Garuda, the legendary bird akin to Brahmini kite is the vaahana (vehicle) of Lord Vishnu. He is often depicted in the anthropomorphic form as above. He is a protector and powerful. The legend of Garuda appears in Buddhism and Jainism.
From the Hoysala period temple at Belur, Karnataka.
Vyaghrapada was a great devotee of Lord Shiva. He lived in a thillai forest near Chidambaram.
He used to collect flowers in the morning for his daily puja. Seeing that birds and bees suck nectar from the flowers, he wanted to get flowers even before dawn so that they are untouched and fresh. For this purpose he had to go deep into the forest in near darkness. This involved walking over thorns and sharp stones. Consequently his feet were affected so badly that even his overall health deteriorated. Seeing his plight Lord Siva gave him legs of a tiger to manage the rough conditions of the forest. Hence the name Vyaghrapaada .Vyghra – tiger: pada – foot.
Vyaghrapada lived in Chidambaram for many years. He was a contemporary of Sage Patanjali. Shiva eventually gave his darsan as Nataraja and both Vyghrapaada and Patanjali attained mukti.
From one of the pillars in the Azhagiya Nambi Temple, Thirukkurungudi – one of the 108 Vaishnvite Divya Desams.
Interestingly, though this temple is a Vaishnavite Divya sthalam, it has also many Shaivaite elements as the sculpture above.
Mahishasuramardhini is another recurring theme in my posts.
Here, the medium is unique- painted marble.
18th Century CE from Jaipur Rajasthan. Exhibited at the Indian Museum Kolkata.
Ten-armed Durga is riding a lion as she slays the demon Mahisha. She is flanked by Ganesha and Kartikeya, which I found to be unique again. One of the other two female figures could be Saraswathi. The arch is embellished with paintings of the Durga legends. It is topped by a figure on a buffalo.
Submission of Naga King Apalala, ca 2nd C.CE, Loriyan Tangai
A relief from Loriyan Tangai region of Pakistan at the Indian Museum Kolkata.
The legend: In the Swat river of the Gandhara Kingdom, there was a naga king called Apalala. He used to harass the local residents and they, in turn, offered him a tribute to stop harassing them. Once when the tributes started dwindling, Apalala was furious and turned himself into a Dragon. He threatened to invoke floods in the Swat river and annihilate the community. At that time Buddha with Vajrapani was visiting that area to propagate his thoughts. Vajrapani used the weapon Vajra (lightning) to bring down the mountain and subdue Apalala. Apalala submitted to Buddha and converted to Buddhism.
It was interesting to come across an article in Dawn (Pakistan) about the archaeological department invoking a slightly different version of this legend in the context of floods in the Swat valley. See story: https://www.dawn.com/news/563030
The Amravati Gallery in Government Museum, Egmore has several pieces of art from Amravati. Most of these are sculpted on a variety of marble like limestone.
One of the important sculpture here is a medallion depicting the scene if subjugation of the elephant Nalagiri.
The Nalagiri jataka goes something like this:
Buddha’s cousin Devadatta also joins the Sangha and becomes influential. He also acquires some supernatural powers. However, he becomes jealous of Buddha and his popularity. He wins over some elements with his supernatural powers and tries in several ways to kill Buddha. He is unsuccessful in all attempts.
Finally, he persuades the royal elephant keepers to get the fierce elephant Nalapada (also known as Dhanapala) drunk with intoxicants and sent out to the marketplace where Buddha is expected.
Seeing the enraged pachyderm, people run helter-skelter. Even those watching from the balcony are worried. In the melee, a woman drops her baby near Buddha’s feet. As Nalagiri is about to trample the baby and charge at Buddha, he does not lose his composure. Instead, he touches the forehead of the elephant and gently strokes it. Nalagiri not only becomes calm but seems to be completely subdued. It bows before the Buddha. Buddha delivers a sermon on dhamma to it.
The two-and-a-half foot diameter medallion from Amravati exhibited at the Madras Museum in Egmore clearly depicts the charging Nalagiri and the subdued Nalagiri. The crowd is terrified while Buddha and his disciple (Ananda?) are composed. The details of the people in the balcony are also clearly visible. (View full size for better details)
Dancing Ganesha. ca 12th Century CE. Basalt. North Bengal.
On this day of Ganesh Chaturthi I was happy to locate this picture of Dancing Ganesha from my collection taken in the Indian Museum, Kolkata.
I was trying to search the web of the legend of the Dancing Ganesha. On first glance, all I got was details of an Indian restaurant by that name in the US of A and an Android App. I tried Nartana Ganapathy and I got Amazon pages on a doll (Chinese?). May be I should look more carefully later.
When I wrote about Bhishma on the bed of arrows at Pattadakkal, (click here) I had heard about a similar image at Angkor Wat. My dream of seeing this came true last fortnight, when I visited Bali and Angkor Wat with my batchmates at IIM, Ahmedabad .
This is on the Southern Gallery at the Western entrance to Angkor Wat.
Angkor wat is perhaps the largest temple in the world. It was built in the 12th century by Suryavarman II of Cambodia and was dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Later, it was converted to a Buddhist temple. Like other monuments in Cambodia, Angkor Wat blends Buddhist and Hindu imagery and legends.
Incidentally, image of this temple appears in the country’s flag.