Splendour in stone

Print edition : February 06, 2015

Parvati, Chola bronze, Tamil Nadu, 14th century. Collection: Saraswati Mahal Art Gallery, Thanjavur. The bronzes of Tamil Nadu are among the masterpieces of Indian art. The depiction of the garbha griha (sanctum sanctorum), such as a Siva linga, was made closest to the formless divine, Images of deities in human form were also made so that devotees could respond to the eternal concepts, through shapes with which they were familiar. Im South India, there developed a tradition of Utsava murtis, in which these deities came out of the garbha griha and even the temple to give darshan to the devotee. This resulted in portable images of the divine, made out of bronze, such as this Parvati. Photo: Benoy K. Behl

The Descent of the Ganga, Mamallapuram. In the 7th century, under the Pallavas, this huge rock face, over 20 feet high, was carved from top to bottom. It was transformed into a teeming world, inhabited by exquisite figures of divine and semi-divine beings, sages, men and animals, gathered around a cleft in the rock which represents the flowing Ganga. Gentle and graceful figures of a Naga king and queen are seen swimming in the waters of the river. Photo: BENOY K. BEHL

Natesa, Chola, c. 11th century (The Government State Museum, Chennai). The cosmic dance of Siva represents the eternal cycle of creation and destruction. This great concept of Indian philosophy is captured beautifully in the dynamic poise of the figure of Siva. Photo: BENOY K. BEHL

Benoy K. Behl. Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

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