Tuesday, June 14, 2011


A remarkable and large wall relief of 'MahishasuraMardini'  @ cave of Ravana Phadi, Aihole.
Devi  mauls ( - 'mardana'-)  Mahishasura with one of her four left hands as well as the left knee. She pierces Mahishasura too by a spear held in one of her right hands.The earliest 'MahishasuraMardini' can be found mauling 'Mahishasura' only with her hands . Here, 'Mahishasura'  suffers mauling ( - 'mardana'-) 
as well as attack by spear.

During our visit to SriMukhalingam/Hampi/Badami/Aihole/Pattdakal in February,11, we 
came across beautiful wall-reliefs of 'MahishasuraMardini' - as was expected.Here, 'Mahisasura' is often a buffalo, not the dark-complexioned well-built masculine figures we come across during DurgaPuja in Calcutta and other cities.We saw interesting figures of 'Shakti' riding a lion too - 'Singhabahini'. The origin of this imagery can be traced to 'Nonaa' of West- and Central- Asia. These imageries of 'Shakti' , we can reckon, was quite popular among the builders of temples in the region we traveled - oldest being @ Badami, newest being @ Hampi.

 A remarkable  wall relief of 'MahishasuraMardini'  @ Someswara temple, SriMukhalingam.
Devi has ten hands. 'Mahishasura' is in human form. Remarkably, 'Mahishasura' is in human form in other temples @ SriMukhalingam too !

Devi can be seen with four, eight and even ten hands in SriMukhalingam, eight hands in Hampi, hands in Badami, eight hands in Aihole and two hands in Mahakuteswar. Her 'aayudhas' - the weapons -  also vary. Sword and Spear - specially spear - being very common.

'Singhabahini' @ Hampi.Devi has eight hands. She wields a sword, but, no spear. Face of the lion clearly indicate that the sculptor has never come across a real life lion !
From the present entrance gate to Vitthala temple.

 Those who have followed my blogs on Siva Iconography are aware that 'SaptaMatrika' came into the being to help Siva in his battle against 'Andhakasura'. Those who might have missed the particular blog where I have recounted this episode may please refer to : http://przmm.blogspot.com/2011/03/tale-of-siva-andhakaura-journey-from.html. I found the most fierce 'SaptaMatrika' depiction on a high point at the entrance of the main temple of SriMukhalingam. Capturing the photo of this wall-relief was  difficult .My friend and guide Mr Netaji Rao and I have made several attempts to capture this very special wall-relief. I intend to devote one blog to detail the same.  The most benign depiction of 'SaptaMatrika' is at Ravana Phadi, Aihole where they are part of the dance of Nataraja - his celebration after subjugating 'Andhakasura' and slaying of 'Gajasura' .

 Four of the seven 'SaptaMatrika'  at Ravana Phadi, Aihole.Ganesha and 'Bhringee' - 'Andhakasura' redeemed  and re-christened  - are seen on the right side of Nataraja.
Celebration of  subjugation of 'Andhakasura' and slaying of 'Gajasura'.
All the participants in  classical dance poses .

Hindu religion , through centuries, have worshiped 'Shakti' - the female power. Female power have power to annihilate enemies - as in 'MahishasuraMardini' and 'SaptaMatrika'. Female power has potential  of creation, fertility - as in 'LajjaGouri'. She is the consort of  Siva - 'Uma/Parvati' .This 'relationship' has been viewed and interpretated  in Hindu religion from  many angles. Some are quite complex - like 'Sati's corpse on Siva's shoulder and conversely, Kali on a corpse-like Siva.
 Kali on corpse-like Siva.
Terra cotta temple at Baronagar, Murshidabad,WB. 

The finest 'LajjaGouri' I found is at the Museum of Badami - a beautiful sculpture.Unfortunately, I could not click a a photo since I did not have permission for the same. The In-charge advised me to get permission from DG, ASI,New Delhi - he promised  me a photo as soon as the DG sends his permission. I wrote to him twice without result. This Executive suggested that I visit the Hulegamanaolla temple at the village of the same name.We did visit this temple next day, on our way to Aihole and found representative wall-reliefs of 'LajjaGouri' and also 'SaptaMatrika' - a bonus  indeed !

