Masterpieces in metal

Print edition : November 19, 2010

NATARAJA OF TIRUVALANGADU. This bronze belongs to the period of Raja Raja Chola (regnal years 985-1014 CE). The hand at the top on his right side plays the damaru and the one below depicts the 'abhaya' (protection) mudra. On the left side, the hand at the top holds a flame of nine tongues, representing the continuum of energy, and the one below is in the 'gaja-hasta' pose (like an elephant's trunk). The pendant on the necklace has moved from its original position, a touch of realism. The 'tiruvasi' (arch) and the flying hair, so characteristic of Nataraja bronzes, are missing. They either broke off or were stolen.-NATARAJA OF TIRUVALANGADU. This bronze belongs to the period of Raja Raja Chola (regnal years 985-1014 CE). The hand at the top on his right side plays the damaru and the one below depicts the 'abhaya' (protection) mudra. On the left side, the hand at the top holds a flame of nine tongues, representing the continuum of energy, and the one below is in the 'gaja-hasta' pose (like an elephant's trunk). The pendant on the necklace has moved from its original position, a touch of realism. The 'tiruvasi' (arch) and the flying hair, so characteristic of Nataraja bronzes, are missing. They either broke off or were stolen.

The millennium celebrations of the Brihadisvara temple in Thanjavur showcased the largest collection of Chola bronzes ever.

IT was a gallery that defied description. It held the largest collection of Chola bronzes ever assembled in one place 76 masterpieces in all, the majority of them crafted during the reign of Raja Raja Chola, the Chola emperor (regnal years 985-1014 CE) who built Raja Rajesvaram, or the Brihadisvara temple, in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu. The gallery, set up at the Thanjavur Palace, was the centrepiece of the millennium celebrations of the temple, an architectural audacity in itself, organised by the Tamil Nadu government from September 22 to 26.

Among the images on display were Nataraja (of Tiruvalangadu near Chennai); Ardhanarisvara, Bhikshatana, an eight-armed Siva and the expressive Kannappa Nayanar (all belonging to Tiruvengadu near Thanjavur); the Buddhas of Nagapattinam; the Tirtankaras of Tindivanam; and Velan of Gangaikonda Cholapuram, which belongs to the period of Rajendra Chola (regnal years 1012-1044 CE) and was being displayed for the first time. Also on view were exquisite bronzes of Kali and Neesumbasudani, both with eight arms; a rare Veenadhara Dakshinamurthy; Saivite saints Karaikaal Ammaiyar, Tirugnana Sambandar, Appar, Sundarar and Manickavasagar; and Krishna with Sathyabhama and Rukmani.

"The grandeur" of the conception of "Ananda tandava", as depicted by Nataraja of Tiruvalangadu, is "a synthesis of science and religion and art", writes Ananda K. Coomaraswamy. The view from the back shows the perfection the sthapathis achieved in representing the twists and turns of the body.-

The earliest of the pieces, dating to the 8th century CE, was of the Somaskanda group, which originally comprised Siva, Parvati and their child Skanda seated between them, but is now without the child. Bronzes discovered at Tiruindalur, Velankanni and Tiruvarur in May, July and August 2010 respectively, were also on display.

The artefacts stand testimony to the perfection the atliers of the Chola period had achieved in the art of metal casting.

VELAN (SUBRAHMANYA) OF Gangaikonda Cholapuram. In battle gear and sporting a beautiful smile, he is ready to fight the demon Surapadman at sea. Rajendra Chola consecrated this bronze in the Gangaikonda Cholisvaram temple to commemorate his conquest of Kedah, Sumatra and Java. Velan wears a 'karanda makuta', or tiered crown; a headband; 'makara kundala', or earrings shaped like fish (above and close-up, below).-

An 'udara banda', or stomach band; and three pearl necklaces. He has heavily ornamented arm bands and the yajno-pavite runs across his chest. The dhoti is held in place by a simhaclasp, a buckle that resembles a lion. On the right side, in the hand at the top is the Sakthi Padai, a weapon given by his mother Parvati. The other hand, which is broken, must have held "Vajra", the weapon given by Indra. On the left side, the hand at the top holds a rooster, his symbol, and the other a shield.-

The lithic inscriptions in the Brihadisvara temple provide a list of 66 beautiful bronzes that Raja Raja Chola, his sister Kundavai, his queens and his commanders gifted to the temple. The inscriptions have a wealth of information on the enormous amounts of jewellery the Chola emperor, his queens and his officers donated to adorn these bronzes, which were processional deities that were taken out during temple festivals.

