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 !

1 comment:


Tony Mitra of facebook.com has commented :
'This is a very nice write up with pictures. I wish you could also upload a relavant map of the area, and pin point the locations, if possible. Much appreciate your eye and your pen, Shyamal babu.'