Ammai in Banteay Srei and the Tamil Maritime Links in South East Asia

 

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The temple of Banteay Srei  in Siem Reap Province of present day Cambodia, is a 10th century ACE temple loaded with aesthetic architecture kneaded from stone to stone. It is of utmost importance to the research on iconography of Karaikkal Ammaiyar in the temples of South East Asia, due to the eastern courtyard pediment, which carries Dancing Shiva with Karaikkal Ammai sculpted with beauty and elegance.

Banteay Srei or translated as ‘Citadel of Women’ or ‘Citadel of Beauty’ was originally named after the Presiding Deity of the temple – Shiva in Linga form – Tribhuvanamaheswara or the Supreme Lord of the Three Worlds.

It is a unique temple restored with contributions of additional innovations by successive rulers through their master craftsmen. The abundance of visual narratives makes it indeed one of the ‘Jewels in Stone’ among Khmer Temples.  The date of the temple’s consecration is recorded on its foundation stele, as 22 April 967 ACE. While Rajendravarman II died in 968 ACE, a section of researchers state that Banteay Srei must have been started during the last reignal years of Rajendravarman and first phase of construction proceeded with Jayavarman V.

 

The Brahman Yajnavaraha (10th century), initially in the service of Rajendravarman II, was involved in the conception of the temple of Banteay Srei during the reign of Jayavarman V, to whom he was the spiritual guru.

Vittorio Roveda,  The Archeology of Khmer Imagespg 12, www.persee.fr/doc/asean_0859_9009_2004_num_13_1_1809#

 

Inscriptions of Suryavarman I (1011 ACE) and Shrindravarman (1304 ACE) have been found from this ornate premises. Vittorio Roveda further refers to Coedes and Dupont, who point out the inscriptions of the stele of Phnom Sandak and Preah Vihear, which provide information on Suryavarman II, who sent his spiritual advisor Divakarapandita to Banteay Srei  ‘to restore the temple and re-install the Shaivite cult initiated by Jayavarman V’.

One sample among the innumerable classy features of the temple is the admirable Ravana Anugraha Murthy – Ravana trying to lift/shake Mount Kailash – Lord Shiva’s abode and Shiva effortlessly calming Ravana’s Rage with a gentle press of His Toe.

 

IMG_0594 (3)
The sculpture is very beautifully carved out in four tiers, each representing different categories of creatures – from the four legged in the fourth, half-human/half animal in the third, Rishis in the second and Shiva and Uma on the top-most pedestal, all of whom look petrified other than Lord Shiva.

 

The first three tiers

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The Supreme God sits majestically oppressing Ravana’s strength with his toe and one cannot take his/her eyes off Shiva’s consort Uma/ Parvathi – created with a fear filled jerk.

 

shiva with uma on lap

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While Roveda attributes the mature narratives and decorative complexities of Banteay Srei to later years – 12th century, especially to Suryavarman II, the specific pediment of Dancing Shiva with Karaikkal Ammai is our main concern.

 

The Pioneer Woman Saint of Indian Bhakti Movement in the ‘Citadel of Women’ – Banteay Srei

The most important pediment, which is of great significance to the study of the travel of Karaikkal Ammaiyar to Cambodia and Thailand or yesteryear Khmer Kingdom is this one shown below-

adalvallan/dancing siva with karaikkal ammai to his right

IMG_0578ammai with cymbals

IMG_6703oru muga muzhavu/percussionist to Shiva’s left

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Few authors view Banteay Srei as a temple wholly built and completed during the reigns of Rajendravarman and Jayavarman V in the second half of the tenth century by his South Indian spiritual advisor Yajnavaraha. There are a few other researchers, who bring in the concept of continued renovations done by successive Kings to the temples, during the Angkor Era. Hence, any temple structure which is preserved today after the ‘colonial’ efforts of early twentieth century in Cambodia and Thailand, is a product of continued restoration done by successive Khmer rulers over centuries.
In The Encyclopaedia of Ancient Asian Civilizations by Charles Higham, he mentions that Dr. Vittorio Roveda, researcher and author of various books on Khmer Architecture –

 

‘has suggested that the eastern gopura was constructed in 1011 CE in the reign of Suryavarman I. This ruler also added a pillared causeway and the western gopura in his reign’

 

While Suryavarman I is attributed with the eastern gopura in Banteay Srei, he is also acknowledged to have done the eastern entrance pediment of Phnom Chissor with Dancing Shiva and Karaikkal Ammai.

The space marked by arrow, which is the eastern courtyard after entering through eastern gopuram, is where the pediment of Dancing Shiva and Karaikkal Ammai is sculpted.

 

02_09_Banteay_Sreiphoto courtesy:

http://13160-presscdn-0-69.pagely.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/02_09_Banteay_Srei.jpg

 

Bantey_Srey_plan_eng

http://angkor.cc/Bantey_Srey_eng.php
In the above picture, Point 7 is where Nandi is placed and Point 8 is the Dancing Shiva Pediment. The prominent place that has been given to Dancing Shiva and his devotee Karaikkal Ammaiyar is something striking in a Khmer Temple.  While Karaikkal Ammai is not found in neighboring South Indian states of Tamilnadu, namely Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka or Kerala or scarcely one or two that this writer might not know, the fact that Shiva’s unique devotee has been sculpted beyond high seas certainly is a key point for analytical research for the Tamil connection.

This image of the temple shows the placement of Adalvallan and Ammai.

banteaysreitemplehttp://www.lceangkortour.com/destination/banteay-srey-4

 

As mentioned earlier, the sculptures of the inner libraries of this temple have been assessed by a few researchers as the handiwork of Suryavarman II, while a section of others feel that Banteay Srei was built and completed, much before him in the second half of the tenth century ACE, during the reigns of Rajendravarman I and his successor Jayavarman V.

In the temples of Phnom Chissor, Preah Vihear, Vat Baset and Vat Ek apart from Banteay Srei in Cambodia that Suryavarman I had undertaken restoration, Dancing Shiva has occupied an important place. Wherever he installed the sculpture of Dancing Shiva, the inclusion of Karaikkal Ammai is prominent.

While in Banteay Srei too, where Dr. Vittorio Roveda states that Suryavarman I built the eastern gopura, it could be the same King who could have sculpted the Dancing Shiva with Karaikkal Ammai immediately next to eastern gopura on the eastern courtyard pediment.

Mireille Benisti, French scholar and researcher of early Khmer Art and Comparative Indian Art and Iconography,  in her article titled ‘KARAIKKALAMMAIYAR’ in the ‘Bulletin de l’École française d’Extrême-Orient’ under the topic – ‘Notes d’iconographie khmère’ – in 1969, refers to the pediment of Ammai in Banteay Srei. She goes by the fact that Banteay Srei belonged to the second half of the tenth century. Hence, Ms. Benisti places the pediment of Karaikkal Ammai in Banteay Srei, as earlier than the sculptures of Ammai in Rajaraja Chola’s Thanjavur and his son Rajendra Chola’s Gangaikonda Cholapuram which belong to the first half of the eleventh century.(underlined text below)

 

D’autre part,le temple d’Isvarapura étant exactement daté, la première manifestation du thème de Kâraikkâlammaiyàr en pays khmer — – que nous avions placée dans la deuxième moitié du xie siècle avec le linteau de Vát Basët — remonte donc, grâce au fronton de Bantây Srëi et jusqu’à plus ample informé, à la seconde moitié du xe siècle. Nous tenons même ainsi, avec cette pièce, la plus ancienne représentation plastique connue, celles de Tanjore et de KankaikontacôLapuram ne se situant que dans les premières années du xie siècle12.

 

Before Rajaraja I in early 11th century ACE,  his grandmother Chembian Madevi had already pioneered the initiation of the portrayal of Karaikkal Ammai with Dancing Shiva in the Temples of Tamilnadu by mid 10th century ACE. (refer- https://glorioustamils.com/2016/04/07/chembiyan-madevi-pioneer-who-introduced-ammai-in-chola-temples/).

As per earliest available evidences till today, the concept of Adalvallan/Dancing Shiva in stone has been found in Tamilnadu since the Pallavas, as early as 7th century ACE in Siyamangalam. While the conceptualization of Dancing Shiva is traced several centuries prior to its stone representation, the credit of introducing the portrayal of Adalvallan/Nataraja as a cosmic dancer is given to the Pallavas of Kanchipuram.

Coming to Karaikkal Ammai –

Portrayal of a Tamil Saint in Khmer Temples before getting prominence in Tamil Land is a topic of great ambiguity.

 

It was in the mid-decades of the 10th century ACE, that Chembian Madevi came up with the renewal of Temple Architecture in Chola country, followed by Great Chola Emperor Rajaraja I (984 ACE -1014 ACE) who unveiled temples at their massive best through Thanjavur Periya Kovil. The same trend of delivering master sculptural strokes through temples was carried forward by his ocean conquerer son Rajendra Chola I (1014 ACE – 1044 ACE), one of the greatest ever Emperors of the Indian sub-continent, through his best temples like Gangai Konda Cholapuram . The father-son duo of Rajaraja and Rajendra completely dominated the Temple Building Scenario of the first half of 11th century ACE with their impressive artistry in Temple Architecture. This stands as one of the greatest achievements and innovations of Temple styles of the Chola Empire of Medieval Tamilnadu.

Another factor of unparalleled importance during the reigns of the Rajaraja and Rajendra was their reach as far as China streaming across South East Asian kingdoms. They not only stand out in history for their larger than life temples, but for their political and economical victory in far-east countries of Asia. They were maritime champions in the long stretched Bay of Bengal and beyond, so much that the Bay of Bengal was also called the Lake of the Cholas by historians for their successful maritime wars and trade which was at its peak during the first half of the 11th century ACE.

