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SRI TYAGARAJA (1767 – 1847) – PART V – Visit to Kanchipuram

(For my friend Shri Kannan Rangachar)

Continued from Part IV

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40.1. Sri Tyagaraja was born in Thiruvarur, a small town in Tanjavuru District. While he was still a very young boy, his family moved into a house on the Tirumanjana Street, at Thiruvaiyaru (about 50 KMs away) that was gifted by the King of Tanjavuru. Sri Tyagaraja lived the rest of his life in that house. Thiruvaiyaru is just about 13 KMs from Tanjavuru. He moved about, all his life, in the Thiruvaiyaru-Tanjavuru region. He did not travel outside of that limited area until he was about seventy-two years of age. How his first and the only travel outside that region came about is rather interesting.

40.2. It is said; that  around the year 1839 , one Kovur Sundaresa Mudaliyar a wealthy merchant and a Dubash (interpreter as also one who acted as steward, banker and general agent) of the British East India Company at Madras, called on his Guru  Sri Upanishad Brahmendra Sarasvathi at Kanchipuram in order to pay his respects. During the course of the conversation, Sundaresa Mudaliyar mentioned about a saintly person named Tyagaraja, residing at Thiruvaiyaru, who was composing divine songs and singing them beautifully. He suggested that the Swamin, at some time, could listen to his songs.

Thereupon, Sri Upanishad Brahmendra said that he too had heard of Tyagaraja and his music.  Then, he went on to say that, in fact, he was well familiar with Ramabrahmam who was his fellow-student and also with his son Tyagaraja while the latter was a young boy of 10 or 12.

40.3. That conversation with Sundaresa Mudaliyar brought back to the Swamin the old memories.  And, he longed to see the boy, he once knew, now grown into a musical celebrity. Sri Upanishad Brahmendra, at the instance of Sundaresa Mudaliyar, decided to send an invitation asking Thyagaraja to visit him at Kanchipuram.

***

41.1. In the past, that is to say, around the year 1780 , Sri Upanishad Brahmendra, then living at Tanjavuru, was known by his Sanyasa-ashrama name Ramacandrendra Sarasvati. There at Tanjavuru, he used to conduct discourses on Ramayana and also lead chorus-singing of the devotional songs he composed in praise of Sri Rama. It is said, the boy Tyagaraja who was in his early teens, say of ten-twelve years, used to attend, along with his father (Ramabrahmam), those musical discourses and Bhajans. (Thiruvaiyaru where the Ramabrahmam family lived is just 13 Km from Tanjavuru).

41.2. The influence of Sri Upanishad Brahman on Tyagaraja was very significant. Sri Rama was the Ista-devata of the Swamin. He inspired in the boy-Tyagaraja the intense fervour of devotion to Sri Rama and the Love for singing the glory of the Lord, nama-samkirtana.

41.3. The musicologists and experts opine that the traces of Ramachandrendra Sarasvati‘s influence can be found in the Divya-nama-samkirtana songs later composed by Sri Thyagaraja. They point out the similarities in the structure of songs and in the word-play (pada-jaala) employed by Sri Thyagaraja and his inspiration, Ramacandrendra Sarasvati.

For instance; it is said; Sri Tyagaraja’s songs : Dhyaname varamaine, Ganga snaname and Koti-nadula which emphasize that the real snana and thirtha (the bath and the holy waters of the pilgrimage) are verily in the contemplation on the name of the Lord and not in the rivers, were inspired by Sri Upanishad Brahmendra‘s  Tarangas in his Sri Rama Taranga.

It is also mentioned that this work of Sri Upanishad Brahmendra was in turn influenced by the songs in most enchanting opera Krishna-Leela-Tarangini of Sri Narayana Thirtha (1650 -1745).

***

42.1. Following the suggestion of Kovur Sundaresa Mudaliyar, Sri Upanishad Brahmendra sent an invitation to Tyagaraja. In his letter (Sri-mukham) , Sri Upanishad Brahmendra mentioned that though he was very desirous of listening to Tyagaraja’s divine music he was unable to visit Thiruvaiyaru as he was in no position to travel long distances because of his ’extreme age’ (viparita ayu) . And, he said, he would appreciate if Tyagaraja could visit him at Kanchipuram and let him have the pleasure of listening to sublime music celebrating the glory of Sri Rama. The letter “Sri-mukham’ (a formal communication bearing the official seal and insignia of the Mutt) was sent to Sri Thyagaraja through Tanjavuru Rama Rao who was acting as a sort of manager and caretaker of Tyagaraja, after the demise of his (Sri Tyagaraja’s) wife Kamalamba.

[It is said; that Sri-mukham along with some of Tyagaraja’s compositions, in his own writing on palm leaf, are preserved in the Saurastra Sabha at Madurai.]

42.2. The invitation from Sri Upanishad Brahmendra threw Sri Thyagaraja into a bit of dilemma. To start with, he was not used to travelling; and, he also did not like any deviations or distractions cutting him away from his daily worships and Samgita-sadhana.  And at the same time, he could not refuse the invitation from a very senior person whom he respected and one whom he regarded almost as a guru (guru-samana).  In the heart of his heart he was most unwilling to leave his home and his daily worship (Rama-panchayatana) of his beloved deity Sri Rama.

