(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 @ flickr.com)
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.