This credit largely goes to the Trader Guilds settled in many of the Port towns and cities across Asia since the beginning of the first millennia (with archeological evidences from 1st century ACE and literary evidences even before Christian Era). These Merchant Guilds continued to prosper during the Pallava reign during 5th to 9th centuries ACE, and flourished at their zenith with successful endeavors in trade, culture and religion during the Medieval Chola Era. The Cholas proved that they were the most successful sea-farers of their times and are still revered for their maritime trade skills by researchers both Indian and Foreign alike.

The Maritime Trade and its effects on the spread of Tamil Culture and Religion form an indispensable part of Tamil Connection in South East Asia. Hence, the maritime accomplishments of the Pallavas and Cholas of the then Tamil Land and their well settled trader guilds in the yesteryear kingdoms of today’s Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar, Philippines, Indonesia and China extending several centuries should be judiciously discussed with the study of the sculptures of Karaikkal Ammai in Khmer Temples.
Contemporary Rulers of Khmers andTamils in the 10th and first half of the 11th century ACE
While Rajendravarman I (944-968 ACE) and Jayavarman V (968-1000 ACE)  continued their unique ‘Banteay Srei’ style of temples through Yajnavaraha-  their spiritual instructor, whom a few researchers believe to have been of south indian origin, Chembian Madevi was making effective changes in the old brick temples of Pallava and earlier Chola temples in and around Thiruchirappalli, Thanjavur and Nagappattinam districts of today’s Tamilnadu.  Churning the artistic essence of her skilled sculptors, she was renovating the old brick structures and constructing new Shaivite temples in stone.

As discussed in detail in the previous post (refer- https://glorioustamils.com/2016/04/07/chembiyan-madevi-pioneer-who-introduced-ammai-in-chola-temples/), her introduction of placing Dancing Shiva in a separate niche and additionally giving prominence to Shiva’s favorite devotee Karaikkal Ammai remained and was sculpted without interruption during the reigns of –

  • Gandarathitha Chola (950ACE – 957ACE) –  husband
  • Arinjaya Chola  (957ACE – 958ACE) – brother-in-law (Gandarathitha’s brother)
  • Sundara Chola (Paranthaka II)  (958ACE – 969ACE) – nephew (Arinjaya’s Son)
  • Uttama Chola (Madhuranthaka) (970ACE – 985ACE) – son of Gandarathithya and Chembiyan Madevi.

The above Rulers succeeded one after the other, but Chembian Madevi remained the Royal Chief Architect of Chola temple building, innovations, rituals and thereby the Grand Old Royal Patron of Culture and Religion in the Chola Empire.

The majestic-leadership qualities she has exhibited, not only in temple architecture but additionally in the spheres of inscriptional documentation and codifying elaborate rituals in temple worship cannot be ignored. The perfect mastery with which she took over the complete orchestration of temple functioning during her long era, is evidence to the above fact.

Besides successive Emperors taking charge of the Empire at very close intervals, the fact that there could be continuous temple constructions and renovations during her time is yet another proof of less turmoil inside the kingdom and friendly relations abroad, thereby providing smooth sailing across the high seas. The grand wealth that was inherited from the past and received from contemporary trading settlements abroad could have been used worthwhile in temple building too. Vice versa, with strong merchant guilds holding special economic arena in foreign soil, yet with deep rooted religious customs of the Tamil Land they hailed from, could have certainly played a crucial role in the host countries’ religious and cultural civilizations.

Political Non-turbulence at home, Cordial Diplomacy abroad and Economic Affluence beyond high seas are indeed factors to prove that overseas Tamil Trader Settlements would have played a quintessential part in Religious Acculturation of the Southeast Asian Kingdoms they were living in.
During the long reigns of Rajendravarman I and Jayavarman V in Khmer Land, the Cholas had six rulers from Paranthaka I (still in power in 944 ACE) until Rajaraja who succeeded power in 985 ACE, after the death of Uttama. From Gandarathitha to Uttama, for more than 30 years, Chembian Madevi was the Apex Guardian of Tamil Temple Culture and Religion under whom Adalvallan/Dancing Shiva and Karaikkal Ammai were depicted as a culmination of Grace and Devotion.

Madevi takes complete credit to have authored the deification of Karaikkal Pei to Karaikkal Ammai in stone in her temples, even before the great poet Chekkizhar could sculpt her life in words in his ‘Thiruthondar Puranam’ or Periya Puranam in the first half of the 12th century ACE. This was aptly understood by her grandson Rajaraja I and great grandson Rajendra I. Their temples stand evident of the legacy of Dancing Shiva with Ammai having been taken forward from 10th century ACE into 11th century ACE.

At the same time, after the political turmoil in the Khmer Kingdom, Suryavarman I comes to power in 1010 ACE, while Rajaraja is still in power in Tamil Land.

 

The importance of Suryavarman I in the study of Karaikkal Ammai
As discussed in earlier posts, Vat Baset, Phnom Chissor and Preah Vihear – the temples dedicated to Lord Shiva in the Khmer Kingdom during the Angkorian Era, while being rebuilt, renovated or newly built by Suryavarman I, have an imprint of the Tamil Connection through the sculpture of Karaikkal Ammai.

With limited epigraphical evidences, there are several other inconveniences in determining the year of inclusion of new structures in Khmer temples.

Khmer architecture grew and showed different shades in different phases, as the Khmer Kings added support to older temples and knew the art of preserving Hindu Temples without the restriction of Shaivite or Vaishnavite explicit leanings.

Each kingdom generally moves on to its respective successive ruler with the absorption of the previous King’s political, economic, religious, cultural and linguistic lineage. Carrying forward the past with contemporary ambitions creates a marvelous future. This holds true to Temples and Monuments which were essential facets of a King’s legacy.

Shaivism being the root of the religious lineage which spread from India towards Khmer Temples has been discussed and analyzed by several researchers. But Karaikkal Ammaiyar is the strong nerve coiled within the roots of Shaivism that travelled towards South East Asia from Tamilnadu. This is certainly a strong attestation to the Tamil Connection beyond oceans.

Upon reading available research materials on the subject, one gets an initial impression that it could be either Suryavarman I or Suryavarman II to have portrayed Karaikkal Ammai in Khmer Temples. However, eliminating other possibilities, yet with an open view of accepting any new analytical views on the dates and builders of various structures in Khmer Temples, my suggestions to the claim that it could be Suryavarman I to have placed Karaikkal Ammai in Khmer Temples, is presented below-

1. In accordance with currently available epigraphic evidences, the estimated time span of the construction of Dancing Shiva with Karaikkal Ammai in Khmer Temples can be laid between 967 ACE (Rajendravarman I) until 1150 ACE (Suryavarman II) a span of almost two centuries.

2. Suryavarman I comes to power in 1010 ACE and Suryavarman II claims power in 1113 ACE, a time span of a century between both. Both the Kings developed friendly relations with the Chola Emperors of Tamilagam –

Suryavarman I (1010 ACE – 1050 ACE) with Rajendra Chola I (1014 ACE – 1044 ACE) and Suryavarman II (1113 ACE – 1150 ACE) with Kulottunga Chola I (1070 ACE – 1120 ACE).

3. Among the temples seen in Cambodia till this post, namely Vat Baset, Preah Vihear, Phnom Chissor and Banteay Srei –

i. Dancing Shiva in Vat Baset and Phnom Chissor bear signatures in stone i.e. inscriptional evidences of Suryavarman I;

ii. Preah Vihear and Banteay Srei have inscriptional evidences of renovations and restorations by both the Kings;

iii. Most of the structures of Preah Vihear are attributed to Suryavarman I. The interest of Suryavarman I in Preah Vihear’s Sikhareswara has been acknowledged by many researchers. Additionally,  the most number of inscriptions of the same King have been recorded in Preah Vihear. Regarding Suryavarman II, we come to know that his spiritual instructor Divakarapandita, in the year 1116AD, provided a golden statue of Dancing Shiva to the temple, which Sachidhanand Sahai feels should be that of a ‘uthsava murthy’ or ‘processional deity’ in his book, ‘Preah Vihear – An Introduction to the world heritage monument’ (pg.95).

4. Specific epigraphic evidences prove that eastern gopura of Banteay Srei was built by Suryavarman I which is an entry gate to the eastern pediment which exalts the God- Devotee : Dancing Shiva-Karaikkal Ammai relation to sculptural ecstasy; while the mature narratives are attributed to Suryavarman II.

5. Khmer Kings have always been commended for their secular mindset in culminating Saivism and Vaishnavism in their temples and providing equal freedom to Buddhism. Suryavarman II was religiously inclined to Vishnu in his later years and built the famous Angkor Wat in worship of Vishnu and promoted Vaishnavism than Shaivism unlike Suryavarman I who was a keen Shivaite.

6. Early Angkor Civilization was centred around Harihara – a culmination of Shiva and Vishnu. The temples were carved with Vaishnavite stories, but were solely dedicated to Shiva. Suryavarman I named the Shiva Lingams that he erected in the name ‘Suryavarmeswara’ and Suryavarman II called himself ‘Paramavishnuloka’. Writing on Suryavarman II, Briggs states-

 

The Sivaism of the period seems to have been perfunctory and official. The great inscriptions of the reign came from the old Saivite shrines – Preah Vihear, Vat Phu, Phnom Chissor, Phnom Sandak and Ban Theat – where foundations were being made.