 The most beautiful 'MahishasuraMardini' we came across this trip - eight-handed Devi @
'Durga Gudi ' , Aihole.

Such a blog on 'MahishasuraMardini' cannot be completed without her oldest depiction we came across.It is the stunning  wall relief of 'MahishasuraMardini', 'Kartikeya' and 'Ganesha' in an alcove next to the famous 'Nataraja' in the very first pavilion of the cave temples of Badami - popularly known as 'Siva's pavilion'. Devi has four hands.She has pulled the buffalo up by his tail, mauled him down by placing her right foot on his head and pierces his neck by a spear.

'MahishasuraMardini' at Badami. 454 AD.

 One important point to note here  is :  in typical Brahminical style of Iconography, the vanquished  'Mahishasura', appears to be quite small  compared to 'Durga' - now-a-days in Calcutta, and often in other cities too, we find much more formidable - more 'macho' -  'Mahishasura' during the 'Puja'. At Badami and Aihole, vanquished 'Mahishasura' does not look like a demon who kept 'Durga' engaged in a battle for quite a long time !

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


'Shakti' - with a lot of resemblance to the imagery of 'Bhairava'. She has fangs, holds trident and 'akshamala in her right hands. Left hands hold a snake and a 'bhanda' - a small vessel .A skull prominent in her head gear.
Parvati temple inside the main complex of SriMukhalingam.

When we embarked on our visit to SriMukhalingam/Hampi/Badami/Aihole/Pattdakal in February,11, we had some idea about the wonderful 'MahishasuraMardini' wall-reliefs that await us. This imagery of 'Shakti' , we found, was quite popular among the builders of temples - oldest being @ Badami, newest being @ Hampi.

Parvati sits on the left thigh of Siva. Nandi the bull and Shakti's lion ( the sculptor could not 
bring out the shape well !) rest at the respective master's foot.
SriMukhalingam temple.

Hindu religion , through centuries, have worshiped 'Shakti' - the female power. Female power have power to vanquish enemies - as in 'MahishasuraMardini' and 'SaptaMatrika'. Female power has potential  of creation, fertility - as in 'LajjaGouri'. She is the consort of  Siva - 'Uma/Parvati' .This 'relationship' has been viewed and interpreted  in Hindu religion from  many angles. Some are quite complex with 'tantrik' innuendos - like 'Sati's corpse on Siva's shoulder and conversely, Kali on a corpse-like Siva.

'ArdhaNaareeswara' - Siva in right half. Shakti in left.Siva holds trident.
Shakti holds a mirror.Nandi the bull on the right side whereas the lion is on the left.
East-side alcove in Someswara temple,SriMukhalingam.

A major imagery of 'Shakti' is  embodied in 'ArdhaNaareeswara' - Androgynous Siva. It has a complexity which  cannot be stated in simple terms. The 'concept' of  'ArdhaNaareeswara' is linked with birth and propagation of mankind. Sages and architects of our scripture and mythology have interpreted the 'concept' in various Puranas . It is not possible for common people like us to fathom the same . I read 'Presence of Siva' by Stella Kramrisch  to understand the 'concept'.'ArdhaNaareeswara' was born from 'Brahma'. He agreed to let 'Shakti' be released from this embodiment to the world with her full power.Release of 'Shakti' in the Universe  led to birth of 'Sati' whose parent was  'Daksha'. Siva married 'Sati' and then  lost her in a tumultuous event.

 Close-up of  'ArdhaNaareeswara'.
Ravana Gudi Cave.Aihole.

The release of 'Shakti' from the embodiment of 'ArdhaNaareeswara' brought the female sex into this world. Manu , born from Brahma and his consort 'Satarupa' - the hundred beings - gave birth to mankind, through the process of sexual intercourse. This is when sensual pleasure and sexual urge originated in the Universe. Having accomplished her mission,'Shakti' returned to the embodiment of 'ArdhaNaareeswara' . In words of  Stella Kramrisch,'the timeless,changeless image was a seal that comprised, in its paradoxical unity, the simultaneous and equivalent existence of opposite entities.' 

I shall present photographs of  'SinghaBahini' , 'MahisasuraMardini' and 'SaptaMatrika' in Part -II of this series.