The inscriptions reveal that Raja Raja Chola named the bronze of a dancing Siva, called Dakshina Meru Vitankar, Adavallan (expert in dance). Today, of the 66 bronzes, only this and another, of Siva's consort Sivakami, remain in the Brihadisvara temple (Frontline, July 2, 2010).

In his book Rajarajesvaram, the Pinnacle of Chola Art (published by Mudgala Trust in 1985), B. Venkataraman says: Of these sixty-six metallic images in gold, silver, copper, bronze, brass and panchaloha (the five metals in amalgam consisting of gold, silver, copper, zinc and tin), only two have survived to stand in lonely majesty, bespeaking the glory of the age of metal-casting, and to remind us of the ravages of time and political convulsions that have swept the region over the millennium since the temple had been built. We do not know where all the rest have disappeared. In fact, but for all the detailed lithic records about them, we could not even be aware that this enormous number of metals was ever cast in that region. It would be rewarding indeed if we could pause for a moment to study these icons, for they record the peak of the Chola metal casting, an art so assiduously practised in his grand-aunt Sembiyan Mahadevi's days and so avidly taken by Rajaraja himself in his own time.

The exhibition may not have permitted a study of the Chola icons but it brought them closer to the people, which was itself a rewarding experience. It was made possible by the efforts of Tamil Nadu Minister for School Education Thangam Thennarasu, an engineer with scholarship in Tamil epigraphy, iconography, arts and culture, and R. Nagaswamy, a former Director of the Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department, and an iconographer of international repute. Nagaswamy curated the show, which included the bronzes described below and many more.

ARDHANARISVARA OF TIRUVENGADU. In this fusion of Siva, the godhead, and Parvati, the divine energy, the contra-distinction is brought out to the minutest detail from tip to toe. Siva's manliness - strong shoulders and two arms, broad eye, firm waist and muscular thigh - contrasts sharply with Parvati's feminine beauty - supple shoulder, slender arm, broad hip and a shapely leg. The differentiation in the jewellery and dress too is stark at the points of fusion.-

Nataraja of Tiruvalangadu: This is one of the finest Chola bronzes and portrays Nataraja performing the Ananda tandava. The image was cast on the lines of Dhyanasloka in Thevaram and it fits the poetic description where the poet-saint Appar sings of Siva as having arched eyebrows, lips as red as a kovvai fruit, a beatific smile and a raised golden foot.

Of his four hands, the upper right hand plays the damaru, the lower right one depicts the abhaya hasta mudra (sign of protection), the upper left one is stretched in the gaja-hasta pose (like the trunk of an elephant) and the lower left one holds a flame with nine tongues, symbolising the continuum of energy.

AT THE back of the image, too, great care has been taken to mark the contrasts. For instance, the scapula of Siva is rock-like, while that of Parvati appears soft. Also note the circular 'jata billai' (hair clip). This picture was taken at the Government Museum, Chennai, from where the bronze was brought for display at the gallery in Thanjavur.-

This Nataraja wears three necklaces a jewelled necklace, a beaded one and a rosary of rudraksha berries. His right ear has a makara kundala (fish-like earring) and the left ear has a patra kundala (circular scroll earring). Unfortunately, the jata (the flying hair) and the aureole (tiruvasi in Tamil) with a series of flames are missing. His right foot is planted firmly on Muyalakan, or Apasmara (in Sanskrit), the dwarf who stands for ignorance, and the left foot is poised lightly in the air.

The art historian the late C. Sivaramamurti in his seminal work Nataraja in Art, Thought and Literature (first published by the National Museum, New Delhi in 1974) describes this bronze thus:

KANNAPPA NAYANAR OF Tiruvengadu. His head is tilted to the left as he has gouged out his right eye with the arrow (missing) in his left hand. He has a beard and a fiercemoustache as befitting the hunter-prince Tinnan he was before he was canonised as a Saivite saint. He wears a patra kundala or circular scroll-like earring. Also prominent are the interconnecting belts that run diagonally across the shoulders.-

To about 1000 A.D. should be assigned the famous Nataraja of Tiruvalangadu now in the Madras Museum [renamed Government Museum, Chennai]. It is a classical example and the best known image of its kind in any public museum in the world. The pose of this figure, its rhythmic movement, the flexion of the body and the limbs, the perfect smile, the physical proportions and the flowing contours are blended into a pose so amazing that it is no wonder that [Auguste] Rodin, the world famous sculptor, considered this to be the most perfect representation of rhythmic movement in the world.