This was the golden age of Vishnuism in Cambodia. Under Divakarapandita and the dynasty of Mahidharapura, this spirit seems to have developed slowly under Sivaic forms…. But it was a Vishnuism strangely interwoven with the old State Sivaism.

pg. 194, The Ancient Khmer Empire by Lawrence Palmer Briggs

 

7. Inscription of Suryavarman I in Prasat Preah Vihear in the year 1018, says he chose Preah Vihear as one of the three places to install a Linga. The other two being – Phnom Chissor and Ishanathirtha (unidentified till date). At that point in time, Suryavarman I had already placed his personal Linga in Vat Baset. On this, Sachchidanand Sahai mentions-

It would be erroneous to think that these four lingas marked the limits of his empire. Suryavarman I’s authority spread as far as Lopburi north of Bangkok as his Khmer Inscriptions indicate.

pg. 62, ‘Preah Vihear – An Introduction to the world heritage monument’

 

Already in the first half of the eleventh century, Suryavarman I had spread, the Khmer boundaries in further provinces of today’s Thailand and Laos, apart from Cambodia. The expansion of the Empire and his utmost Inclination towards Shaivism were Pinnacle Points during his reign, which might provide supplementary clues to the introduction of exclusive Dancing Shiva with an imported Karaikkal Ammai.

8. With Rajaraja Chola’s successful friendly policies aiding the Tamil merchant guilds in various countries across the high seas, his son Rajendra’s initial diplomatic ties which converted into victorious conquests of several kingdoms of South East Asia, and the abundant inscriptions available regarding his conquests, provide clarity in the influence of the Tamil Emperors of the vast Chola Monarchy in the Asian Seas. This captures additional interest as the influence of the Cholas was at its peak, during the first half of the eleventh century ACE which corresponds with the rule of Suryavarman I in Khmer Land.

In view of the above, the Might of the Chola Kings from the southern part of India and their well organized Trader Guilds increase the possibility of Tamil Influence on the religious rituals of local Kingdoms.

The Importance of Rajaraja I and son Rajendra Chola I in South East Asian Tamil Links and the Dominating Position of Tamil Merchant Guilds during their reigns would be discussed in the next post.

In search of clear-cut evidences for the Tamil Connection of Karaikkal Ammai in South East Asia,  decoding of images seems to be one of the best ways. This stone-cut evidence in sculptures that has been left behind by the Khmer rulers for future analysis stands high in pediments luckily even beyond thousand years. Thanks to the archeologists and scholars who have revived it through modern techniques.

 

In 1926, Finot wrote that the danger of a history based uniquely on epigraphic sources is that the absence of inscriptions is seen as a reflection of the absence of events during a historic period, as if the ‘silence’ of the stones corresponds to nothing taking place. This unlikely scenario is being overturned by modern studies on architecture, by a re-reading of inscriptions and by the decoding of images.

Vittorio Roveda,  The Archeology of Khmer Images- pg 43, www.persee.fr/doc/asean_0859_9009_2004_num_13_1_1809#

 

When there is absence of epigraphic clues on the sculpture of Karaikkal Ammai included in Khmer Architecture, the best option as per Finot is to decode the images; Decoding Images not only with the style of particular Kings but a comparative view of contemporary maritime kingdoms with the root of identical religious factors – in this case – Karaikkal Ammai. This needs a thorough analysis concentrated not only on political grounds, but an analogy between religious and economic links, that would follow in subsequent posts.

 

Bibliography

  1. Charles Higham – The Encyclopaedia of Ancient Asian Civilizations
  2. Sachchidanand Sahai – Preah Vihear – An Introduction to the World Heritage Monument
  3. Lawrence Palmer Briggs – The Ancient Khmer Empires
  4. Vittorio Roveda – The Images of the Gods: Khmer Mythology in Cambodia, Thailand and Laos
  5. George Coedes – The Indianized States of Southeast Asia
  6. Tamil Version of Herman Kulke, K. Kesavapani, Vijay Sakkuja – Nagapattina to Suvarnadwipa – Translated by Ettikkan Shanmugam

 

Web Links

  1. Vittorio Roveda,  The Archeology of Khmer Images – pg 12 –  www.persee.fr/doc/asean_0859_9009_2004_num_13_1_1809#
  2. Mireille Benisti, Notes d’iconographie khmère’  –  Bulletin de l’École française d’Extrême-Orient’ – http://www.persee.fr/docAsPDF/befeo_0336-1519_1969_num_55_1_4860.pdf

 

 

Chembiyan Madevi – Pioneer who introduced Ammai in Chola Temples

The Sculptures of Karaikkal Ammai with picture perfect iconography in Cambodia and Thailand should inspire researchers to explore more on the Tamil Links with South East Asia. Hence, the places in Medieval Thamizhagam, where the patronisation of the saint started in stone could form the CORE CHARACTER of any analytical study and certainly is fundamental for any such research.

  

As per available iconographic evidences, Karaikkal Ammai, the pioneer saint of the Bhakti Movement in India who lived in the 5th/6th century ACE during the reign of Pallavas seems to have been sculpted for the very first time in Shiva Temples built by the Chola Kings. The first Chola Royalty to have brought Karaikkal Ammai in temple sculptures is Chembiyan Madevi, the consort of Gandaraditha Cholan, who ruled the Chola country for a very short period from 950 ACE to 957 ACE.

  

karunthittaikudi Adalvallan with ammai and 5 kinds of instruments – all in one panel

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The Grand Old Lady of the Chola Empire

  

adalvallan in Aanangur

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After defeating the Pallavas,  Cholas claimed power over the lands of Thamizhagam with Vijayalaya Chola in mid 9th Century AD, followed by Aditya and Paranthaka who built temples at their creative best. After Paranthaka, there was a slight deviation towards Devotion over aspirations of conquest and thirst of power. Gandarathitha. son of Paranthaka I who came to power next was a staunch devotee of Shiva more than an ambitious King. His wife Chembiyan Madevi was a true consort to his likes of Devotion. Gandarathitha an ardent Shiva Devotee himself, has sung hymns on the Lord and his hymn is included in the 9th Thirumurai.

  
While Gandarathitha died at an early age with his son still very young, Arinjaya his brother ascended the throne. After the death of her husband Gandarathitha, Chembiyan Madevi devoted her life for the cause of Devotion to Lord Shiva and stood up as a Majestic Lady hailed for building numerous Shiva Temples during the second half of 10th century ACE. Her valid contributions to the welfare of villagers and upbringing of culturally-religiously oriented Chola Off-springs still remain distinctly unrecognized, yet documented well in inscriptions.

  
To simply mention that Chembian Madevi built many temples during her life-time would be a thorough under statement of her Pioneering Abilities. Madeviyar has a long list of innovations and initiatives to her credit, in making the Chola temples more diverse – through design changes in temple architecture like increasing the number of Niches, which seem to be minimalistic until her father-in-law Paranthaka’s period.

  
Losing her husband at a very early age, with a young son still not ready to attain the throne of Chola Empire, this strong hearted Lady of Tamil Civilization diverted and focused her concentration on religious activities. Madevi has always been a major donor to temples even during Paranthaka’s reign, as a crown princess and also during her husband’s reign.

  
The Pinnacle Achievement through Temples

 

adalvallan in kailasanathaswamy temple, chembiyan madevi village

IMG_5953

  
Not succumbing to her personal losses, she rose up as a truly brave soul and a remarkably respectful character in the Tamil Bhakti Sphere, through her amazing Will to rewrite Culture, Religion and Diversify Temple Architecture through Temples built during her long octogenarian life time. This certainly can be termed as the Pinnacle Achievement of the Grand Old Lady, who lived to see six successful Emperors of her Land, the Chola Territory. Indeed, very true – married at a very early age and becoming part of Chola Empire, the daughter-in-law of King Paranthaka Chola, Chembiyan Madevi has had the unique life of experiencing and cherishing the Chola Supremacy during the rule of six Emperors.

  

  1. Paranthaka Chola (907ACE – 950ACE) – father-in-law
  2. Gandarathitha Chola (950ACE – 957ACE) –  husband
  3. Arinjaya Chola  (957ACE – 958ACE) – Brother-in-law (Gandarathitha’s brother)
  4. Sundara Chola (Paranthaka II)  (958ACE – 969ACE) – nephew (Arinjaya’s Son)
  5. Uttama Chola (Madhuranthaka) (970ACE – 985ACE)- son of Gandarathithya and Chembiyan Madevi
  6. Rajaraja the Great (985ACE – 1014ACE) – grand nephew (Paranthaka II’s Son)

  

She lived a highly deferential life as a guiding force for 5 Kings of Chola Empire starting from her husband Gandarathitha’s rule.

  
Chembian Madevi and Karaikkal Ammai
  

the most gracious ammai – in koogur

IMG_5496

  
Chembian Madevi – the Grand Old Lady of the Chola Empire- is of utmost importance for any research on Karaikkal Ammai. This is precisely because she seems to be the Pioneer Queen to have ordered sculptural representation of Karaikkal Ammai in most of the Shiva Temples she built and those brick temples she renovated in stone. The life of the Skeletal Mother of the Tamil Bhakti Movement, must have left such a deep impact on the Queen, that Chembiyan Madevi makes Ammai’s presence as per Ammai’s wish – sitting below the dancing feet of Adalvallan – Nataraja,  mesmerized in his cosmic dance.

  
The undeciphered connect of these two Pioneers in their own respects – Madevi and Ammai, between 6th century ACE and 10th century ACE can be strongly felt in the temples. The eternal wish of a mother emotionally accepted and appreciated by another mother, and interpreted in stone- but after an interval of about 400 years in history. Truly Amazing isn’t it?

  
The temples built by Chembian Madevi around present day Thiruchirapalli, Thanjavur, and Nagapattinam districts in Tamilnadu stand testimony to the involvement of Chembiyan Madevi in glorifying eternally the Aura of Karaikkal Ammai.

  

Dr. Kalaikkovan, Founder, Dr. Rajamanickanar Historical Research Centre, Thiruchirapalli

  
(Refer side bar of this blog for more details on Dr. Ma. Ra. Historical Research Centre’s Profile, Publications of Dr. Kalaikkovan and his Centre’s Journal ‘Varalaru’)

  
I had the great honour of getting unparalleled guidance from Dr. R. Kalaikkovan, Founder, Dr. Rajamanickanar Historical Research Centre regarding Karaikkal Ammai sculptures in Tamilnadu, Chembiyan Madevi Temples, glimpses of Chola Temple Architecture, Inscriptions, Social Aspects that are preserved and revealed through temples and many more.