He was restless for a couple of days. It is said, it was during these stressful days that Sri Tyagaraja sang the kriti in Thodi Raga “koti nadula danushkoti lo undaga, etiki tirugadave O manasaa’; meaning when millions of rivers are merged in danushkoti (the ocean) why do you wander aimlessly, Oh my mind. However, after his disciples assured and promised to conduct regularly the daily Puja of his deity Sri Rama, without fail, Sri Thyagaraja agreed to make the trip.

42.3. According to the travel plans drawn up , finalized and arranged by the Manager Tanjavuru Rama Rao, Sri Tyagaraja  and party were to first visit Sri Rangam; then on to Kanchipuram to call on  the sage Sri Upanishad Brahmendra honouring  his invitation ; and from there to Tirupthi-Tirumala to have the darshan of Lord Venkateshwara . The return journey would take the route of:  Madras, Tiruvattiyur and Lalgudi. Each of those places is a celebrated centre of pilgrimage.

TyagarajaTour

***

44.1. In the summer of 1839 (April)  when Sri Tyagaraja was seventy-two years of age, he departed from Thiruvaiyaru after attending to the seven-day Chaitra-maasa  Saptastana Utsavam celebrations at Panchanadeeswara (Shiva) temple. The travel party included about twenty disciples; and during most of the journey Tyagaraja was carried in a palanquin.

44.2. The party reached the temple city of Sri Rangam in May 1839 during the course of the Chaitrothsavam of the Lord Ranganatha. During his halt at Sri Rangam, Sri Tyagaraja composed five songs (Sri Ranga-pancha-ratna) in adoration of Lord Ranganatha: O Ranga shayee (Kambodhi); Chootamu Raaare (Arabhi); Vinaraadha (Deva Gandhari); Raju Vedale (Thodi) ; and, Karuna joodu Malayya ( Saranga).

44.3. After worshipping Lord Sri Raganatha at Sri Rangam, the party reached Kanchipuram when the Dolothsavam of the Lord Varadaraja Swami was in progress. Sri Thyagaraja was delighted; and in ecstasy he burst forth into the song Varadaraja Ninnukori vacchiti’ (Swarabooshani). While at Kanchipuram, he also sang Varada Navanita (ragapanjaramu).

45.1. Then, Sri Tyagaraja called upon his Guru-samana Mentor Sri Upanishad Brahmendra after long-long years.  When they first met (c. 1780) in Tanjavuru, Sri  Upanishad Brahmendra, youth of thirty-three was in the prime of life; and his admirer Tyagaraja a lad of twelve was  just on the threshold of life. They did not meet again for a very long years. And, when they met at Kanchipuram (1839) after a lapse of about sixty years, both had grown into ripe old sages glowing with mellow joy; Sri Upanishad Brahmendra   was in ripe old age at about 92 and Sri Tyagaraja too was at  about 72. During those long years both walked the path of life with singular devotion in pursuit of their aspirations and ideals. Both achieved success substantially. The meeting at Kanchipuram was between two blessed and enriched persons sharing mutual regard and admiration.

Sri Upanishad Brahman was greatly delighted by the musical excellence and pure devotion of Sri Tyagaraja. He enjoyed every moment of Tyagaraja’s stay with him. He is said to have remarked it was worth waiting almost a lifetime for enjoying the delight (raga –sudha) of Sri Tyagaraja’s music.

46.1. After a stay of about two weeks at the Sri Upanishad Brahmendra Ashram (during which time they also participated in the Annual Uthsavam of Sri Varadaraja) , the party  left for Tirupathi by way of Walajapet where Sri Tyagaraja’s disciple Venkataramana Bhagavatar and his family were waiting anxiously to receive their Guru. There, they took him in a procession to at their Bhajana Mandiram.

It is said  ; ” while Sri Tyagaraja  was  being taken in procession, Venkataramana Bhagavatar’s  disciple, Mysore Sadashiva Rao composed the kriti ‘Tyagaraja-swami vedalina’ in Todi Raga; and, ‘sang it in the immediate presence of the great saint and  earned his blessings”.

Sri Tyagaraja  stayed with  Venkataramana Bhagavatar’s family  for about 12 days, before proceeding to Tirupathi.

46.2. At Tirupathi, Sri Tyagaraja had the Darshan of Lord Venkateshwara. And there, he is said to have composed the Kritis: Terateeyagarada (Gowlipanthu) and Venkatesaninnu sevimpa (Madhyamavathi).  He is said to have stayed at Tirupathi for about five days.

46.3. On the way back from Tirupathi , Sri Tyagaraja is said to have made a brief halt at Sholingur where he composed a song praising  Hanuman for his  immense power of making the impossible possible : Paahi Rama dhootha jagath prana kumara ( Vasantha –varali  ).

46.4. At the request of his disciple Veena Kuppayyar, Sri Tyagaraja and party visited Madras where they stayed at 41, Bunder Street, George Town, the palatial residence of Kovur Sundaresa Mudaliyar the Dubash.

Kovur Sundaresa Mudaliar's House

A drawing of Kovur Sundaresa Mudaliar’s House  (as it might have then existed) at 41, Bunder Street, George Town – thanks to Sri V Sriram 

There followed a most memorable week of rich music , the highlight of which was Sri Tyagaraja’s elaborate rendering of a Pallavi in Deva-gandhari Raga.