While Rodin described this metal icon as perpetual beauty in bronze, Ananda K. Coomaraswamy noted that the grandeur of the conception of Ananda tandava was a synthesis of science and religion and art. He called the sthapathis, who made such astonishing bronzes, rishi-artists.

THE SOCKET of the right eye, which has been gouged out, is hollow. The upper row of teeth can be seen.-

Nagaswamy called this Nataraja a unique contribution of Tamil Nadu to the world of art and a masterpiece both as an art specimen and for expressing the high form of philosophy of the cosmos. Just as the planets in the cosmos move in a rhythm, there is a rhythm in the dance of Siva, he says. Tamil artists visualised Nataraja's dance as ananda tandava, which he danced to the rhythm of the damaru he played.

The sthapathi of this bronze has paid so much attention to detail that even the workmanship of the flames held by the Nataraja is extraordinarily beautiful, says P.R. Srinivasan in his book Bronzes of South India, published by the Government Museum, Chennai, in 1963.

BHIKSHATANA OF TIRUVENGADU. Siva as the young mendicant whom the wives of the sages of Tarugavanam tried to seduce. The sthapathi's attention to detail can be discerned in the matted hair, the crescent upon it, the skull, the third eye on the forehead, the 'patra kundala' in the left ear, the thick lips, the aquiline nose, the bell tied to the right shin, and the bell tied around the neck of the antelope.-

Velan (Subrahmanya) of Gangaikonda Cholapuram: The image commemorates Raja Raja Chola's son Rajendra Chola's (regnal years 1012-1044 CE) conquest, across the sea, of the Sri Vijaya kingdom, including Kedah (in the Malaysian peninsula, which formed part of the larger territory of the then Sri Vijaya kingdom), Sumatra and Java (both now in Indonesia). Legend has it that the most outstanding exploit of Subrahmanya, also called Deva Senathipathi, was his victory over the demon Surapadman at sea.

The bronze shows Velan in his battle accoutrements, a beautiful smile playing on his serene face. His four hands hold a sword called Sakthi Padai, given to him by Parvati, a shield, a rooster and Vajra, the weapon given to him by Indra. He wears a karanda makuta (tiered crown), a headband, makara kundala (earrings shaped like fish), udara banda (stomach band) and three pearl necklaces. The dhoti is held in place by a simha-clasp (buckle resembling a lion).

'ENTHOL MUKKAN' OF Tiruvengadu. A rare bronze in which Siva is depicted with eight arms and three eyes. This form is marked by a prominent 'jwala' (flame) around his head, a long chain that runs from the left shoulder almost to the ankle of the right leg and two cobras coiled around his waist. People call him 'Ashta Bhairava' and worship him as the protector of their fields.-

Gangaikonda Cholapuram was the capital of Rajendra Chola, a great temple builder and conqueror like his father. At Gangaikonda Cholapuram he built a temple, Gangaikonda Cholisvaram, which resembled closely Raja Rajesvaram. The temple commemorated his conquest of Bengal and the Gangetic region and his bringing of the water of the river Ganga to the Chola country. For this, he received the title Gangaikondan (Conqueror of the Ganga).

R. Balasubramanian, Curator (archaeology), Government Museum, Chennai, noted that the Velan bronze demonstrated influences of the Pala style of Bihar and Bengal.

BHADRAKALI, 14TH CENTURY. Suprisingly, she has a benign face. In her eight hands are weapons such as a discus, a trishul, an axe and a sword. She also holds a shield, a conch and a skull cup. She has a 'jwala makuta'.-

Ardhanarisvara of Tiruvengadu: This bronze of fabulous workmanship belongs to the reign of Rajathiraja and is dated to 1045 CE. Ardhanarisvara is a fusion of Siva and Parvati the right and left halves respectively in a standing posture. It expresses, philosophically, the union of Siva, the godhead, and Sakti, the divine energy.