  
Achieving the Tamilnadu Government Prize for his first research book ‘KALAI VALARTHA THIRUKKOVILGAL’ published in 1985, Dr. Kalaikkovan has won several laurels for his contributions towards Historical Research. His relentless interest in exploring History through Temples has lead to the finding of several unique sculptures, paintings and inscriptions in the temples of Tamilnadu. His Centre has been publishing its annual research magazine ‘VARALARU’ since 1983.

  
A brief note on Dr. Kalaikkovan’s contributions –
  

  • elaborate research work on Cholan Kochengannan and his Mada (raised platform) temples
  • field research articles on Karanas in Natya Shastra
  • a complete research book on Pazhuvettaraiyar named ‘Pazhuvur Pudhaiyalgal’
  • documenting the history of Thiruchirappalli from 600 ACE to 1300 ACE
  • recording approximately 600 new inscriptions found in temples of Tamilnadu between 1982 and 2002
  • extensive researches on Temple Architecture and Sculptures of Pallavas and Cholas
  • changing the already existing negative view on Kalabhra time as the Dark Era of Tamil History through inscriptions, literature and historic evidences.

  

‘Dr. Kalaikkovan is an ophthalmologist (by profession) who balances his medical practice with his ardent love for researching the state’s past, particularly through its temples’ http://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/bringing-the-past-to-the-present/article7310014.ece

  

Dr. Kalaikkovan mentioned during his travel (in November 2013) to Banteay Srei Temple, Cambodia that the skeletal figure found below Dancing Shiva was Karaikkal Ammai. He explained about the Iconography of Ammai and how Angkorian temples possessed the perfect iconography. This introduction of Ammai in Cambodia by Dr. Kalaikkovan is the root cause of my interest in Ammai and the Tamil Connections in South-east Asia. Furthermore, through Ammai, the epitome of Devotion, he has also introduced me to another Ammai, Chembian Madevi, the epitome of Early Chola Culture and Religion.

  
Thereafter, he also enlightened me on the temples of Chembiyan Madevi and her Devotion towards Shiva; Adding that the temples with the first sculptures of Karaikkal Ammai in Tamizhagam were constructed by Chembiyan Madevi. A visit to Tiruchirapalli and field work with the great scholar has filled me with basic knowledge about those beautifully sculpted, magnificently erected temples which are store houses of the glorious history and wonderful documental evidences of social life of Tamils in the past. A long list of the Pioneering Activities of Madevi has been my coveted collection from Dr. Kalaikkovan.

  
Pioneer Activities of Chembian Madevi
  
As mentioned above, she bears the exclusive specialty of introducing Karaikkal Ammai in Stone Sculptures in her temples. Apart from this ‘Launch’, which is of great importance to our research on Ammai, Chembian Madevi has carved her own Niche in breaking new grounds in Dravidian Temple Architecture. Madevi has many ‘first-times’ to her Innovations List.

 

    • The first Royal Administrator (Administrator of Temples) to bring in Karaikkal Ammai in her stone sculptures.

 

ammai in thiruikkodikaval

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    • The first to introduce Adalvallan/Nataraja or the Dancing Shiva in a separate Niche in her Temples. Shiva as Nataraja is seen sculpted in Pallava and Early Chola Temples  in various parts of a temple. Chembian Madevi provides a special place for Dancing Shiva, giving prominence, sculpting him in a separate niche, thereby emphasizing the concept of Adalvallan. While the Sanctum with Shiva in Linga form is the basis of a temple’s religious enthrallment, the Dancing Shiva in a dominant niche showcases the rich, cultural/aesthetic charm the Creator of the Temple wishes to portray. In the temples built and rebuilt in stone by Madevi, Adalvallan captivates the visitor with his entourage of performing artists.

 

adalvallan in konerirajapuram

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    • The first to depict Adalvallan/Nataraja and Karaikkal Ammai as the focal point of her sculptures, in the Muga Mandapam -front corridor of her temples. After Gandaraditha (954 ACE) until Uttama Chola, the period  Madevi has been very energetically responsible for the construction and rebuilding of Shiva temples; for almost 30 years, she brought Adalvallan and Karaikkal Ammai in lime light, truly carving a niche for herself. As mentioned above, Adalvallan captivates the visitor with his entourage of performing artists with the addition of a spellbound spectator in Karaikkal Ammai (also performing with cymbals and sirattai kinnari).

  

    • The first Queen to introduce Sage Agasthya in the Muga Mandapam. She has provided an important position to the sculpture of Agasthya, especially in Anangur Temple, where Sage Agasthya is given prominence with Makara Thoranam (Ceremonial Arch) in the Niche.

  

♦♦There are innumerable sculptures of Agasthya found in Indonesia and sculptures of Karaikkal Ammai in Cambodia and Thailand. A tight knit research between Agasthya-Ammai and Chembian Madevi  might bring about a break-through in the research of link of the Tamils with South-East Asia.

  

agasthya, adalvallan, ganesha in Koogur

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        • She became the spearhead of her own stylistic temple architecture, with increased niches. The beautiful temples of Aditya and Parantaka I are known for their simplicity and elegance, yet dynamic artistic presentation with intricate miniatures carved around. Chembian Madevi creates her temples with a multi-faceted tone – Religious Reverence combined with Sculptural Excellence. In her temples, religion takes the front seat with introduction of several sculptures in prominent niches. She seems to have believed in bringing out the complete talent of the artisans of her era that her Temples are loaded with unparalleled sculptures and more niches – certainly a treat to the eyes of both religious and architecturally inclined scholars alike.

  

      • Chembiyan Madevi is the first Queen to have sculpted her husband in Temples, making him part of the Temple Worship Tradition. This can be characterized as her extreme Respect and Devotion towards her husband Gandaraditha. This unwavering adorer of Shiva and his Devotees, chose to showcase her royal husband’s staunch religious belief to future generations, thus bringing everlasting glory to the Chola King. A millennia and more, one cannot stop being captivated by the sculptures of the King, worshipping Shiva, in Linga Form

  

sculpture of gandaraditha in thirunaraiyur

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      • Inscriptions during Madevi’s period showcase the level of authenticity and perfection she wished to provide to future readers and interpreters. While a temple might have numerous inscriptions belonging to different kings over a period of several centuries, classifying inscriptions in order of different rulers might be time consuming. Chembiyan Madevi records/re-inscribes the old inscriptions, that didn’t belong to her with the phrase – ‘idhuvum oru pazhangarpadi’ – translated as  ‘this is yet another previous/old inscription.’ Her clear method of differentiating previous inscriptions reduces much ambiguity. This way, her temples are certainly an Epigraphist’s delight.

  

    • Chembiyan Madevi makes Karaikkal Ammai play the string instrument ‘Sirattai Kinnari’ for Nataraja, for the first time in Thiruppugalur Temple.

  

ammai in thiruppugalur

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Dancing Shiva is always associated with a number of instrumental accompaniments, played by his attendants/ganas.

  
In Chapter 6 of the book ‘Pen Theiva Vazhipadu’ by Dr. M. Nalini and Dr. R. Kalaikkovan, the authors define the importance of Thalaipparai, Mathalam and Sirattai Kinnari – three instruments sculpted in pallava and early chola temples. While Parai and Mathalam fall in the category of Percussion Instruments, Sirattai Kinnari is a Bowed String Instrument. (To ellaborate, it has a stringed fiddle with coconut shell body.)

  
According to the book, I translate –

  

Sangam Tamil Literature mentions several varieties of Percussion Instruments (skin Instruments) and Silappadikaram introduces various musical facts. Different varieties of Percussion, Wind, String and Metal Instruments are depicted in pallava temples, including cave temples. Sirattai Kinnari – is introduced as Tamilnadu’s first bowed string instrument in pallava-pandya sculptures. This instrument which is minimally seen in temples built by Pallavas and Pandyas is seen more in Early Chola temples.

  

Chembiyan Madevi, who introduces Ammai in sculptures also makes the usually ‘cymbal’ handed Karaikkal Ammai play the ‘Sirattai Kinnari’ for her Adalvallan/Dancing Shiva. The beautiful sculpture in Thiruppugalur is one of its own. This clearly shows the spirit of innovation in the Grand Old Lady, who let her sculptor create history.

  

  • There is a very special and unique accomplishment of Chembiyan Madevi, not only as a Queen Mother but as a Royal Mother-in-law.  Her daughter-in-laws – the consorts of Madevi’s son Madhuranthaka present a Bronze Sculpture of their Mother-in-law to Kailasanathaswamy temple in Chembian Madevi village, glorifying her service to Shaivism in Chola Temples. Such was the respect she commanded, within her royal family and the Tamil society, that her own bronze sculpture was sponsored in her honour, most importantly, while she was still alive.

  

  • Among the major roles of a woman, Madevi has been a winner in her roles of Mother and Mother-in-law.  Inscriptions that denote Madevi are exclusive and show the respect she commanded. While the above paragraph notes on her success story of being mother-in-law; a Mother’s distinctive esteem is manifested in the inscriptions of Konerirajapuram/Thirunallam temple. The inscription reads-

  

ஶ்ரீ ஶ்ரீ மதுராந்தகத் தேவரான உத்தம சோழ
ரைத் திருவயிறு வாய்த்த….
……………………………கற்
றளி எடுப்பித்த………………….
சந்திர சேகரரான சாந்தன் குணபட்டன்

  
It says – ‘Sri Sri Madhuranthaka Thevarana Uthama Chozharai Thiruvayiru Vaitha…’

  
According to the inscription, Chembian Madevi is not just ‘mother of Madhuranthaka’ but she is glorified as ‘the sacred womb that had/carried Madhuranthaka’
  
This inscription is certainly a manifestation of the greatly honorable position that this Pioneer Lady held.

