accompanying Rama is the monkey general Hanuman (Cat. 24) who locates Sita and leaps across the sea to the island of Lanka to give her a message from Rama. Hanuman then returns to join Rama in victorious battle against Ravana’s army. Rama is adored because he is a human hero who is also divine Cat. 2 [p16] Cat. 22 [p21] and the epic emphasises this fact since Ravana could not be killed by gods Shiva as Nataraja (Lord of Dance) Yoga Narasimha or demons but, in his arrogance, had not sought the same protection from c.1100, bronze, 86 × 107 cm c.1250, bronze, height 55.2 cm man. Today Rama and Sita have come to symbolise incorruptibility, honesty, Government Museum, Chennai The Cleveland Museum of Art, Photo Aditya Arya Photography Gift of Dr. Norman Zaworski, 1973.187 loyalty and tenderness. Photo © The Cleveland Museum of Art, Gift of Dr. Norman Zaworski, 1973.187 Cat. 10 [p17] How has Hanuman been portrayed to suggest that he is a monkey? Devi Uma Parameshvari Cat. 24 [p22] (Great Goddess Uma) Monkey General Hanuman Can you describe Hanuman’s character from looking at this sculpture? c.1012, bronze, height 88.9 cm Bronze, height 41 cm Asia Society, New York, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd, 1979.19 Victoria and Albert Museum, Photo Lynton Gardiner Bequest of Lord Curzon Photo V & A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum Cat 25 Krishna [see p23] Cat. 14 [pp18 and 19] This is considered to be the most important incarnation of Vishnu, and Cat. 25 [p23] Ganesha Krishna is revered as a god in his own right. Krishna means ‘the black one’ ‘In leaping I shall make Krishna Dancing on Kaliya c.1070, bronze, height 50.2 cm the mountains tremble, Eleventh century, bronze, although he is often portrayed with blue skin. It is said that Vishnu plucked The Cleveland Museum of Art, Gift of height 87.6 cm leaping monkeys. Katharine Holden Thayer, 1970.62 two hairs from his head, one white and one black, which impregnated Rohini Photo © The Cleveland Museum of Art, Asia Society, New York, Collection of And as I leap the sea, and Devaki. Two brothers were born; Balarama from the white hair and Gift of Katharine Holden Thayer 1970.62 Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd, 1979.22 the force of my thighs Photo Lynton Gardiner Krishna from the black. Here Krishna is seen dancing on Kaliya. This rare will carry along the Cat. 17 [p20] iconography represents one of the many heroic feats performed by Krishna blossoms of vines, shrubs Cat. 13 [p24] Saint Karaikkal Ammaiyar as a youth. Kaliya, the serpent demon, lived in the river Jumna with his and trees on every side. Trident with Shiva as Vrishabhavana Twelfth century, copper alloy, They will follow behind (Rider of the Bull) serpent queens. Krishna dove into the river to do battle with Kaliya. 23.2 × 16.5 cm me as I leap through the c.950, bronze, height 83.5 cm The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Victorious Krishna spared Kaliya on account of the pleas of his serpent sky this very day, Purchase, Edward J. Gallagher, Jr., Bequest, in The British Museum, London queens but only after the serpent demon promised to change his ways. so that my path will memory of his father, Edward Joseph Gallagher, Photo © Copyright the Trustees resemble the Milky Way his mother Ann Hay Gallagher, and his son, of The British Museum Krishna is shown dancing triumphantly on the hood of Kaliya symbolic Edward Joseph Gallagher III, 1982 (1982.220.11) in the heavens …’ of his victory. Photo © 1994 The Metropolitan Museum of Art, VALMIKI RAMAYANA New York / Bruce White14 15
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  14. 14. Bibliography and further reading BLURTON , T. RICHARD Hindu Art (2001, The British Museum Press, London) DALLAPICCOLA , ANNA Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend (2002, Thames and Hudson, London) DALLAPICCOLA , ANNA Hindu Myths (2203, British Museum Press, London) DEHEJIA , VIDYA Art of the Imperial Cholas ( 1990, Columbia University Press, New York) DEHEJIA , VIDYA ET AL The Sensuous and the Sacred: Chola Bronzes From South India (2002, American Federation of Arts in association with the University of Washington Press, Seattle) DEHEJIA , VIDYA ET AL Chola: Sacred Bronzes from Southern India (2006, Royal Academy of Arts, London) JANSEN , EVA RUDY The Book of Hindu Imagery: The Gods and their Symbols (1993, Binkey Kok Publications BV, Havelte) MICHELL , GEORGES Hindu Art and Architecture (2000, Thames & Hudson, London) NARAYANAN , VASUDHA Understanding Hinduism (2004, Duncan Baird, London) WOOD , MICHAEL The Smile of Murugan: A South Indian Journey (1996, Penguin, Harmondsworth) ZAEHNER , R . C ., Hinduism (1962, Oxford University Press, Oxford)24