Benign Look

Roadside Krishna

Behind green chicken mesh, Krishna keeps a benign eye on his devotees emerging from the Peyalwar Sannidhi in Thiruvallikkeni.

Taken during the Manavala Maamunigal utsavam at the Sri Parthasarathy Temple.

Manavala Maamunivar was a Vaishnavite saint and author who lived in the 14th century. See

From the Chennai Photowalk #151

Charming Krishna

It is a wayside temple opposite the IT park, sandwiched between OMR expressway and the MRTS tracks. It is inconspicuous except during some festive days. The main deity is Amman. There is pillayar shrine too.

Behind the temple, there is a banyan tree which is covered with an assortment of pooja offerings. Among this clutter, I almost missed the 6-inch tall Krishna subduing the serpent Kaliya. I am not sure if it was carved in wood or cast in clay. Whatever, it was charming!

Vahanas of the Gods

Even a wayside temple of Amman and Ganesa gives an appropriate place and importance for the respective vahanas of the Gods. In this case Simha and mooshika respectively.

Ramayana Panels in Kambhaharesvara Temple, Tribhuvanam

Ramayana Panels in Kambhaharesvara Temple, Tribhuvanam

The Kambhaharesvara Temple, Tribhuvanam is one of the four major Chola Temples in Thanjavur – Kumbakonam area. It was built by Kulottunga III in the early 13th C.CE.  In sculptural richness, it equals the Airavatesvara temple, Darasuram, in quality and abundance.

There are intricate bas reliefs everywhere including the base of the mandapams and garbhagriha.  Some of the mini panels represent scenes from the puranas, battle or hunting scenes, dancers, and musicians. Elephants, lions, and yaalis are also frequently seen in these panels.

I could not make out the episodes depicted in many of the panels. For example, these two.

A quick search on the web led me to the book, “Kambhaharesvara Temple at Tribhuvanam” by H Sarkar of ASI published by the Department of Archaeology, Government of Tamil Nadu in 1974. According to Sarkar, these two panels represent the Surpanakha episode of Ramayana. In the first, Surpanakha appears as an attractive woman. Lakshmana is seen fighting her. She appears twice in this panel.

In the next panel, Surpanakha takes her real demonic form. Lakshmana climbs on her right shoulder (left, according to Sarkar) and cuts off her nose and ears. In the same panel, she is seen running away. Sarkar says that her breasts are intact (in line with Valmiki Ramayan). To me, it looks like her breast is chopped off in the second image, as per Kamba Ramayan. You be the judge.

There are several such panels and I could cover only a few of them during my short visit.

Chinna Durga

Mahishasuramardini on vimanam, Gangaikonda cholapuram

I had missed Gangaikondacholapuram, the magnificent temple built by Rajendra Chola in 11th C.CE. During my visit in September 2021, it was a Sunday when I reached there and the temple was closed due to the pandemic. I managed to have glimpsed of the magnificent structure from the road and also grabbed a few frames quickly to get back into the car where my family was waiting impatiently.

On reviewing the frames I could discern some of the sculptures in the vimanam. Though this was taken at 45mm, I could see many distinct images including this ‘kutti’ Mahishasuramadini. She was flanked by a Bairavan and a few others, including Sri Rama.

The original frame is also posted.

Nikon D7000 f/9; 1/250; ISO 100 Sigma 18-125 @ 45mm.

Cropped and details upped on LR.

The original frame

Yogini at Patan

A yogini

Rani ki vav has several sculptures of Vishnu and his avatars and other Gods. However, there is also an abundance of female figures in the form of Apsaras, naga kanyas and yoginis. This yogini appears between the panels of Balarama and Srirama.

She has a bowl (kapala?) with a fish in her right hand held above her head. The left-hand holds a mace with a skull head (Khatvanga?). She appears to be in a dancing pose. She has ornaments including necklaces, waistband, anklets, bracelets, eardrops, etc.  She seems to be wearing animal skin on her waist. At her feet, there is a bearded man beating a drum.

Interestingly, she is wearing sandals on her feet. This is distinct from the apsaras and naga kanyas, who were barefooted. My interpretation of this is this: The apsaras are celestial beings and they fly from place to place. The naga kanyas slither their way. The yoginis are earthlings and they need to walk. Hence the sandals.

The figure is framed by a series of mini panels depicting deities. Varaha and Narasimha are easily discernible.

Durga at Rani ki Vav

Durga Mahishasuramardini at Rani ki vav stepwell

One of the most exquisite and intricate high relief sculpture of Mahishasuramardini is at Rani-ki-Vav,Patan, Gujarat. This 11th century sandstone sculpture is well preserved, probably because it was covered with sand and mud for many decades and was excavated fully in the 1980’s.