  

the inscription with the sculptor Sathan Gunabhattan’s sculpture

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While we hail the western world for their documentation and easily ridicule ourselves on lack of documenting knowledge, we have comfortably forgotten our well built evidences of more than thousands of years of history – TEMPLES. It is high time we start looking at temples as social schools alongside Devotional Institutions.

  
The Tamil Emperors of the past have used temples as Archive Sources of their socio-economic-political lives for future generations through Inscriptions and Sculptures, but we fail to look in that angle as concentration is stuck only on the Devotional Aspect of Temples. That is the reason why websites on Temples, mostly talk about the epics and stories behind the Devotional Build Up rather than the much needed historic evidences that the Temples and the Inscriptions try to tell us.
It is high time that society realizes the importance of Temples and Inscriptions in the portrayal of our Identity. As Dr. Kalaikkovan mentions,

  

‘True history would provide our perfect Identity to the world and would also enrich the ethics of life’

pg.82, Pen Theiva Vazhipaadu – Thotramum Valarchiyum

 

Ammai in Phnom Chissor

 

Karaikkal Ammaiyar in Phnom Chissor

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As mentioned in the earlier post, most of today’s standing structures and lintels of Preah Vihear were constructed during the reign of Suryavarman I (1010-1050). He has often evoked researches regarding expansion of Khmer Rule in present day north-east Thailand; constructing new temples; renovating/adding new structures to existing temples; as well as strengthening Iconography of Dancing Shiva in temples, which was already documented by Pre-Angkor rulers as early as 7th century ACE.

Here is another temple devoted to Lord Shiva, towards the southern end of today’s Cambodia.  Phnom Chissor, built during the rule of Suryavarman I,  displays the sculpture of Adalvallan/Dancing Shiva. The temple offers no disappointment-  one can find Shiva’s humble devotee, Karaikkal Ammai sitting below Him watching his eternal dance.

 

the lintel

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ammai to the right of adalvallan

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To the left of shiva is the person with ‘muzhavu’ – the percussion instrument.

 

karaikkal ammaiyar with cymbals in hand


Like Prasat Preah Vihear built on top of Dangrek Mountains, Temple Phnom Chissor is  also built on top of Mount Chissor; and was originally known as ‘Suryaparvata’ or the mountain of the Sun God, named after the King who constructed it. The Shiva Lingam or the main deity of the temple was called ‘Suryavarmeswara’.

Located in Takeo Province of Cambodia, about 70 kms south of present day capital Phnom Penh, reaching Phnom Chissor requires a climb of more than 400 steps from the southern entry to the temple. The impressive sandstone lintels and intricately designed doorframes are testimonies to a majestic Empire’s architectural inclination.

Map below shows north-west Cambodia with province Battambang (Vat Baset), northern Cambodia with Preah Vihear and southern Cambodia with Phnom Chissor, where Dancing Shiva  with Karaikkal Ammai was sculpted during the 11th century ACE.
Country_map

map courtesy: http://www.excursionasia.com/pages/map.html

These temples belong to the 11th century ACE. But, the worship of Shiva Nataraja in Cambodia dates back to early 7th century ACE. The Isanapura inscriptions of Isanavarman I in Sambor Prei Kuk mentions it.

 

The people of Ancient Cambodia worshiped the Shiva Nataraja since the 5th C.A.D. The K.440 inscription of King Ishanavarman I who ruled around 616-628 A.D. recorded the installation of the silver image of Nrittesvara. http://documents.mx/documents/karaikal-in-cambodia.html

 

Additionally, Dancing Shiva with ten arms is specified in the Takeo inscriptions of Suryavarman I, which refers to an image of ‘Natakesvara (king of dancers) with ten arms (dasabhuja). mireille benisti
The dancing Shiva in Phnom Chissor doesn’t have 10 arms, but the common string instrument in the hands of the eternal dancer is something to be noted. The sculptors of Adalvallan in Battambang, Preah Vihear and Phnom Chissor have given an instrumental possession to the Dancer and they are similar too.

 

battambang

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preah vihear

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phnom chissor

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Mireille Benisti, French scholar and researcher of early Khmer Art and comparative Indian Art and Iconography, first published an article in 1967, in ‘Bulletin de l’École française d’Extrême-Orient’ under the topic – ‘Notes d’iconographie khmère’ –  the title of the article being – ‘AU SUJET D’UN LINTEAU DE VAT BASET’ (On the Lintel of Vat Baset).

In the previous post, it was mentioned that Mireille Benisti published an article on Karaikkal Ammaiyar in Vat Baset in the year 1976, based on the book ‘Karaikkalammaiyar: An iconographical and textual study by Peter J. J. de Bruijn. However, subsequent online searches revealed that she could be the first scholar to have noticed Karaikkal Ammai in Khmer Temple Art. She first documents the iconographic presence of Ammai in Vat Baset and then in Banteay Srei and Prasat Hin Phimai (Thailand) in her articles in the same Bulletin in 1967 and 1969 respectively.

According to Ms. Benisti, ‘the Baphuon style’ of the temple architecture and the inscriptions in the sanctuary (Vat Baset) may date back to mid-eleventh century, during the reign of Suryavarman I, but the lintel of dancing shiva and karaikkal ammai might belong to the second half of the eleventh century, an assertion, she attributes to the style of Kala Head, Branches and other ornamental representations sculpted in the temple.

This lintel mentioned by Ms. Benisti couldn’t be located in Vat Baset during my visit in December 2014.  I feel the picture published by Ms. Benisti is similar to the lintel found outside Battambang Museum. Hence, the lintel that Ms. Benisti saw at Vat Baset in 1967, could  possibly be the one currently (December 2014) placed outside the Museum. She also explains about the ten armed Adalvallan dancing between two female characters.
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Further to come-

The earliest sculpture of Karaikkal Ammai in Khmer Land – Banteay Srei Temple, built in the year 968 AD.

 

References

  1. mireille benisti –‘Notes d’iconographie khmère’ – Bulletin de l’Ecole française d’Extrême-Orient – 1967
  2. mireille benisti – ‘Notes d’iconographie khmère’ – Bulletin de l’Ecole française d’Extrême-Orient – 1969- pages 159-161
  3. U-tain Wongsathit, Department of Oriental Languages, Silpakorn University, Thailand – ‘Karaikal in Cambodia’ –  http://documents.mx/documents/karaikal-in-cambodia.html
  4. The Indianized States of South-East Asia  by George Cœdès

Karaikkal Ammai in Prasat Preah Vihear

 

Dancing Shiva in Preah Vihear

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The next temple where Karaikkal Ammai is seen to closely enjoy the cosmic dance of Lord Shiva is Prasat Preah Vihear.

 

Gopuram I – the trademark lintel

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Preah Vihear in Khmer Riel (currency)

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Prasat Preah Vihear (called by the Khmers) or Prasat Phra Wihan (called by the Thais) is a magnificent temple situated on top of a 525 meter high cliff on the Dongrek mountains. The temple and the mountains lie between Cambodia’s Preah Vihear Province (north-western Cambodia) and Thailand’s Si Sa Ket Province (north-eastern Thailand).
preah vihear maphttp://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=1131887

 

The Temple of Preah Vihear, a unique architectural complex of a series of sanctuaries linked by a system of pavements and staircases on an 800 metre long axis, is an outstanding masterpiece of Khmer architecture, in terms of plan, decoration and relationship to the spectacular landscape environment. http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1224

 

The construction of the temple had begun under the rule of Jasovarman (889-910 ACE) and completed during the rule of King Suryavarman II (1113-1145 ACE). Suryavarman II was the King who gave the Angkor Empire its most revered jewel – Angkor Wat. Yet, most of today’s standing structures and lintels of Preah Vihear were built by King Suryavarman I, the King who built the temples of our point of interest -Dancing Shiva with Karaikkal Ammai – Vat Ek, Vat Baset and Phnom Chissor.

 

massive naga

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The Khmer Cliff Temple, occupied by Siam off and on, later affected by the Khmer Rouge Regime and then again by conflicts with Thailand used to be less accessible to tourists till recently. But that is not the case now. The magnificent temple can be reached by a few hours of travel easiest from Siem Reap.  Or as we did combined with the ancient temples of Battambang, which is a longer route. Siem Reap seems to be a better option, with multiple ancient locations at easy reach.

 

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The former Washington Post foreign correspondent John Burgess has authored a book on Preah Vihear named ‘Temple in the Clouds’. Prasat Preah Vihear is truly too close to the clouds.
Panoramic view of preah vihear
The temple absorbs anyone into its charming architecture. It grabs the visitor into its intricate carvings, aesthetic designs and artistic enclosures. It is an architect’s Delight, archeologist’s Paradise, vivid traveler’s Adventure and a faithful worshiper’s Heaven.

Preah Vihear is one of the greatest Khmer master pieces of all times with its massive structure which is truly captivating.

 

glorioustamils - preah vihearhttp://sophanse.blogspot.in/2008/06/hopeful-careful-wait-for-temple.html

 

Important Facts about the temple-

  1. The construction of the temple started in early 9th century
  2. Earliest surviving parts of the temple belong to Koh Ker period in the early 10th century
  3. Elements of Banteay Srei temple of the late 10th century can also be seen
  4. Most of the temple was constructed during the reign of King Suryavarman I (1002-1050  ACE)
  5. King Suryavarman II contributed to major restorations of the temple
  6. Lord Shiva is worshipped as Sikharesvara and Bhadresvara
  7. Preah Vihear is unusual among Khmer temples in being constructed along a long north-south axis, rather than having the conventional rectangular plan with orientation towards the east.
  8. An inscription provides detailed account of Suryavarman II studying sacred rituals, celebrating religious festivals and making gifts, including white parasols, golden bowls and elephants, to his spiritual advisor, the aged Brahmin Divakarapandita.
  9. According to the inscription, Divakarapandita took interest in the temple and donated to it a golden statue of dancing Shiva known as Nataraja.