In June 1839, during his stay at Madras, Sri Tyagaraja visited Sundaresa Mudaliyar’s native village Kovur situated nearby. There at the Sri Sundareshwara temple, at the time of its vaisakha visakam festival, Sri Tyagaraja composed and sang five Kritis in praise of the Lord.  The set of these five Kritis has gained fame as Kovur Sundareswara Pancha-rathna KritiShambo Mahadeva (Panthurvarali); Sundareswaruni (Sankarabharanam); Nammi Vachina (Kalyani); Eee vasudha neevanti (Sahana); and Kori sevimparare (Kharaharapriya).

Again, as requested by his disciple Veena Kuppayyar, Sri Tyagaraja visited his home in Thiruvottiyur, a nearby village, where he composed and sang another set of five songs on the presiding deity of the temple there  , Devi Tripurasundari: Kanna-thalli (Saveri); Sundari naninnu (Arabhi); Sundarinee divya roopamu (Kalyani); Sundari nannindarilo (Begada) and Dharini thelusu konti (Sudha Saveri). It is also said; here, Sri Tyagaraja sang a song in praise of Sri Venugopalaswami , the family deity of Kuppayyar.

46.5. On his way back from Madras at Nagapattinam, Sri Tyagaraja sang two songs: Karmame Balvanthamayenu (Saveri) and Evaru theliya boyyeru (Thodi).

46.6. On the way from Nagapattinam to Tanjavuru, Lalgudi Rama Iyer, a disciple of Sri Tyagaraja requested him to visit the temple of Shiva as Saptha-rishieeswara and of his consort Devi Srimathi at his village Lalgudi (otherwise known as Tapas Tirthapura). Here again , he composed and sang a set of five Kritis –  two on Saptha-risheeswara and three on Srimathi – Isha pahimam (Kalyani); Deva Sri Thapas-theertha (Madhyamavati) , both on Sri Saptha-reeshswara; Lalithe Sri pravriddhe (Bharivai); Gathi neevani (Thodi); and Mahitha Pravriddha (Kambhoji), all three on Sri Devi.

Interestingly, it is only the Lalgudi-Pancha-rathna Kritis that include songs on the Lord as also on the Devi. In his all other sets of Kritis it is either the Lord or the Devi that is celebrated.

47.1. And after reaching home at Thiruvaiyaru, in October 1839, Sri Tyagaraja prayed at the temple of Lord Panchanatha and Devi Dharmasamvardhani.

[Sri Tyagaraja, in all, has sung twelve songs in praise of Panchanatheeswa (4) and Devi Dharmasamvardhini (8). The Kritis in praise of the Lord are: Ilalo Pranatharthi-harudu (Adana); Evarunnaru Brova (Malavasri); Eki Thrijagadeesa (Saranga); and, Muchada Bramhathulagu (Madhyamavathi).

The eight Kritis in praise of Devi are: Karuna chupavamma (Thodi);  Parasakthi Manubaratha (Saveri); Neevu brovavela, Paale Paalendhu  (Reethi-Gaula); Amma Dharmasamvardhini (Adana); Vithi Sakrathulagu (Yamuna Kalyani); Shive Pahimam (Kalyani); and , Amma Ninnu Nammithini (Aarabi).]

***

48.1. Sri Tyagaraja’s tour lasted for about six months or a little more (from April to October 1839). This was the only elaborate tour that Sri Tyagaraja ever took in all his life; and, Tirupathi was the farthest place in North that he visited. The trip which, basically , was undertaken to honour the invitation extended by his guru-samana Sri Upanishad Brahmendra turned out a great success; and musically highly rewarding and  productive. It was a blessing and a boon to Karnataka – music. It gave birth to series of compositions, kriti-groups popularly called kshetra-kritis of great merit. They are musical gemsremarkable for their soulful music, inspired rich lyrics and complex structure. The music lovers are in eternal debt to Sri Upanishad Brahmendra and the creator of sublime music Sri Tyagaraja.

***

 [Kshetra kirtanas

49.1. At each of the places and the temples he visited, Sri Tyagaraja composed inspiring kritis singing the glory of its presiding deities: Varadaraja (Sri Rangam); Kamakshi (Kanchipuram); Venkateshwara (Tirupathi); Kovur (Sundareshwara); Lalgudi (Saptharisheeswar and Srimathi). For details: please check Kshetra-Kirtanas.

It was a tradition in those days for the musical composers of merit to compose and sing songs in honor of the presiding deities whenever they visited a prominent temple-town. Such compositions were classified as Kshetra kirtanas. Sri Tyagaraja followed that good tradition sampradaya , the time honoured practice. Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar too followed this practice. He, in addition, built into his kritis brief references to the temple, its architecture, its rituals and its deity. Amidst these details he skilfully wove the name of the raga (raga mudra) and his own Mudra, signature. All these were structured into well-knit short kritis of grand music glowing with tranquil joy.]