Nagaswamy described it as a masterpiece in art, combining in itself manliness and female elegance. The sthapathi has shown a contra-distinction in every feature eyes, arms, shoulders, legs, and even dress and jewellery. The two hands on Siva's side are strong and muscular, but Parvati's hand (there is only one) is slender. Siva's shoulder and scapula are rock-like but Parvati's appear soft. There is a difference in the shape of the nose, too, on either side. As for the waist, Parvati's is slender and curvy and Siva's is almost erect. Siva's leg exhibits strength but Parvati's is lithe. Parvati's eye is fish-like and Siva's is broad. Siva has a kangan on his wrist while Parvati wears bangles. Siva wears a pearl necklace and Parvati a gold chain. Siva is dressed in tiger skin and Parvati in a thin sari with a series of horizontal pleats.

NEESUMBASUDANI, THE EIGHT-ARMED deity of the 11th century. All the eight arms are evenly distributed, a difficult task to achieve. The first hand on her right side must have held the spear that killed the demon Neesumban. The third holds a dagger, some of it broken, and the bottom-most one holds a sword. On her left side, the bottom-most hand holds a 'kapala' or skull cap, the one just above it has a 'kanda' or bell, the next one a shield and the one above it depicts the 'viswa maya' mudra.-

The Ardhanarisvara was discovered in 1960, buried in the precincts of the Svetaranyesvara temple in Tiruvengadu. Nagaswamy, who was then Curator, Madras Museum, acquired it for the government. He dated it to 1045 CE from an inscription in the temple. It also revealed that Thuppaiyan Uthama Choli, a nobleman, donated this image to the temple.

Kannappa Nayanar of Tiruvengadu: Tinnan, a hunter-prince who lived in the forested hills near Kalahasthi in present-day Andhra Pradesh, is venerated in Saivite hagiography as Kannappa Nayanar, one of the 63 Saivite nayanmars (saints). His unparalleled devotion to Siva was put to the test by Siva himself. During a hunting expedition, when Tinnan saw an eye of the mukha-linga bleeding, he gouged out one of his eyes with his arrow and grafted it to the linga's bleeding eye. No sooner did he do it than the other eye on the mukha-linga started bleeding. Tinnan had no hesitation in scooping out his other eye and grafting it on to the linga. Touched by his piety, Siva restored his vision, and he was called Kannappa, the devotee who gave his own eyes to Siva.

ADHINATHA, THE FIRST Jaina tirtankara. This bronze was found at Kidangal village near Tindivanam (Villupuram district), which had an ancient Jaina settlement. This bronze demonstrates that the sthapathis of that period were as good at simplicity as they were at intricate workmanship.-

Kannappa's bronze is dramatic in its appeal. He stands holding the gouged-out eyeball in his right hand. His right eye socket is hollow, and even his upper row of teeth can be seen. He has a beard, and as befitting a hunter-prince, he sports a fierce moustache.

On the palm of Kannappa's extended right hand, we can see the eyeball, while the manner in which the fingers of the left hand are bent suggests that they must have held the arrow, says Job Thomas in his book Tiruvengadu Bronzes, published by Cre-A: in 1986. Tinnan wears armlets and wristlets, and a leather apron, its edges laced with shells. True to his role as a hunter, he wears rough sandals.

SEATED BUDDHA WITH two Naga attendants, 11th century. This bronze was found at Nanayakkara street in Nagapattinam. The Buddha has an aureole around his head. A parasol rises above it and a highly decorated Bodhi leaf announces that he is seated under the Bodhi tree. The 'dhyana' pose indicates that the Buddha has attained enlightenment. A five-headed serpent rears above the head of each attendant, who hold a fly-whisk in one hand and depict the 'viswa maya' pose with the other.-

Bhikshatana of Tiruvengadu: Siva is every inch a young mendicant here. In his matted hair are the moon, a skull, a cobra and flowers. He has four hands. The hand of the upper right arm holds a damaru and the lower one on that side feeds a leaf to the antelope that follows him. On the left side, the lower left hand has a skull-cup, while the upper one must have held a trident. A cobra, with a big hood, slithers around his waist. The Bhikshatana wears necklaces, a stomach-band and wooden sandals. A bell tied to his left leg announces his arrival. Inscriptions reveal that a nobleman, Amalan Seyyavayar, donated this image to the Tiruvengadu temple.

Enthol Mukkan, of Tiruvengadu: Enthol Mukkan (11th century CE) is a form of Siva that is worshipped by villagers as the protector of their fields. In some places he is called A shta Bhairava. He is called Enthol Mukkan because he has eight hands and three eyes. While two cobras are coiled around his waist, two more have entwined themselves around his upper arms.