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On Shiva Temples in the Angkor Era-

Shiva temples often open to the east; they feature three towers, the north tower is dedicated to Vishnu, the central tower to Shiva, and the south tower to Brahma.

Shiva’s different names in Khmer Temples-

  • Sambor Prei Kuk: Gambhiresvara (Inscrutable Lord), Sri Ratnesvara (Lord of Precious Stones), Prahasitesvara (The Smiling Lord)
  • Banteay Srei: Tribhuvanamahesvara (Great Lord of the Threefold World)
  • Preah Vihear: Sikhareshvara (Lord of the Summit).

http://www.angkorguide.net/mythology/shiva/shiva.html

 

It is inevitable to show some of the sculptures beautifully carved in the lintels of the temple.

The structure of Preah Vihear is classified into five Gopurams. The entrance of the Temple is marked by Gopuram V with its massive pillared walls and the trademark lintel, now in restoration mode.

Walking towards the inner Gopurams numbered IV, III, II and I, one crosses a series of stairways with long walking paths. Each Gopuram stands stunning with its exclusive carvings depicting epic scenes and exclusive sculptural master pieces of Khmer temple architecture like the churning of ocean and reclining Vishnu.

 

Here are a few of those-

 

an inscription

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reclining vishnu

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churning of ocean

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Karaikkal Ammai in Preah Vihear?

Entry to the temple is through Gopuram V, then proceeds towards Gopuram IV and Gopuram III. As we enter Gopuram II, there lies the Main Sanctuary which is again a huge structure with beautifully carved lintels. The most striking feature of the Main Sanctuary is the ‘Dancing Shiva’. He is seen dancing on a head of an elephant over Kala.

 

While Shiva dances after killing the elephant demon in the glow of the setting sun, the whole world dances with him. For a millennium the sun has been setting with that primordial glow under which Shiva danced for the first time in a hoary mystic past. His devotees watched his dance of emancipation day after day in the crepuscule of the setting sun.”

(Sahai 2009, p. 91, 94-96.)

http://www.angkorguide.net/temples/trips-and-remote-temples/preah-vihear/prasat-preah-vihear.html

 

 Adalvallan and Ammai – Dancing Shiva and Karaikkal Ammaiyarr

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Shiva is seen dancing, and to the sides of the dancer to whose tunes the whole world seems to dance, are two characters playing instruments for the eternal dancer. To the left of Shiva is the person with ‘oru muga muzhavu’ -a percussion instrument as in Banteay Srei. To his right, the lintel is in very bad shape, the sculpture of a person is very difficult to trace. Yet, seems like a squatted figure with a skinny body. Does the figure also hold ‘cymbals’ to provide additional music to the dancer? With the sculptures of Dancing Shiva so far seen, with the main characters on both sides, this squatted figure could certainly be that of Karaikkal Ammai. Whether it matches the iconography of Ammai, is for researchers to decide.

 

squatted figure to the right of dancing shivaIMG_1333 - Copy

 

oru muga muzhavu to his leftIMG_1333 - Copy (2)

 

In temples of Cambodia namely –

  • Banteay Srei,
  • Vat Baset,
  • Broken pediment inside Battambang Museum
  • Phnom Chissor

and temples in Thailand namely –

  • Prasat Hin Phimai,
  • Prasat Narai Yeang Weang
  • Prasat Kampeang Yai

-Karaikkal Ammai is sculpted to the right of Adalvallan/Dancing Shiva. The same is seen in Prasat Preah Vihear too. It is also necessary to mention that apart from these temples, the lintel placed outside Battambang museum shows Ammai to the left of Shiva. One of the two broken pediments inside the same museum shows a squatted figure to Shiva’s right and one is seen sitting to his left.
Ammai and Mount Kailash

According to Ambassador Julio A. Jeldres, the Official Biographer of HM the King Father, Samdech Preah Upayuvareach Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia-

 

The temple of Preah Vihear is not a “Hindu monument” but a Khmer sanctuary, built by Khmer kings and dedicated to Shiva the Hindu god.

 

It should be understood that for past Khmer kings, a sanctuary was first and foremost a cosmological recreation. Thus, the construction of Khmer sanctuaries in the form of multi-tiered Pyramids meant that the place was considered a sacred cosmic mountain. This was particularly noticeable in the temples dedicated to Shiva, because of the association with the god’s mountain home –Mount Kailasa-. A mountain or a cliff top location, as in the case of Preah Vihear, was always the first choice for the Khmer architects building these major temples.

http://preahvihearcambodia.com/2008/08/ambassador-julio-jeldres-letter-to.html

 

 

shiva and parvathi on nandi

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Below are the verses from Sekkizhar’s Periya Puranam (12th Century) about Ammai’s Trek to Mount Kailash. Sekkizhar explains Karaikkal Ammai’s ascent to Mount Kailash to see her Lord’s Dance.
வட திசை தேசம் எல்லாம் மனத்தினும் கடிது சென்று
தொடை அவிழ் இதழி மாலைச் சூல பாணியனார் மேவும்
படர் ஒளிக் கைலை வெற்பின் பாங்கு அணைந்து ஆங்குக் காலின்
நடையினைத் தவிர்த்து பார் மேல் தலையினால் நடந்து சென்றார்
http://www.shaivam.org/tamil/thirumurai/thiru12_05_04.htm
With a speed exceeding that of the mind She traveled fast the realms in the north; She came near the Mount Kailas of pervasive radiance Where abides the Wielder of the Trident, decked with A garland of Konrai blooms burgeoning in serried order; She durst not tread with her feet the holy ascent But measured it with her head.
http://www.shaivam.org/english/sen_th12_peyar.htm

 

It certainly cannot be a simple temple architectural display to portray Dancing Shiva on a hill, especially in a cliff temple recreated as Mount Kailash, alongside his Demon Devotee watching his dance in Religious Ecstasy.

 

While Lord Shiva, the Cosmic Dancer is an embodiment of Mysticism,  Karaikkal Ammai’s poetry is manifestation of Devotional Mysticism.

 

 Preah Vihear – clashes and conflicts

 

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19th century Cambodia came under the control of Vietnamese and French. The French continued their rule into 20th century and Japanese took over. After a while, the Japanese gave up to the French again. Only in the 1950s Cambodia became an independent state, later to be completely devastated by the brutal Khmer Rouge.

In the heritage site affected by both natural and man-made catastrophes, historically seems mostly man-made time and again,many of the lintels and most of the carvings on the lintels have taken a strong blow. Beyond various clashes of former Empires, disputes among later Countries, 20th Century Cambodia also suffered at the hands of the brutal Khmer Rouge. From 1975 until 1978 the Khmer Rouge held Prasat Preah Vihear and maintained it as their strategic resistance spot. Hence, making the pathway to the cliff landmine infested and restricted to tourists. Additionally, with intermittent armed conflict and legal battle fought at the Hague based International Court of Justice, with neighboring Thailand over the temple, the once sacred worship place is a soldier-occupied military arena with de-mining activities still on the go.

Many researches done on Khmer temples have taken a back seat due to these various conflicts the heritage country has suffered. In 1976, Mireille Bénisti had published an article which stated that Karaikkal Ammai was depicted in Khmer Art. She found a lintel in Vat Baset where she found a figure that she claimed could be Ammai. The researches do not seem to have continued further, mainly due to the above mentioned clashes and conflicts.

Mareille Benisti was a French Indologist and author of various books on Khmer Monuments and Buddhist and Hindu Art of India and Cambodia. Her book ‘Stylistics of Early Khmer Art’  studies the relations between early Khmer and Indian art during the 7th and 8th centuries.

Earlier, in the Second International Tamil Conference Seminar held in the year 1968, in Madras – today’s Chennai- the capital of Tamilnadu, Mareille Benisti had given a presentation on the title – ‘Karaikkalammaiyar in Cambodia’. Her presentation was under the theme – Archeology and the Arts (Archaeology and Epigraphy).

 

2014-2015 are successful years for the temple. The International Coordinating Committee (ICC)  for Preah Vihear Temple Complex was established in December 2014. In 2015, India and China have agreed to co-chair the Renovation and Protection of the Temple, thereby play important roles in preserving the Khmer Heritage Sanctuary.

Due to the undeviating efforts of Cambodian Government, today, Preah Vihear is a sort after historic monument, with the terrain making it an additional attraction for adventure tourism. De-mining in full force and Tourism in total swing, Preah Vihear is getting renovated, hopefully with ancient history intact.

The above notings on conflicts and clashes were not meant to deviate the topic of Karaikkal Ammai, but to reinforce the need for all-inclusive researches with several hindrances removed in the present millennium.

With renovations and reformations taking place in the UNESCO site, the sculpture should be viewed in new light, not only in terms of Iconography and History, but also relate to the Religious Connections of the Khmer Empire and the Tamil Empires of Pallavas and later, the Cholas.

There are very few reference/research books available to the interested reader. This state needs to improve.

Additionally, emphasis should be thrown upon the Traders Guilds of yesteryear Tamil Land which were prominent beyond borders throughout South East Asia including China. Along with the Religious Connect, Economic Connect should also form an important theme of New Age Studies. Especially, in the case of Karaikkal Ammai who belonged to the Trader Community in the Pallava Land of Tamizhagam.

Karaikkal Ammai in Cambodia – Battambang Province

In continuation of the last article, our place of interest in this post is Battambang Province of Cambodia. Battambang Province lies in the north-west of Cambodia. The city of Battambang is the second largest in Cambodia, next to the capital Phnom Penh. It is the country’s leading rice producing province and hence called ‘the rice bowl of Cambodia’.