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Sources and References

Manaku Teliyana Tyagaraju: http://eemaata.com/em/issues/200809/1337.html

Tyāgarāja and the Renewal of Tradition: Translations and Reflections by William Joseph Jackson

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_compositions_by_Tyagaraja

The Musical Works of Thyagaraja by Prabhakar Chitrapu Prabhakar

http://www.sruti.org/sruti/srutiArticleDetails.asp?ArticleId=4

Kshetra kirtana by P. Sreenivasan

http://www.ipnatlanta.net/camaga/vidyarthi/MusicPhilosophy/KshethraKritis.htm

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2015 in Tyagaraja

 

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The Legacy of Chitrasutra – Six – Sri Kailasanatha of Kanchipuram

 

[This is the Sixth article in the series.

This article and its companion posts may be treated as an extension of the series I posted on Art of Painting in Ancient India 

The present article looks at the surviving mural (early-eleventh-century) at another Pallava temple viz. the Kailasanatha temple at Kanchipuram (Tamil Nadu) . This temple is one of the earliest constructed by the Pallava kings; and, it served as a model for the other bigger temples.

In the next article we shall look at the Paintings at the magnificent Chola temple of Brihadeeshwara at Thanjavur.]

Continued from

The Legacy of Chitrasutra –  Five  –Panamalai

 Sri Kailasanatha of Kanchipuram

Kanchipuram

19.1. Kanchipuram located along the banks of the Palar has a glorious history. In the ancient times it was reckoned among the seven primer Sacred cities (Saptapuri) that granted liberation (moksadayikah):  Ayodhya, Mathura, Maya (Haridwar), Kashi (Varanasi), Kanchi, Avanthika (Ujjain), Puri, and Dvaravathi (Dwaraka) .

Ayodhya Mathura Maya Kashi Kanchi Avantika | Puri Dvaravati chaiva saptaita moksadayikah ||

And the great poet Kalidasa (4th century CE) lauded Kanchi as the best among those cities (Nagareshu Kanchi).

Kanchipuram was the holy city not only for the various sects of the Vedic religion but also for the Jains and the Buddhists.

19.2. Even much prior to that, Kanchi located in the region referred to as Tondaimandalam in ancient Sangam literature, was described as the city of Kachchi surrounded by forests, lovely like the many-petalled lotus.

Manimekalai, a Buddhist epic from the later Sangam age, recounts Kanchi as the graceful city where the most beautiful, golden-hearted dancer Manimekalai, causes to build a delightful garden in honour of the Buddha; places the Amuda Surabhi at  the lotus seat of the Buddha  ; and,  welcomes all living beings, including the lonely, the neglected, the hungry, the defeated, and the maimed to gather and partake food offered by her and bless her. The beloved Manimekalai enters the Sangha under the guidance of her teacher Aravana Adikal; and dedicates the rest of her life to Dharma.

Kanchi developed into a centre of Buddhism in South India, from where the Dharma spread to other regions in India and also to Far-East and China. It was the home of many eminent Buddhist scholars, such as: Buddhaghosha (fifth century CE) and Aniruddha (author of Abhi-dhamma-ttha-sangaha); and of revered monks such as: Venudasa, Vajrabodhi, Sariputra, Sumati and Jotipala.

Among the Buddhists of Kanchi was the renowned scholar Dignaga (c. 480 – c. 540 CE), one of the founders of the system of Logic (Hetu Vidya) which developed into the deductive logic in India ; and,  as the cornerstone of Buddhist system of Logic and Epistemology (Pramana).

Kanchi was also the home-town of the remarkable and matchless Bodhidharma (470-543 CE), a Pallava prince, the third son of Simhavarman II; and a contemporary of Skandavarman IV and Nandivarman I. He came under the influence of the admirable Buddhist teacher Prajnatara who trained him in the techniques of meditation. Later,  as per the wish of his teacher, Bodhidharma left for China to spread Dharma in that land. He arrived at the port city of Kwan-tan (Canton), along the southern coast of China, during the year 520. He was honoured by the Chinese emperor Wu-li in whose court was the great translator Paramartha. Soon thereafter, Bodhidharma headed north, crossed the Yangtze River and reached the Ho Nan Province.  There at a temple, Bodhidharma meditated for nine years facing a wall, not uttering a sound for the entire time.

Bodhidharma is revered as the Adi – Guru, the first patriarch, of the Chinese Cha’n (Skt. Dhyana) School, which later developed into the system of Zen meditation – a way to awakening through self-enquiry.  In order to ensure that his disciple –monks are physically strong enough to withstand both their isolated lifestyle and his demanding training methods, Bodhidharma trained the monks in the ancient Indian style of armless combat, called Vajramusti (diamond-fist).  That later  gave rise to the now famous  martial art , the Shoaling style of fist fighting ch’uan-fa (literally ‘way of the fist’).

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It is also believed that Bodhisena, who was invited by the Emperor of Japan to inaugurate the 8th century temple of Todaiji in Nara, was from Kanchipuram.

**

19.3. Kanchi was, in a similar manner, a prominent centre of Jainism. It is believed that Jainism entered Southern India in around fourth century BC, when the monk Visakhacharya, at the behest of Acharya Bhadrabahu, moved over to the Chola and Pandya countries along with a group of sramanas (Jain monks), in order to propagate the faith of the Thirthankaras.

