Sunday, May 27, 2012



  Painting by Ravi Verma
(Source - Internet)

During last week, I came across two discussions on one wall-relief of Kirat-Arjuna  at  Kanchipuram temple. The  artist has been very clever in  making the characters almost look-alike - the discussions were  about who is Kirat-the-Siva and who is Arjuna. The photographer/writer are quite well-known in the internet circuit as discerning  ones so far as  South Indian temples are concerned. Therefore,  I shall not bring out the links of the photos shot by them or the discussions/comments in their respective spheres and  would rather come to the subject directly.

 Kirat-Arjuna, Kailashanatha temple, Kanchipuram.
(Source - Internet- posted by Diablitos & Gallery of tektrader49 @

Here, both the figures on the left and right-hand, as I have mentioned above, are quite similar. The  hair-dos are different, so  are the choices of weapons. Deliberately,  a 'teaser' has been crafted. Which one is Kirat-the-Siva ?

I  referred to Gopinatha Rao - he has described this manifestation in page 315-316, volume 2  of his book on Iconography. But,  GR professed that Kirat-the-Siva should be depicted with four arms, three eyes, jatamukuta and stand in samabhanga posture ! These and other details are not applicable in this case !

Kirat-Arjuna of Virupaksha temple, Pattadakal, Karnataka.

Far more explicit is the Kirat-Arjuna of Virupaksha temple, Pattadakal. The postures, attires and the physiques are near equal, but, not identical. The figure on the right-side is a little more stout, has a longer jatamukuta and clearly over-powering  the other. So,  one may deduce that he is Kirat-the-Siva. I also felt, Arjuna, after long uncomfortable stay in the forest, would be  leaner than Kirat. Therefore, one may deduce that the figure in the left is Arjuna.

Top - Siva, Below -  A blow-up of the upper portion of the  wall-relief.
Mahakuta temple, Karnataka

But, what about  the wall-relief from Kanchipuram ? In my opinion, one of the keys to Siva's identification lies in his dissimilar ear-rings. Here is a photo of a sculpture from Mahakuta temple, Karnataka. Here we have a simple 2-arm Siva and a blow-up of the upper part of his body.We can see 'sankhapatra' on Siva's left ear,  'sarpa(snake)kundala' on his right and a skull in his 'Jatamukuta'. We can apply these criteria on the two faces of Kanchipuram's wall-relief we are discussing about and reach a conclusion. Unfortunately, I have no access to such blow-ups for this Kanchipuram
wall-relief ! May be  my friends/readers who have  photos of this wall-relief can help.

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