 

A tedious shift of governance –

 

In 1795 Siam (modern-day Thailand) annexed much of north western Cambodia including the current provinces of Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Oddar Meanchey, Pailin, Siem Reap and Preah Vihear into the province of Inner Cambodia. The Siamese ruled Battambang as a provincial capital through the Thai-speaking Khmer Aphaiwong family,a branch of the Khmer royal family, which governed for six generations until 1907 when the province was ceded to the French to be reunited with Cambodia as part of the French Indochina colony. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battambang

 

 

The area Battambang occupies a special place in our search. The two temples Vat Ek and Vat Baset where Karaikkal Ammai is reportedly sculpted, are located in the province of Battambang. Additionally, it is also in close proximity to various other temples which belonged to the Khmer Empire, where our beloved demon devotee is seen alongside Dancing Shiva. Few other temples are situated in present day Thailand. In this context, the North-West of Cambodia and North-East of Thailand host some of the most beautiful creations and interpretations of Devotion of Karaikkal Ammai in stone.

The other temples in Cambodia are in Preah Vihear Province (preah vihear temple, Siem Reap Province (banteay srei temple) and Takeo Province (phnom chissor temple)
Two maps have been given below –

a. This one shows Battambang Province of Cambodia which borders Thailand. Today, the western part of Battambang shares the international border with Thailand.

map (1)map courtesy – http://davidangkorguide.blogspot.com/2010_08_01_archive.html

 

b. This map shows the Khmer temples in Thailand and Laos.

The north-east of Thailand has many Hindu Temples dedicated to Lord Shiva like Prasat Muang Tam, Prasat Phimai, Prasat Sikhoraphum and Prasat Phanom Rung.

map3map courtesy – http://www.devata.org/two-khmer-devata-goddesses-in-sikhoraphum-thailand/#.VNj0LCyInrE

The temples identified from the map, namely –

11- Prasat Phimai

14 – Prasat Phanom Rung

21- Prasat Kamphaeng Yai

23 – Prasat Narai Yeang Weang

host the sculptures of Karaikkal Ammai with Dancing Shiva. We shall see the pictures in later posts.

As mentioned before, the Comparison or the Relationship of Khmer Temples currently existing in modern day Cambodia and Thailand shown above through the map, is to specify the common thread ‘Shiva’, especially ‘Dancing Shiva’ and the presence of ‘Karaikkal Ammai’.

According to available historical sources, these temples were built by Khmer rulers with basically similar temple architectural styles and even today extensively preserve iconographic structures related to our current topic of interest – ADALVALLAN-KARAIKKAL AMMAI (dancing shiva-karaikkal ammai).

Ammai has been an intertwined matter of importance when it came to sculpting a panel of Adalvallan/Dancing Shiva or Nataraja. This is indeed a very vital proof of the connection of the Tamil Kingdoms with the Khmer Empire.

The earliest sculpture of Karaikkal Ammai in Cambodia seems to be in Banteay Srei, which is a 10th century ACE temple. Just because the Cholas were ruling Tamilagam at that point of time, and the most popular of the sculptures of Ammai belong to the Chola Temples, can this be called a Chola-Khmer Connection? Certainly yes, yet cannot be concluded without adequate historical research.

We also need to see the earliest of Ammai Sculptures in Tamilnadu. Even before her sculptures were created, she was a great influence on other Nayanmar Saints and commoners alike before the Cholas came to power.
Her hymns in praise of Lord Shiva, helped the Tamil Society connect with their Lord in the language they understood rather than in a language that was made to believe that the Lord understood. 
It should be noted that there are epigraphical evidences on Thevaram hymns (sung by 63 nayanmars) being recited in temples during Pallava King Nandivarman III in mid 9th century ACE. Therefore, before the Kings could bring her in stone and bronze in their temples, her Tamil hymns had entered the souls of the Tamil people and were sung in many Shiva Temples.

Karaikkal Ammai who was born in the Pallava Terrain in Tamilnadu,  glorified by other Nayanmars during the rule of Pallavas and her hymns recited in many Shiva Temples during the Pallava reign, gently glides into Chola Terrain, where she is immortalised in the most extra-ordinarily built temples like Thanjavur Periya Kovil and Gangai Konda Cholapuram.

But before Thanjavur and Gangai Konda Cholapuram temples, Ammai has been sculpted in a few other temples in the Tamil Country. While we see her gentle glide from one Empire to the other in Tamilnadu, her transit eastward towards Cambodia and Thailand is certainly a ‘Need To Know and Explore’ Travel Package.

But we need to further look into previous centuries too, as the connection could not have started abruptly from 10th century…

Coming back to Battambang province of Cambodia –

Vat Ek Phnom

 

IMG_1101

This is a 11th century temple built during the reign of King Suriyavarman I  (1002-1050). It is located on a foot hill and presently only ruins of an ancient hindu temple can be found. There is a Buddhist Temple in front of the ruins.

 

IMG_1107

When we went in December 2014, we couldn’t find Karaikkal Ammai in any of the lintels in the temple. Could the lintel with ammai be damaged due to natural or man-made ruins or kept in the lot of piles of broken lintels and stones in and around the temple, or luckily kept or taken to any other museum… only further searches and researches would tell. But no known description could be seen.

 

Vat Baset

Vat Baset has been written about in the last post (karaikkal-ammaiyar-revered-mother-of-karaikkal/).

A gentle reminder on the lintel of Ammai found in Vat Baset –

IMG_1136

ammai

IMG_1137

 

Battambang Provincial Museum

Two pediments in truly ruined form were found in Battambang Provincial Museum which seem to look like Ammai. I leave it to future researchers to arrive at a conclusion aided by further scientific investigations.

adalvallan/dancing shivaIMG_1453
and to his left someone can be seen in squatted position –

IMG_1453 description of pediment

IMG_1454The next broken pediment –

IMG_1456and thin structured Ammai to his right?

IMG_1457description of pediment

IMG_1459At the entrance of the museum, is placed a lintel with Dancing Shiva with a string instrument in his hand and accompanied by two women by his sides. One is his consort ‘Devi’ as the Museum booklet mentions and the other is Karaikkal Ammaiyar. This lintel is a clean/clear one.

 

IMG_1394a closer view – ammai to his left

IMG_1397

The Museum’s Booklet says –

Devi, one of Shiva’s consorts, sits on a lotus near his right foot. Her outstretched arm reaches toward Shiva’s leg. An emaciated Karaikkalammaiyar with pendulous breasts sits on another lotus flower at Shiva’s left foot.

It also mentions –

In Khmer Iconography, an emaciated Karaikkalammaiyar is often seen crouched at the feet of dancing Shiva, marking the rhythm of his dance with a pair of cymbals.

 

Here, the sculpture mentioned as Devi seems to be playing the ‘Muzhavu’ an ancient percussion instrument of the Tamils. This looks like ‘oru mugha muzhavu’ or a single drum instrument that can be seen in banteay srei sculpture too – dancing shiva with ammai on one side and a person with a single drum on the other.

oru mugha muzhavu to the left of dancing shiva

IMG_0578

closer view

IMG_0560This is again a separate topic of research whether the sculpture of Vat Baset at Battambang Museum also plays the ‘oru mugha muzhavu’ – the percussion instrument.

Four of the six temples of Karaikkal Ammaiyar in Cambodia (banteay srei, vat ek, vat baset, preah vihear, phnom chissor and angkor wat) mentioned by Peter J. J. de Bruijn, four were built by Suriyavarman I, during the first half of 11th Century ACE. Suryavarman I built Vat Ek, Vat Baset and Phnom Chissor. In Preah Vihear temple, the construction of which started in  early 9th century ACE – preserved and redeveloped by various rulers until 12th Century ACE, most of the surviving lintels are by Suryavarman I and later was restored by Suryavarman II.

The Monumental Preah Vihear Temple – which the Khmer prefer to call the Khmer Sancturary than a Hindu Monument is located in the Preah Vihear Province of Cambodia. We shall see Karaikkal Ammai with Dancing Shiva in Preah Vihear in the upcoming post.

 

Karaikkal Ammaiyar – Revered Mother of Karaikkal

 

இறவாத இன்ப அன்பு வேண்டிப்பின் வேண்டு கின்றார்
பிறவாமை வேண்டும், மீண்டும் பிறப்புண்டேல் உன்னை என்றும்
மறவாமை வேண்டும், இன்னும் வேண்டும்நான் மகிழ்ந்து பாடி
அறவாநீ ஆடும் போதுஉன் அடியின்கீழ் இருக்க என்றார்.
“I pray for the infinite happiness of Your love; I do not want to be born again; if I do, I do not want to forget You forever; if I do, I want to be happily singing in Your praise under Your feet as You are dancing”.

http://tamilnation.co/sathyam/east/periyapuranam.htm

This is what Karaikkal Ammaiyar asks Lord Shiva and is represented beautifully in the words of Sekkizhar’s Periya Puranam – the story of 63 Nayanmars

 

banteay srei temple – adalvallan and karaikkal ammaiyar to his right

IMG_0578

 

As a normal oratorical speech would start, we cannot start by saying ‘Karaikkal Ammaiyar’ needs no introduction. Indeed, Karaikkal Ammaiyar needs introduction in today’s Tamil World. The world knowing her is secondary; the Tamil World of today’s Youngsters and English Educated Middle Aged Parents – most or half of the population not knowing her is certainly a pathetic scenario. But for Indians – Being Well Rooted in one’s own traditions as well as Being a Global Citizen doesn’t seem to materialize. While the choice of being a global citizen has become the PRIDE of present generations, one doesn’t realize the resultant loss of identity due to loss of roots. The primary task of each generation which used to be passing on the roots to the next generation has become secondary. But, making their progeny succeed in any part of the world by having no single identity is a NORM of the millennium. A pity though.