The Jain scholar-monks such as Acharyas Sumantha-bhadra, Akalanka, Vamana-charya Pushpa-danta, Kunda-kunda and others, were highly regarded for their piety and scholarship. Under their guidance a number of Jain temples and educational institutions (samana-palli) were established in the Tamil country, especially in its Northern regions.

The recognition accorded to Jainism is evidenced by the fact that a sector of Kanchipuram is known as Jaina Kanchi.  It is said; the Pallava King Mahendra-varman I (600 – 630 CE), in the early part of his life, caused , in that sector , construction of two temples :  one dedicated to Chandra-prabha the eighth Thirthankara; and the other dedicated to Vardhamana the twenty-fourth Thirthankara who is also addressed as Trailokya-natha-swami. The ancient paintings in the Vardhamana temple are renowned for their artistic qualities.

19.4 . Kanchi is also a sacred center for the Vaishnava faith. It is the home of the Pallava temple of Sri Vaikunthaperumal, built by Nandivarman II in the late 8th century CE, dedicated to Vishnu. It is one of the latest surviving temples built by the Pallavas . It, again, is  dominated by a huge tower. The temple is also exceptional for its triple shrine, one on each story ; and,  each containing an image of a form of Vishnu. A mantapa with eight columns leads to the sacred shrines within where there are two ambulatory passages on the first floor. The interior walls of the temple are decorated with relief sculpture depicting scenes from the history of the Pallava dynasty.  

Kanchi was also the home of the Saint philosopher Sri Ramanuja (11th to 12th century CE).

19.5. Even today, Kanchi is an important religious center.  The town has over 120 temples, including several smaller Pallava shrines of which the Muktesvara and Matangesvara are the biggest. The small Cokkisvara temple dates to the 12th century CE. Finally, the Varadaraja temple , built in the early 17th century CE has a massive gopura and outstanding sculpture on its exterior, notably the rearing lions of its mantapa columns. Besides the abundant sculpture adorning the various monuments of the city several excellent figures of yoginis have survived, typically in green-stone and dating to the 9th and 10th centuries CE.  

*

19.6. It is said; the history of Kanchipuram is lost in obscurity almost from the days of Karikala (Ca.190 CE), recognized as the greatest of the Early Chola kings who ruled in Southern India during the Sangam period, to its occupation by the Pallava kings under Sivaskandavarman (perhaps the beginning of the fourth century). It is probable that during this period  the city of Kanchi was in the hands of the Chola princes, some of whom are mentioned in the Manimekhalai to have built Buddhist temples.

Kanchi was the imperial capital of the Pallavas for over five hundred years from 4th to 9th centuries. Though Kanchipuram was taken over by to King Pulakesin II (r. 610-642 CE) in the 7th century CE; and, later again by the Calukya ruler Vikramaditya II (r. 733-746 CE) , the city regained its glory rather quickly.

The Pallava power and the city of Kanchipuram were at the zenith of their glory during the 7th and 9th centuries, when the Pallavas had established supremacy over their southern rivals and ruled over the territory extending from the Krishna in the north to Cauvery in the south. During this period the Pallava kingdom enjoyed a long period of peace and prosperity; and, during which literature, art and architecture flourished. Kanchi was also the home of the famous 6th century CE poet Bharavi who wrote the Kiratarjuniya . Hsuan Tsang, the Chinese-Buddhist monk, scholar, traveler and translator who visited Kanchi during the 7th century, wrote glowingly about the splendor of the city and its intellectual wealth. He records that there were as many as one hundred monasteries with ten thousand Buddhist monks in Kanchipuram. Further, the might of the Pallavas was such that they had established diplomatic and trade relations with China, Siam, and Fiji etc.

chola_map_new.svg_

19.7. Thereafter, the city came under the rule of Cholas from 10th to 13th century; and of the Vijayanagar kings from 14th to 17th century. By then the city had lost its primer status and was steadily on the downward slope.  Kanchi’s decline was accelerated by the drying up of the Palar River. 

Under the Company rule, Kanchipuram turned into a battlefront for the British East India Company in the Carnatic Wars against the French East India Company; and , also in the Anglo-Mysore Wars fought with the Sultan Mysore. Thereafter, during the Second Anglo-Mysore War of 1794, the territory came under the direct control of the East India Company.

Kanchipuram

Kanchipuram is one of those sad cases where a thriving urban populace forced by neglect and paucity of resources rapidly reverts to rural life styles. The city could no longer sustain itself, particularly after the near-demise of the Palar. Kanchi is now a little more than a weavers’ town.

The other instance of that nature that quickly comes to my mind is the city of palaces and mansions located on the Ganga that once was the seat of a mighty imperial power, the Pataliputra which now has degenerated into squalor and dirt ridden dust-bowel called Patna.

20. Sri Kailasanatha

20.1. The Kailasanatha (or Rajasimhesvara) is one of the largest and most ornate ancient temples in the whole of India. And, Kailasanatha , the oldest among the ancient temples in Kanchipuram is  dedicated to Lord Shiva. It was earlier known as Raja-simheshwaram. The temple is credited to the initiative and enterprise of the Pallava ruler Narasimhavarman II or Rajasimha (also known as Ajiranakanta, Ranadhira and Kshatriya Simheshvara) who reigned between 690 to 728 AD. A foundation inscription states that he erected this great house of Shiva “to reflect his own glory and the laughter of the Lord.” 

