The stuccoes stand apart
The Lord in a reclining posture with Adisesha on guard ... an excellent piece of art.
USING THE radio-active carbon dating (C-14 half period decay) method, the frescoes made on the stone sculptures in a very ancient temple (in a small village Malaiyadipatti), near Tiruchi, have been found to be around 2000 years old. This kind of work is very rare and only a few have survived till today.
All the frescoed stone sculptures, together form a single block, carved out as a geometrically shaped cave in a mountain.
The carved cave temple consists of two halls the inner one, which is the sanctum sanctorum, and the outer temple, which is the arthamandapam supported by two pillars resting on the sculpture of a lion.
The sanctum sanctorum depicts a very vivid story about Lord Mahavishnu, taken from the Vishnupuranam.
Lord Mahavishnu is seen reclining on the body of the five hooded Adisesha.
Vividly portrayed demons, Madhu and Kaithabu ... with the exquisitely sculptured pillar in the foreground.
All around there are a number of other sculptures, carved on the same block, depicting Goddess Lakshmi, Lord Brahma, a multitude of angels and demons.
The hall in front of the sanctum sanctorum is much larger and its walls contain sculptures made as a kind of relief work.
These sculptures depict the various incarnations (avatars) of Lord Mahavishnu. But curiously, Rama and Krishna are not to be found among the various sculptures in this cave temple.
Hence it may be surmised that this temple should have been carved before the Ramayana and the Mahabharatha were written.
Usually stone sculptures are not painted. But in this temple, even in those primitive days they had wanted to paint the sculptures.
Applying paint to stone, especially sculptures, is not a simple task. Paint would not have stuck to stone. The artists of those bygone centuries thought of an ingenious technique to surmount the problem.
The sculptures were coated with a kind of stucco, prepared with organic materials like shell lime (calcium), palm sugar etc., after fermentation.
The exterior of the cave temple ... inside lies a storehouse of art.
This stucco would be extremely white and sticky and once dry would not peel off.
The stucco should have been smeared on the statues, to a thickness of about 1.5 cm., care being taken all the time to see that the finer details on the sculptures remain in their original shape in the stucco covered form also.
This must have been a very difficult artistic task, but one that has been done meticulously, which is evident even today after several centuries.
While the stucco was still wet the colour pigments (mostly organic or mineral) must have been applied over it. This kind of work can be called as frescoed sculptures. The outcome is marvellous.
The stuccoes have peeled off because of the heat and moisture in the atmosphere.
Moreover this decay is also the result of abhishekam. But still the stuccoes and hence the painting over them, is intact.
Every devotee coming here is bound to feel that Lord Vishnu in His true form is reclining on Adishesha. Such is the artistic splendour of the sculptures.
Send this article to Friends by