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Art of Cholas

Brihadisvara Temple, Tanjora(South India). Early Chola,AD 1000.(click on pic. to see larger image)

Samaskanda, Tiruvalangadu. Early chola bronze. 10th century AD.National Museum, New Delhi. (click on pic. to see larger image)

Entrance of the Brihadisvara Temple, Tanjore.(click on pic. to see larger image)

 The last Pallava ruler surrendered to the Chola king Aditya in 897 AD after he was attacked by the Pandyas and Cholas together. The Cholas were great warriors with an expansive nature and by the 10th century AD, they not only took the holy city of Madurai from Pandyas, but also moved fuirther down south to invade Sri Lanka. Up in the north-east Deccan too, the Cholas subjugated the re-emerging Chalukyan powers. The Rajarajeshvara temple, a masterpiece of South Indian architecture, was dedicated by Rajaraja I to Shiva, after his victorious return to Tanjore from his expansions up North.  And the greatest triumph for the Cholas was brought by Rajendra I when he marched right up to the banks of the holy river Ganga in Bengal! There, to commemorate his achievement, he built the royal city of Kumbakonam and constructed a temple for Lord Shiva called Gangaikondacholapuram. But the Chola sculptural medium par-excellence was bronze which was a continuation of the style and technique of the Andhras. The cire perdue, or the lost wax process was the technique used for Indian bronzes wherein a model of the object complete in all details is first made in wax with wax stems projecting from it at strategic points. This model is then coated with clay and baked which causes the wax to melt out leaving the desired shape of cavity in the clay cast. Then, the molten bronze is carefully poured through the channels left by the wax stems and allowed to cool. Once cool, the baked clay is broken off and the stems of bronze are then filed off. Since the mould is destroyed with each sculpture, they were all unique and the similarity came only from following the strict rules of measurement and iconography laid down in the shilpa-shastras (manual of Indian sculpture architecture and other crafts). Famous among these is the great image of Shiva-Nataraja in his cosmic dance pose which not only symbolises the creation and destruction of the universe, but is  considered  a visual sermon of sorts by the devotees. Copies of this bronze icon continue to be made till date in south of India.

Nataraja.it is one of the large bronze,the arrangement of the jatas is noteworthy. Kankoduttavanitam,south India,Chola, 11th century AD.(click on pic. to see larger image)

Ardhanarisvara,the hermaphrodite form of Siva. Tiruvenkadu.Chola, 11th century AD. (click on pic. to see larger image)

Nataraja dancing in the chatura pose. Aesthetically & iconographically the one of the most important bronze. From Tiruvarangulam(south India), chola, 10th century AD.National Museum,New Delhi.(click on pic. to see larger image)


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Arts Indian Atelier 1999-2000