Fancy Footwear in stone

Kannappa nayanar

The statue of Kannappa Nayanar in Darasuram, shows a fancy footwear worn by him. Kannappa nayanar was humble and uneducated hunter who became an ardent devotee of Shiva and is anointed as one of the 63 Nayanars (arubathi moovar – saints)

12 th Century C.E. BUilt by Rajaraja Chola II

Standing Nandi

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caption id=”attachment_661″ align=”alignnone” width=”1259″]Standing Nandi at Baijnath temple, Himachal Pradesh Standing Nandi at Baijnath temple, Himachal Pradesh[/caption]

Nandi, Shiva’s vaahana is invariably depicted in sitting posture in all South Indian Siva temples. e.g. see my blog on Lepakshi.

However, in the Baijnath Temple in the Kangra district of  Himachal Pradesh the Nandi is in standing posture. This temple is about 8 or 9 centuries old and houses a Swayambhu linga. It is situated on the banks of river Binwa with a breathtaking view of the Dhauladhar range of the Himalayas.

Another curious feature was the image of man hanging from the Nandi’s tail. I searched the web to find the story behind this but could not find any lead.

Nandi's tail

Nandi’s tail

In this temple, you are required to leave outside all leather items, including bags, belts, etc. beside footwear.

Monolithic Stone Chain

monolithic stone chain

monolithic stone chain

The 100-pillar mandapam at Varadaraja Swami Temple was built around the 15th century by the Vijayanagar rulers. It is well known for the intricate carvings on the pillars. A well-known feature is the monolithic chains hanging from the corners of the mandapa. These chains form an integral part of the roof and have 12 links and an ornate pendant all carved out of a single granite piece.  A masterpiece in stone craft and an architectural marvel.

Mathangeswara – Another little known Pallava temple

After seeing the Vaikunda Perumal Temple, we wanted to see the Mathangeeswarar temple, which according to Google Maps was nearby. However, no one could guide us properly. We ended up at the State Museum (small, but enthusiastic staff) and having an early lunch. After lunch, we decided to have one last try. We parked the car and started walking on the busy Hospital Road. All of a sudden, between two shops, we saw the familiar blue and rusty ASI board informing about all kinds of offences and fines.

Entrance of Mathangeeswarar temple, Kanchiouram

Entrance to Mathangeeswarar temple, Kanchipuram from Hospital Road

Going through the short passage we were pleasantly surprised to see a quadrangle with a small but imposing temple.

First sight of Mathankeshwarar temple, Kanchipuram

The Mathangeeswarar (or Mathangeswarar) temple is built on a high platform. The peaceful ambiance in the midst of the bustle of the bazaar is truly remarkable. There were a handful of young men reading and preparing notes. When we enquired they informed us that they are preparing for the state competitive examinations. To our query whether there is any spiritual significance for choosing this place to study, they said that it is only the peaceful ambiance which attracted them.  To our amusement, we found a polite request on the Mukha Mandapam not to sit on it for studying.

Mathangeeswarar temple, Kanchipuram

The style of architecture as highlighted by the lion pillars is definitely Pallava. The pillar details (ornate brackets, palagai & kumbha) indicate 8th century Pallava style.  The sanctum was closed when we were there but we understand that the main deity is Lord Shiva.

Pillar details at Mathangeeswarar temple, Kanchipuram

Pillar details at Mathangeswarar temple, Kanchipuram

The mukhamandapam has six panels. Two are the Dwarapalakas.  The others are 1) Gaja Samharamurthy 2) Ravananugrah Murthy [click here for the background story,  my blog on Ravana and Mount Kailash]  3) Urdhva Tandava Murthy & 4) Gangadhara.