NATARAJA OF KULASEKARA Nallur, near Thanjavur. This 12th century masterpiece was found fully intact. While the hand at the top on his right side plays the damaru, the one below is in the 'abhaya' (protection) mudra. On the left side, the top hand holds a flame and the one below it is in the 'gaja-hasta' pose. Around his neck are several pearl necklaces, and there are highly embellished bands on the forearms and wrists.-

Kali: She is seated and has eight hands and, surprisingly, a benign face.

Neesumbasudani: This image is dramatic as the deity, with eight hands, is poised to spear a demon. In the hands are a kapala (skull cup), kanda (bell), dagger, sword and shield. One of the hands portrays the viswa maya (sense of wonder) mudra. While one hand is broken, in the other the trishul she usually wields is missing.

KRISHNA WITH SATYABHAMA (left) and Rukmani. This group belongs to Tiruvarur, of the 11th century. Rukmani is not a common representation in Chola bronzes. Note the embellishments on the dresses and on the jewellery.-

All eight hands in each of the three bronzes Enthol Mukkan', Kali and Neesumbasudani are distributed evenly, a task that is difficult to achieve in metal art, said Nagaswamy.

Veenadhara Dakshinamurthy: This was a rare piece on display, said Balasubramanian. It is datable to the 10th century CE and belongs to Mayiladuthurai, Thanjavur. Dakshinamurthy, who is the fount of all knowledge, is shown as playing the veena, but the veena is missing.

MURUGAN AND VALLI. These were found in the compound of a house in Velankanni near Nagapattinam in July 2010 along with several other images, including those of several Saivite saints. All these belong to the 12th century. Velankanni was an ancient Saivite centre.-

Krishna, Sathyabhama and Rukmani: The group comprising Krishna with Sathyabhama and Rukmani has been worked on intricately. This group belongs to the early Chola bronzes of the 11th century from Tiruvarur near Thanjavur. Rukmani is represented but rarely in Chola bronzes.

On display from the Tiruvarur hoard were also a beautiful Rama, Devi and Nandi, all belonging to the 11th century.

THE BIGGEST COPPER plate charter discovered anywhere so far, with 86 leaves fastened on a ring that has the Chola royal emblem. It was issued by Rajathiraja Chola in 1053 CE and was among the hoard unearthed at Tiruindalur village in May 2010.-

Buddhas and Tirtankaras: They formed an eclectic collection. Two exquisite Buddhas, one standing and the other seated on a throne with two Naga attendants, were from Nagapattinam.

Nagapattinam, in Tamil Nadu, was an important port on the east coast and a flourishing maritime trade centre in ancient India. It lay on one of the two sea routes to India from China and became an important centre of learning and pilgrimage for Buddhists from China, Sri Lanka and Kadaram (Kedah). Between 1856 and the 1930s, about 350 Buddha bronzes were found at Vellipalayam and Nanayakkara Street in Nagapattinam.

In the estimate of T.N. Ramachandran, former Joint Director-General of the Archaeological Survey of India, the discovery of 350 Buddhas unfold an interesting phase of Nagapattinam's history and have recovered for us a lost page in the history of South Indian Buddhism (The Nagapattinam and other Buddhist Bronzes in the Chennai Museum, first published in 1954).

The royal emblem up close. The 'tiger' was the symbol of the Cholas, and the fish, the bow and the boar were the emblems of the Pandyas, the Cheras and the Chalukyas respectively, whom Raja Raja Chola conquered. The emblem has two fly-whisks and a parasol. It also has auspicious symbols, such as lamps, incense stands and a conch.-

Nagapattinam was a Buddhist centre even during the Pallava rule. The Pallava king Rajasimha (circa 690-728 CE) built a Buddha vihara there. It was an established Buddhist centre when Raja Raja Chola ascended the throne in Thanjavur in 985 CE.

The Sri Vijaya king Sri Mara Vijayotunga Varman sent an emissary from Kedah to Raja Raja Chola, requesting his permission to build a Buddha vihara near Nagapattinam in the name of his father Sri Chulamani Varman. Raja Raja Chola granted permission and also gifted wealth and a village, Anaimangalam near Nagapattinam, for this in 1006 CE. This is recorded in Raja Raja Chola's copper plate charter called Anaimangalam Grant, now displayed in the Leiden Museum in the Netherlands.