In the early eighth century, the Rājasiheśvara (Kailāsanātha) temple at Kancipuram was probably the largest structural temple complex thus far built anywhere in India. The central temple located in the western part of a large rectangular Prākāra (walled enclosure), which is encircled by more than 50 Devakulikās (subsidiary shrines).The surface of these sub shrines as well as the spaces between them are carved with hundreds of sculptures, all related to Śhaiva iconography, thus assembling the largest pantheon of Śhivamūrtis perhaps ever created in India. Also the temple’s main body (Vimāna) with originally at least seven Parivāra shrines built against its outer walls is carved all over with different forms of Shiva.

Kailasanatha Kanchipuram original ground plan

said to be original ground plan of Kailasanatha temple

The Kailasanatha temple is the finest structural project of the Pallavas. It looks as if a chariot from heaven has descended on earth. The exterior of the temple is more piercingly and vividly carved in comparison to the interiors. The niches have some of the most splendid sculptures/forms of Shiva and his family. 

The sandstone structure is enclosed within a highly decorative wall which has interior niches forming fifty-eight separate shrines containing figures of Shiva, Parvati, and Skanda. The sanctum enshrines a shodasakona (sixteen-cornered) lingam of black colour. The vimana rises over the sanctum like a pyramid.

” The main temple has three main components: the outer corridor with the enclosure wall running around; the main shrine with the sanctum tower; and , the pillared Mantapa in front. The walls of the Vimana and the attached shrines are a house of absolute riches of Śaivite iconographic forms. This can be called as the richest of all Pallava shrines in terms of figurative decoration. Sculptures occur not only in the main niches but also on their flanks. The sculptures are found carved not only inside the attached cardinal and corner shrines but also are on each shrine’s outer walls. In the wall facing south has Uma-Mahesvara, Lingodbhava with Varaha below in the main niche.

kailasanatha Lingodbhava

The west wall has Sandhya-nrtta-murtti and Urdhva-Tandava-murti with dancing Ganas below. The wall facing north has Tripurantaka and Durga in the main niche. Apart from the more prominent forms of Shiva which are carved in the main niches, the flanks show Harihara, Ganeśha, Durga, Skanda and Vishnu.

In front of the main Vimana is Rajasimha’s Mantapa. It is flat topped with corner piers and paired pillars on the main openings. While the façade pillars are of sandstone, the inner pillars have shafts of granite. Dvarapalakas appear in niches with makara-toranas on the east, Lakśhmi and Saraswathi on the south and Durga and Jyeśtha on the north.”

Kailasanatha

The noted filmmaker, art-historian and photographer Benoy K Behl says

The entire complex of this royal temple is grand and lavishly sculpted. The rampant lions and a  royal symbol of the Pallavas are made everywhere. They display the vigor and courage of the spirit within us, to fight the demons of our ignorance. They also display the glory of the Pallava king, who made the temple. It has many images of Durga as Mahishasur Mardini. It is one of the most expressive images of Indian art. Durga personifies the energy and power within us to face and to destroy the demon of our ignorance,”.. ”  The panel of Ganas, only thirty inches in height, running along the base of the temple, depict the joyous spirit of the worship of the Lord. These display the high quality of carving everywhere in the temple.

Sri Kailasanathar

20.2. The Somaskanda panel, depicting Shiva and Parvathi with their son Karthikeya is the main iconographic motif of the temples built by Rajasimha in particular and the Pallavas in general. The term Somaskanda (Sa-Uma-Skanda) literally means (Shiva) “with Uma and Skanda”. The rear wall of the sanctum in Kailasanatha is adorned with the Somaskanda panel. The Pallavas seemed to be very fond of the theme of Shiva’s family. In endless varieties of depictions they celebrate Shiva as regal and yet a loving family man with a beautiful wife and a playful child.

The Pallava depictions of the Somaskanda are usually large sized. Shiva is three eyed; four armed, splendidly ornamented; and his complexion resembles the rising sun (udaya bhanu nibha) or the coral (mani vidrumabha).His matted hair is done up as a crown adorned with crescent moon and Ganga. He wears a patra-kundala in his left ear; and makara kundala in his right ear. His upper hands carry tanka or cane (vetra), and an antelope; and his lower two hand gesture benediction and assurance. He sits with his one leg bent and kept on the seat (sayanam padakam); and his other leg stretched down (lambaka padam).

Parvathi sits to his left. She has two hands; and holds a blue lotus in one of her hands. She too sits with her one leg bent; and the other stretched.

Both have a pleasant countenance; and sit in a relaxed posture (sukhasana).The playful child Skanda is between the loving couple. The child Skanda, in these depictions, has one face, two hands; and holds a flower in each of his hands. His complexion is blue

kailasanatha-temple-

20.3. The Kailasanatha has one of the largest and most complex Vimana . The stories  (Vimanas) are decorated with architectural designs . The Kailasanatha is a four-storied structure containing two walls providing an ambulatory  passage (pradakshina –patha).The three exterior walls of the garbhagriha have seven lesser shrines placed around them and each contains an image of Shiva. The whole of the exterior of the temple is covered in a mass of relief sculpture, notably of rearing lions (yalis), Nandis, attendants of Shiva (ganas), Shiva, and other deities.