The whole panel is in high relief – almost full relief, making us wonder how the entire carving was done with the limited tools and technology available in the 11th century.

Though in battle mode, the Goddess looks very elegant and the posture is graceful. The ornament details are easily discernible in the crown, earrings, neckbands, necklaces, girdle, bracelets, armbands, anklets etc.

She has 10 pairs of hands. In the right hands she holds the trident, vajra (thunderbolt), arrow, gadha (mace) ankush (prod/goad) spear, chakra like weapon, lotus, dumroo and sword.

The left hands hold the hair of the demon trying to escape in human form, lower shaft of the trishul, a hooded weapon, pasha (rope/ noose), a bow, war horn, three headed-cobra, and skull cup with fish, a bell and a shield.

The lion is assisting in the annihilation of the demon. The main figure is framed at the back with 4 mini panels on either side depicting female deities and crowned by a torana with a female deity and assorted figures.

What is the chakra on the buffalo’s body? Is it the clone of the Sudarshana Chakra given to Maa Durga by Mahavishnu? Did she use this first before the trident?

Vishnu in Ananthasayanam

Ananthasayi Vishnu on the Eastern side of Kund

Vishnu in Ananthasayana pose.

As I entered the Sun Temple complex in Modhera, I was overwhelmed by the imposing sight of the Kund, the Sabhamandapa, and the Gudhamandapa all in a row. I did not know where to begin. Logic prevailed and I started with the kund (pushkarani). This had many niche shrines at every level and every corner. The access was through narrow and steep steps. I struck gold in the first niche itself on the Eastern side.

Here I came across the miniature, yet iconic image of Vishnu in Anantha sayi pose in bas relief. Unlike Perumals in South India who have the head on our left,* this Vishnu is reclining on Anantha with his head on our right (South). The seven hoods of the serpent form a canopy over His head. His lower left-hand rests on his thigh. The left lower arm is broken. The upper right-hand carries the mace and the left one the chakra.

Lakshmidevi sits at his feet. The usual Padma from the nabhi with Brahma is absent. Above the deity, there is a strip of small figures. Indra on his elephant Iravatha, a lion, and a demon are clearly discernible.  Above the relief, there is a frieze of demonic figures with arms. There are three niches with deities who are not identifiable. Below the hood of the serpent, there is a horse-like animal.

Below Anantha, there is a separate frieze of human figures which are not identifiable. There is a horizontal line or rope connecting the figures which makes me believe that this could be the ‘Sagar Manthan’ scene.

This image is precious for another reason. I knew I had seen this bas relief but could not locate its image in my camera, hard disc, or memory card even two weeks after returning home. Finally, I remembered that I had taken some pictures with my Samsung Galaxy phone. Lo and behold, this iconic image popped out of the phone!

Reference: The Sun Temple at Modhera – A Monograph on Architecture and Iconography by Wibke Lobo

(*) except in Sonna Vannam Seitha Perumal (Yadothkari Perumal) temple in Kanchipuram where He has his head on our right. There is a story behind that.

Lord of the Oceans: Guardian of the West


Varuna at Sun Temple, Modhera

Varuna, the Lord of the Oceans, stands in a niche on the Northwest corner facing West. His face is badly eroded and the arms are broken but the kirita appears in partial glory. His pasha (rope/noose) is partially visible. Some ornaments like girdle, armband, etc are still visible.

A graceful female figure is by his right leg. On his left side, a male figure sits cross-legged on a pedestal. The head of the male is broken but some ornaments and an angavastram like sash are visible. Part of the pasha graces his shoulder. Only one Gandharva/ vidhyadhara is visible. Varuna’s vahana – makara –crocodile is conspicuous by its absence.

The lower two sub panels depict apsaras and the upper two have some deities.

Ashta dik palakas of Sun Temple – Nirrti

Nirrti of South West

Nirrti rules the South West.

Sometimes Nirrti is depicted with demonic features. However, here he is shown with a benign face but devoid of any clothing except for serpents coiling around his body. He has ornate makuta, neckbands, and a chain that looks like it is made of bones and skulls. Two of his arms are missing. His lower right-hand holds an object like a dumbbell or a Vajra. Some experts say it could be the hilt of a sword blade of which is broken. His left-hand rests casually on his thigh.

His vahana is a human being lying near his right leg. Another male figure is on his left side but damaged except for the torso. He too is naked but has coiled serpents around his body.

The two vidhyadharas have fierce facial features, unlike other panels.

The two lower sub-panels have apsaras as usual and the upper left subpanel depicts a bearded deity – probably Brahma,. the upper right relief is a female deity.

Please also see Ashtadikpalakas of Raja Rani Temple from my earlier posts.

Reference: The Sun Temple at Modhera – A Monograph on Architecture and Iconography by Wibke Lobo