Dwarapalaka at Mathankeswarar temple, Kanchipuram

Dwarapalaka at Mathankeswarar temple, Kanchipuram

Gajasamhara Murthy panel at Mathangeeswarar temple, Kanchipuram

Gajasamhara Murthy panel at Mathangeeswarar temple, Kanchipuram

Ravananugraha Murthy - a panel in Mathangeeswarar temple, Kanchipuram

Ravananugraha Murthy – a panel in Mathangeeswarar temple, Kanchipuram

Urdhva tandava Murthy a panel in Mathangeeswarar temple, Kanchipuram

Urdhva tandava Murthy a panel in Mathangeeswarar temple, Kanchipuram

Gangadharan at Matangeeswarar temple, Kanchipuram

Gangadharan at Matangeeswarar temple, Kanchipuram

The figures on the outside walls are highly eroded.

Mathangeeswarar temple, Kanchipuram

Outside view Mathangeeswarar temple, Kanchipuram

There is Nandi with a broken face on a pedestal under a peepul tree but there is no Nandi mandapam.

Mathangeeswarar temple, Kanchipuram

Another heritage monument neglected by the authorities and the public.

Eka Paada Murthy

Trimurthis with only one leg

Trimurthis with only one leg

On the Northern Wall of the Sree Thyagarajaswamy temple, Thiruvottiyur.

This is the Ekapada Murthy aspect of the Trimurtis.

There can be many interpretations. The one given by the heritage tour leader, Pradeep Chakravarthy was this:
It was a time when Jainism and Buddhism were kept at bay by Hinduism. However, there was friction between various factions of Hinduism. This depiction of an integrated form of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma was to highlight the fact that all philosophies converge.

This is also sometimes referred to as Tripaada Trimurthy since a leg each of Brahma and Vishnu are also seen.

Another interpretation is that this showcases the supremacy of Shiva as the axis of the world or its cosmic pillar

Lesser known Rathams of Mamallapuram

Pidari Ratham at Mahabalipuram

Pidari Ratham at Mahabalipuram

Very few visitors to Mamallapuram get to see the Pidari Ratham and Valian kuttai (Valayankuttai) rathams. These are located about 500 mtrs West of Arjuna’s penance and can be reached by road. The entrance to the complex is close to ECR.

Both rathams are unfinished structures carved out of huge boulders. The work has begun from the top but the bottom is not completed. They resemble huge ‘Chettiar bommais’ at the bottom. The sanctums are also not complete and one is not sure for which god(s) these are meant for.

Valian kuttai ratham at Mahabalipuram

Valian kuttai ratham at Mahabalipuram

Map of Mamallapuram. Courtesy: Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation

map of mamallapuram (TTDC)

map of mamallapuram (TTDC)

In the sanctum of Valian kuttai rathamWhen we reached the Valiankuttai ratham, a man was peacefully sleeeping in the niche, oblivious of the visitors.

Celestial marriage

Meenakshi Sundareswarar thirukalyanam. The wedding of Shiva with Parvati, one scene from many depicted on a temple gopuram at Thiruamazhisai, near Chennai.

Ravana lifting Mount Kailash

Ravana lifting Mt.Kailash

Ravana lifting Mt.Kailash

This is the classic sculpture of Ravana lifting Mt Kailash at Ellora (Cave 16 -Kailash).I have been longing to see this iconic image for a long time. I have seen similar themes at Angkor Wat (Bantei Srei), Pattadakkal, Murudeshwar, etc.

For details about this episode, click here

For the theme in Belur Halebid click here

Hanging Pillar – An architectural marvel

The highly talked about, but the least understood feature at Lepakshi is the hanging pillar. the main mandap has 70 pillars. One of them is unique.It appears to hang from the top as it does not rest on the floor. One can draw a paper or a piece of cloth under the pillar. The science behind  this architectural feature remains a mystery. A British official tried to study this column but only succeeded in dislodging it from the original, thus dangerously skewing the structure. Wisely, he abandoned any further invasive investigation. 

The hanging column of Lepakshi- an architectural mystery.

The pillar in Belur is also an architectural curiosity. It appears to be supported only on three sides. It is a stand-alone pillar and not part of a mandapam. 

Belur Pillar