The temple built almost entirely of sandstone is integrated into a coherent complex. The modest scale of the temple, and the closeness of its enclosing wall, lends a sense of intimacy to the surroundings.

20.4. The Kailasanatha temple is perhaps the biggest sandstone temple structure in the world. Among the ancient temples in Kanchi, the Kailasanatha is the only temple whose structure has not been meddled with or re-constructed. It still retains its pristine form and structure. It’s another unique feature is the 58 devakulikas (mini-shrines) that run round the main temple. They had murals that portrayed scenes from the Shiva- Lila, the legends of Shiva. Sadly, most of those paintings are no longer visible.

20 .5.  The Gopuras were not an essential feature of the early temples. At the Kailasanatha there is just a suggestion of a Gopura- dwara. It was only by about 11th century that tall, colossal and overwhelming Gopura emerged as a unique feature of the South Indian temple architecture.

20.6. The Kailasanatha appears to be the earliest structured temple constructed by the Pallavas. It surely served as a forerunner and a model for the later temple structures including some Chalukya temples. Some scholars opine that Rajaraja –Chola I was inspired by Kailasanatha to build Raja-Rajeeshwaran temple at Tanjore. Kailasanatha contains in embryo many features of the emerging South Indian style, such as: gopuras, pilastered walls with ornamental columns, a pyramidal shikhara, and a perimeter wall enclosing the complex. Many of the ornaments depicted in the Chola and Vijayanagar sculptures and paintings owe their origin to the Pallava period.

20.7. Perhaps the greatest tribute paid to the graceful magnificence of Sri Kailasanatha temple was by the victor and conqueror of Kanchipuram. Vikramaditya II (reigned 733 – 744 AD) son of King Vijayaditya of the Badami Chalukya in his military career conquered the Pallava kingdom on three separate occasions. Vikramaditya ‘s third campaign against the Pallava kingdom ( around  735 AD) was to support the cause of a young Pallava prince Chitramaya against the Pallava king Nandivarman II Pallavamalla . Besides, by defeating Nandivarman II, Vikramaditya avenged the defeat his ancestor Pulikeshin II suffered (during 642 AD) at the hands of the Pallava king  Narasimhavarman I.

Vikramaditya II was very gracious in his victory. Unlike many conquering kings, he ensured that the city and its residents were not harmed in any manner .Even amidst battle violence he did not lose his sensitivity and love of art. As a connoisseur of art and architecture, he was captivated by the beauty of the Kailasanatha temple then known as Rajasimheshwaram. Vikramaditya II not only returned the war-booty but also liberally donated considerable gold and jewels to the temple. He also gifted in charity to city’s Brahmins and to its weak and forlorn. His acts of benevolence are inscribed, in archaic Kannada, on a pillar erected in front of the pavilion (mantapam) at Sri Kailasanatha temple.

 [Prof. R. Gopalan in his History of the Pallavas of Kanchi (Published under the Madras University Historical Series III; 1928) beneath the head – The Chalukyan Invasion of Kanchi. – pages 121-122  & page 189 – writes:

The Kendur plates of Vikramaditya II describe an actual invasion into the Pallava dominions (Tundakarashira) and the capture of the city in somewhat graphic terms: –

Being resolved to uproot completely his natural enemy (prakrti-amitra) Vikramaditya II (A.D. 733 to 746) reached Tundaka-Vishaya, ‘beat and put to flight, at the opening of the campaign, the opposing Pallava king named Nandipotavarman, took possession of particular musical instruments called Katumukhavaditra, the Samudraghosha, the khatvankladvaja, many excellent and well-knon  intoxicated elephants (matta-varana)  and a heap of rubies which dispelled darkness by the brilliancy of the multitude of their rays. . . entered without destroying the city of Kanchi, which was as it were a girdle adorning yonder lady, the region of the south … rejoiced the Brahmanas, and poor and helpless people by his uninterrupted liberality … acquired high merit by restoring heaps of gold to the stone temple of Rajasimhesvara, and other gods which have been caused to be built by Narasimhapotavarman … distressed by the Pandya, ChoJa, KeraJa, Kalabhra and other kings

The above extract from the Kendur plates distinctly makes it clear that Vikramaditya II actually captured the city of Kanchi from the Pallava king Nandipotavarman, that is, Nandivarman Pallavamalla, and occupied it for a period of time during which he endowed some of its temples with grants. This occupation of the Pallava capital by Vikramaditya is further confirmed by the discovery of a Kanarese inscniption of Vikramaditya engraved on one of the pillars of the mantapa in front of the Rajasimhesvara shrine.