Thursday, June 2, 2011



NOTE OF WARNING -  Those who are below 18 years  OR dislike discussions on 'erotic' work of art in Hindu temples are requested to stay away from this Blog.

Dance of 'Kama' under tree of life. 
Man dances with his woman held in tight embrace - posture resembling 'Tantrik Bouddha' depictions. Does the man have a 'jata' - matted hair - and a snake on his right upper arm? Siva and Shakti  in union , tree of life blooming in joy ? 
Obscure and damaged ,yet a remarkable wall-relief at Virupksha temple,Pattadakal
( Note - Can a viewer please tell me - what I have described as 'tree of life'
is actually a collage of celestial viewers ?)

During  my visits to the temples of SriMukhalingam, Hampi, Pattadakal and Aihole, I often wondered what was the attitude of the creators of these temples  - the kings, religious leaders and the society in general - towards  'Kama' , the primal urge . A lot has been written analysing  Hindu scripture , religious practices and Hindu art through centuries.  I am no student of sociology - but, I felt, 'Kama' was ever-present in the mind of the people who 'created' these temples. The society did believe that expressions depicting  primal urge need not  be be put away from public view. The society were told that 'Dharma' - religion, 'Artha' - money,'Kama' - primal urge and 'Moksha' - salvation form the core of human strives. Meaning of each word has been expanded - yet, each segment of Hindu society, through ages, interpreted those words in their own way.

Excellent craftsman ship in this wall-relief of 'Mithun murty'.Woman stands  with a slight 'bibhanga', her right hand around the trunk of a long and slender tree, a 'kamandalu' - water-pot in her hand. A hermit with matted hair , standing in 'swastika' pose, touches her chin tenderly.
SriMukhalingam temple.

'Kama' - is it Love or Lust ? It is Desire  and there is a force,an urge  inherent in this word. Like any feeling , it has shades of varying range. The borders between these shades are not so distinct - and as I go through the photos of numerous  'Mithun murty', sculpted by different artists, in different centuries, the study looks very interesting. Physical proximity - postures showing eagerness of the poignant moments - or lack of it - was brought out in varying details. Some of these  'Mithun murty' were sculpted by inexperienced hands , therefore do not  have much artistic merit. Such wall-reliefs were often placed away from the most-visited areas, yet, worth a 'dekko'. I have posted photo of one such wall-relief in this blog.

 The couple is stimulated. Man pulls  the woman  closer during embrace.She  is all but naked - her lowered girdle highlights her nudity.Man's right hand holds forward a full bloomed lotus which covers his erected  phallus.  She is  pushing  down the man's girdle. 
The companion's lower body is covered. She turns away from the ensuing 'act'. 
Durga temple,Aihole.

The couple is stimulated. Woman pulls  the man  closer during embrace.She  is  explicitly working on her companion's crotch . Man's right hand holds  a flower which is yet to bloom. The sizes of the flowers indicate the states of male excitement ! 
Huchchappyana Matha,Aihole.

We can see the fervour of 'Kama'  brought out through postures of couples - 'Mithuna murty' , gods and their consorts - in standing and seated postures. Then the sculptors often took a step forward - they added companion/s to the 'twosome'. As the postures evolved with the society ,'Tantrik' practices  came out on the open. In this phase, we find men and women engaged in coitus and other acts of sex , often in groups.  Michael D. Rabe, in his well-researched book - 'Tantra in practice' - has devoted a big chapter to 'Secret Yantras and Erotic Display for Hindu' . Here, he has correlated 'Tantrik Yantras'   with the sculptures created.

 'Kamakala Yantra' superimposed on a famous sculpture from Khajuraho temple. 
Source - Internet .

In this blog , I  have brought out 'Kama'-enriched work with 'Mithuna murty' which I came across  my February,11 visit and shall leave out  those where acts of sex have been shown explicitly.  Explanatory notes and my comments are in the descriptions of the photos.

 A near-Rape scene. Crudely sculpted, yet the postures captured the woman's resistance 
to the act of violation.
Huchchappyana Matha,Aihole.

Passion of Sugriba.
Vitthala temple,Hampi.

Note - Part II in http://orange-leaves.blogspot.com/2011/06/celebration-of-kama-love-frozen-in.html