The seated Buddha, according to Nagaswamy, is an illustrious example of a Buddhist bronze from the age of Raja Raja Chola. Two Naga attendants, holding fly-whisks, stand behind the Buddha. This small, 73-cm-tall bronze of riveting beauty was found in Nanayakkara Street in 1934. The Buddha's hands are in the dhyana pose, indicating attainment of knowledge, and he is seated in the Padmasana posture. Behind the Buddha is a prabha in three parts with beautiful designs. There is a circular aureole around the Buddha's head with 35 flames. The Buddha's ear lobes are broad and proportionate to the face. He has seven rows of curls of hair, with an usnisa (flame of knowledge) on top.

KARAIKAAL AMMAIYAR, ONE of the 63 Saivite saints in Tamil Nadu. This bronze is part of the Tiruindalur hoard. It has a great sense of verisimilitude with the Ammaiyar who was emaciated on account of the extreme forms of penance she undertook for a vision of the dancing Siva.-

In this bronze, the arresting features are the symmetrical Naga attendants, one on either side of the Buddha. Each of them has one hand holding a fly-whisk and the other showing the viswa maya mudra. Five serpent hoods placed above their heads indicate their Naga nature, while their personal attire and ornaments indicate their regal status.

An Adinatha bronze of the 13th century was found at Kidangal near Tindivanam, which was an ancient Jaina settlement in Tamil Nadu. At the rear of the pedestal of the bronze is an inscription that says Vakkiran Kizhar made this image as a votive offering.

Kulasekara Nallur bronzes: Another important group of bronzes that were displayed belonged to Kulasekara Nallur, a village near Tiruvidaimaruthur in Thanjavur district. A treasure trove of bronzes, including a dancing Siva (Nataraja), and puja vessels was found at Konruzham Pallam, just outside Kulasekara Nallur, a few decades ago. These bronzes belong to the period of Kulotunga Chola II and are datable to 1150 CE. Unlike his Tiruvalangadu counterpart, the Nataraja of Kulasekara Nallur was found fully intact and is of ethereal beauty. Also found was a metal image of Sivakami. Some of the puja vessels had epigraphs that mention the name Ethirili Chola. The entire group was consecrated by Ethirili Chola, who was popularly known as Kulotunga Chola II.

Recent discoveries: Also on display were three hoards of bronzes, a massive copper plate charter with a big Chola royal emblem, metal trumpets and puja articles, all of which were unearthed at Tiruindalur, Velankanni and Vedaranyam this year. The hoard found in the Kailasanatha temple in Tiruindalur village (Nagapattinam district) had 13 beautiful bronzes, the biggest-ever copper plate charter with 86 leaves, two trumpets called Ekkalam in Tamil, and puja vessels.

SIVA AND PARVATI with Skanda. This Somaskanda group of small bronzes was a part of 13 bronzes discovered at the Kailasanatha temple in Tiruindalur village. The outer arm on the right side holds the 'mazhu', or the axe, Siva's weapon, and the one in front depicts the 'abhaya' posture. On the left side, the outer arm holds an antelope and the one in front depicts the 'ahuya (blessing) mudra.-

Nagaswamy dated the bronzes to 1053 CE. He described them as a fantastic find and said they belonged to the period of Rajathiraja Chola but in the earlier metal-casting tradition of Raja Raja Chola. The bronzes included that of Karaikaal Ammaiyar, two standing Ganeshas, Appar, Sundarar with his wives Sangili and Paravai, a dancing Tirugnana Sambandar, Manickavasagar, Chandikesvara, Chandrasekhara with his consort, and the Somaskanda group comprising Siva, Parvati and Skanda.

A bronze where the atelier has wrought his consummate skill is that of Karaikaal Ammaiyar who undertook extreme penance to have a beatific vision of the dancing Siva. She looks every inch emaciated in this artefact. In his book Nataraja in Art, Thought and Literature, Sivaramamurti pays a lot of attention to different icons of Karaikaal Ammaiyar, belonging to the Chola period.

SAIVITE SAINT SUNDARAR with his wives Sangili (left) and Paravai. These were part of the 13 bronzes found in Tiruindalur village in Nagapattinam district in May 2010. Note the embellishments on their dresses and also on the bangles, anklets and necklaces.-

The Velankanni hoard, datable to the 12 century, included Tripurantaka, the Somaskanda group, Appar, Tirugnana Sambandar and Manickavasagar, Subrahmanya with his consorts Valli and Deivanai, and a four-armed Ganesa.

As Nagaswamy said, these bronzes were wrought with such consummate skill by master-craftsmen that it is difficult to say which [one] is not a masterpiece.