This inscription (said to have been inscribed by the engraver Niravadya Srimad Anivarita Punyavallabaha – aka Anivarita Achari), which has been published by Dr. Hultzsch records the fact that Vikramaditya Satyasraya, after his conquest of Kanchi, did not confiscate the property of Rajasimhesvara temple, but granted large sums to the same, and ends with an imprecation that those who destroy the letters of the record and the stability of the king’s charity, shall incur the sin of those who killed the men of the assembly of the city (Ghatikaiyar) – (as mentioned in Appendix A .p 189)

The Chalukyan attack on Kanchi was therefore apparently different in character from the raid of the Pllava king Narasimhavarman I on Vatapi which involved much destruction if the Periyapuranam account is to be believed. ]

The inscription reads:

Vikramaditya IIHail Vikramaditya –sathyashraya, the favourite of Fortune and of earth, Maha-rajadhiraja Parameshwara Bhattara having captured Kanchi and after having inspected the riches of the temple, submitted them again to god of Rajasimheshwaram.

It is also said that Vikramaditya II took along with him, to his imperial city Vatapi (Badami), the temple architects (sthapathy or sutradhari) Sarvasiddhi Acharya and Anivaratha Acharya ; and as desired by his queens Lokamaha Devi and Trailokyamaha Devi, caused construction of two temples, in Dravida style , dedicated to Shiva as Lokeshwara (now known as Virupaksha temple)  and Trailokeshwara (now known as Mallikarjuna temple).In addition, the queens caused construction of two other temples, at Pattadakal,  in Rekha-Nagara style, dedicated to Papanatha (Shiva) and Durga Devi. These temples were in celebration of King Vikramaditya’s victories over the Pallavas. The sthapathys were generously remunerated and honored with gifts and titles Perjarepu, the great architects; and sent back to Kanchi.

Of these, Lokeshwara temple (now known as Virupaksha temple) at Pattadakal is said to have been modelled after Sri Kailasanatha (Rajasimheshwaram) temple of Kanchipuram. That was Vikramaditya’s expression of appreciation and his tribute to the graceful Rajasimheshwaram.

Pattadakal

 Sri Virupaksha temple at Pattadakal

20.8. It is remarkable; while the cave temples of Badami influenced the carved structures of Mahabalipuram, about a century later the Pallava temples influenced the style, structure and depiction of the Chalukya temples. Over a period the two rival schools enriched each other giving place to composite styles of sculpture and architecture.

21. Paintings

21.1. Though the sculptures of the Rajasimha are fairly well preserved, its paintings have almost vanished. It is said that the walls of the pradakshina -patha of the Kailasanatha temple were once covered with paintings of brilliant colours. But most of that has turned into faint traces .None of the surviving paintings at Kailasanatha is complete; only fragments have remained.

21.2. The problem of aging was exacerbated by the coat of white wash applied by the temple authorities on the ancient murals. The conservation work, to rescue the underlying paintings,  was taken up during 1936-40 by Shri S.Paramasivan, an archaeological chemist, who was a curator at the Madras museum. And; he encountered a number of serious problems in restoring the paintings in the cells of the Kailasanatha temple. He remarked said, “Since mechanical removal is the only possible means of removing the whitewash, it had to be done with great patience, not just skill”. Thanks to the efforts of Shri Paramasivan a few fragments of paintings at Chittannavasal, Thanjavur and Kailasanatha, Kanchipuram, have survived.

21.3. The fragments at Kailasanatha along with the remnants at Talagishwara temple at Panamalai are however quite significant. Because, these are the only two surviving examples of the Pallava mural paintings. Further, they represent an important stage in the history of development of South Indian paintings. Sadly, there has not been much discussion about these paintings.

21.4. Benoy K. Behl, the scholar and art historian remarked, “The fragments at Kailasanatha reveal the tenderness and grace that come from the tradition of Ajanta; as well as the glory of great kings. The theme of the family of Siva is also, at another plane, a representation of the royal family. There is an impressive quality in the crowns and in the painted figures, which are not seen in the earlier gentle beings of Ajanta. The idiom, which begins to develop here, is seen to blossom later into a grand imperial style of painting under the Cholas. The ancient Indian murals were also the foundation of the later manuscript paintings and Indian miniatures.

Here we see the high quality of painting of the classical Indian style, with a beautiful rendering of form and volume.”

22. Technique

22.1. While explaining the technique of Pallava murals, Shri Theodore Baskaran says the painting surface consists two layers of plaster. The first layer was a rough layer of lime and sand.  Over this a thin lime plaster was applied and this stuck on to the first layer firmly. Then the plaster ground was given a gentle polish with a trowel or stone.

22.2. He also mentions that the Pallava plaster – fresco –technique was superior. “The plaster from Kanchipuram was 2 to 3 mm in thickness and the two layers of plasters adhered to each other firmly. Because of the high degree of purity in the lime used, gypsum content was negligible and there was no efflorescence on the surface of the paintings”.

Next

We shall look at the remains of the early 11th century Chola murals on the corridors around the sanctum of Sri Brihadeshwara at Thanjavur.

Resources

http://www.thehinduretailplus.com/thehindu/mp/2006/01/19/stories/2006011900100300.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanchipuram

http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl2001/stories/20030117000409200.htm

http://www.cmi.ac.in/gift/Archeaology/arch_thondai.htm

http://www.tamilnation.org/culture/architecture/kanchipuram.htm

http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl2516/stories/20080815251606400.htm

http://www.muralpaintingtraditionsinindia.com/theodore%20bhaskaran.htm

https://www.academia.edu/2559588/Architectural_Brilliance_Kaila%C5%9Banatha_Kanchipuram?auto=download

All pictures are from Internet

 

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