 

battambang museum – adalvallan and karaikkal ammaiyar to his left

IMG_1394

 

Nayanmars – Devotion through one’s own mother tongue

To introduce Karaikkal Ammaiyar, introduction of Nayanmars is quintessential. Nayanmars were Ardent Devotees who sang in praise of Lord Shiva in humble Tamil and connected with the masses. In an attempt to cut off the influences of Buddhism and Jainism, these Primary Devotees of Tamil Bhakti Movement took up Shaivism. Their pure love and selfless affection towards Lord Shiva was a powerful tool against other religions. Their priceless possession was not only Devotion and Selfless Love, but incomparable literary skill that made them reach out to the common man in his own language.

There were 63 Nayanmars, who lived and sang from 6th century until 12th century ACE, without doubt creating a wealth of Bhakti Literature that stands even today to hold the importance of worship of God in Tamil.

Beyond being a tool against other religions, their belief in love and devotion alone to reach Shiva is the keypoint in all the songs that the Nayanmars sang. Belief in one’s God and being able to relate and communicate with that One Almighty in one’s own mother tongue and non-dependence of Sanskrit to communicate with that God could be a few fundamentals of the Tamil Bhakti Movement.

 
Rajaraja Cholan (985-1013)

Great credit goes to the Cholas for bringing to light the compiled version of the songs sung by 63 Nayanmars. King Rajaraja Cholan appointed Nambi Andar Nambi, a priest in Thillai – the original Tamil name of Chidambaram Shiva Temple, to compile the devotional literary works of Nayanmars, sprawling over 5 centuries then.

Nambi compiled the works of the 63 Nayanmars into 11 volumes and added his own work in the 11th volume. The works of Sambanthar, Appar, and Sundarar form(ed) the first seven volumes and they are called Thevaram – or the Garland of the Gods; Manickavasagar’s Thirukkovaiyar and Thiruvasagam form(ed) the 8th volume. These four nayanmars are classified as the Most Reverred Beacons of Tamil Shaivite Bhakti Movement (Samaya Kuravargal), among the 63.

 
Kulothunga Cholan II (1133-1150)

During the reign of King Kulothuga Cholan II, his chief minister Sekkizhar/Chekkizhar travelled across the places of birth and travel of the 63 nayanmars and compiled their life histories. He named his biography of nayanmars in poetic verses – ‘Thiruthondar Puranam’ – the story of the servants of God, which is popularly called ‘Periya Puranam’ – the Big Puranam. Sekkizhar’s  Periya Puranam added as the 12th volume to the previous collection of 11 volumes is called ‘Panniru Thirumurai’ – The Tamil Saiva Literary Canon.

Rajarajan, who gave the Nayanmars their deserving Elite Place in Tamil Saiva Literature and Tamil Saiva Movement is hailed as ‘Thirumurai Kanda Cholan’ –  that can be broadly described in English as ‘the Protector of Saiva Religion and Literature’.

The sacred collection ‘Panniru Thirumurai’ is a unique Literary Excellence which showcases 600 years of devotional movement of surrendering to the Lord, the extra ordinary emphasis being the worship in one’s own mother tongue.

 

The devotional movements contained elements of social as well as religious reform, protesting brahmanical orthodoxy along with the heterodox faiths of Buddhism and Jainism. http://www.southwestern.edu/academics/bwp/pdf/2005bwp-craddock.pdf

Thevaram and other hymns still adorn the Temples of Tamilnadu and homes of Tamil Worshippers around the world.

 

All the saints mentioned in this epic poem are historical persons and not mythical.Therefore, this is a recorded history of the 63 Saiva saints called as Nayanmars (devotees of Lord Siva), who attain salvation by their unflinching devotion to Siva. The Nayanmars that he talks about belonged to different castes, different occupations and lived in different times.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Periya_Puranam#cite_note-MedievalIndianLiterature-3

 
Karaikkal Ammaiyar

 

phnom penh museum – karaikkal ammaiyar

IMG_1079

 
Her Literary Contribution to the Tamil World –

She is considered the author of 143 poems organized into four works of poetry that are included in the eleventh book of the Tirumuṟai, the Śaiva canon: Aṟputat Tiruvantāti (Sacred Linked Verses of Wonder), with 101 veṇpā verses; Tiruviraṭṭai Maṇimālai (The Sacred Garland of Double Gems), with 20 stanzas alternating in veṇpā and kaṭṭalaik kalittuṟai; and the two patikams called Tiruvālaṅkāṭṭu Mūtta Tiruppatikaṅkaḷ (First Sacred Verses on Tiruvālaṅkāṭu), which are ten-verse poems with an eleventh “signature” verse each and which are set to music (some texts call the first patikam Tiruvālaṅkāṭṭu Mūtta Tiruppatikaṅkaḷ and the second patikam simply Tiruvālaṅkāṭṭu Tiruppatikaṅkaḷ, or Sacred Verses on Tiruvālaṅkāṭu). http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780195399318/obo-9780195399318-0059.xml

Among the 63 Nayanmars, Karaikkal Ammaiyar was a Pioneer Tamil Saint in many ways. She was one and first among the three women Nayanmars.

A few striking features of Ammaiyar include –

  • She was the first Nayanmar among the 63 Nayanmars in the chronological order. She lived in 5th- 6th Century ACE. Hence, she was the first nayanmar to initiate the Tamil Bhakti Movement
  • Her story of devotion epitomises the fact that love of God is beyond gender
  • She had the conviction to forgo her family life, leaving behind her husband to blissfully sing at the feet of Shiva
  • She had the fearless attitude to give away her beautiful looks and to take up ‘Peyuru’ or ‘Demonic Image’, that is why she is portrayed in a skeletal demonic form in all sculptures
  • She was introduced by Shiva to his wife Parvati as ‘Ammai’ or mother – such was the passion of God that made her convert from ‘Punithavathi’ her original name to Karaikkal Ammaiyar or the Mother of Karaikkal, a town in the then Pallava Empire, in today’s Union Territory of Pudhucherry in South India
  • She introduced the pattern of poetry writing called ‘Andhadhi’ –

 

Andhadhi(Tamil: அந்தாதி) is a unique kind of Tamil poetry constructed such that the last or ending word of each verse became the first word of the next verse. In some instances, the last word of a series of verses becomes the beginning of the very first verse, thus making the poem a true garland of verses. Andha(m means “end” and ‘‘Adhi’’ means “beginning”. In Tamil Andhadhi was first sung by Karaikkal Ammeiyar http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andhadhi

She is addressed by scholars and researchers in many ways. Apart from Karaikkal Ammaiyar, she is also called  ‘Siva’s Demon Devotee’, ‘Karaikkal Pei’ – meaning ‘Ghost of Karaikkal’ in tamil due to her looks and  ‘Peyar’ – the revered ghost. Giving least importance to beauty and worldly pleasures, she wished and prayed for the demonic form and her wish was granted by Shiva. She can be recognized as an emaciated/skeletal figure at the feet of Shiva in sculptures.

She composed Thiuvirattai Manimalai, Arputha Thiruvanthathi and Thiruvalankaatu Mootha Thiruppathigangal.

To know more on Ammaiyar, google ‘Karaikkal Ammaiyar’ and the web world welcomes you to introductions and many research papers.

 
Ammaiyar in Cambodia

 

name legend recognizing karaikkal ammaiyar in phnom penh museum

cropped-img_5331.jpg

 

When I came across the book in the internet, Karaikkalammaiyar: An iconographical and textual study By Peter J. J. de Bruijn, it threw a new light on Ammaiyar in Cambodia.

The book specifies the places where Ammaiyar was found  in demon form sitting below the beautifully carved ‘Adalvallan – Nataraja or the Dancing Shiva’.

Let’s bring back the verses that kick-started this post –

 

இறவாத இன்ப அன்பு வேண்டிப்பின் வேண்டு கின்றார்
பிறவாமை வேண்டும், மீண்டும் பிறப்புண்டேல் உன்னை என்றும்
மறவாமை வேண்டும், இன்னும் வேண்டும்நான் மகிழ்ந்து பாடி
அறவாநீ ஆடும் போதுஉன் அடியின்கீழ் இருக்க என்றார்.

“I pray for the infinite happiness of Your love; I do not want to be born again; if I do, I do not want to forget You forever; if I do, I want to be happily singing in Your praise under Your feet as You are dancing”.

http://tamilnation.co/sathyam/east/periyapuranam.htm

This is what Ammaiyar sought from Shiva – to sit at his feet while he dances.

This is exactly the form of portrayal in sculptures in Tamilnadu and other South East Asian countries.

The book specifies the places in Tamilnadu and places in other countries where Ammaiyar can be seen.

Three temples in Tamilnadu – 

  1. Sembiyan Mahadevi Village –  Kailasanathasvamin Temple
  2. Thanjavur – Rajarajeswara Temple
  3. Gangai Konda Chozhapuram – Brihadeeswara Temple

Three bronze sculptures in Srilanka –

  1. Polannaruva – Siva Devele
  2. Colombo Museum
  3. Polannaruva – Siva Devele

Three places in Thailand –

  1. Kamphaeng Yai
  2. Narai Yaeng Waeng
  3. Phimai

and Six places in Cambodia –

  1. Isvarapura Temple – Banteay Srei
  2. Vat Ek
  3. Vat Baset
  4. Phnom Chisor
  5. Angkor Wat and
  6. Sculpture at Phnom Penh Museum

This seemed very interesting. While Ammaiyar sculptures in Banteay Srei and Phnom Penh Museum had already been seen, Vat Ek and Vat Baset became the next search spots.

Vat Ek and Vat Baset are located in Battambang Province of Cambodia. Both temples are in natural ruins, added with a new Buddhist Temple in front of Vat Ek. Unfortunately couldn’t find Ammaiyar in Vat Ek.

But surprisingly Battambang Provincial Museum had three sculptures of Ammaiyar. One Lintel and two broken pediments. They have also recognised Karaikkal Ammaiyar and given a description in their museum booklet.

Let us try to bring in more historical facts of the temples where Ammaiyar’s sculptures are available in temples in Cambodia.

 
Vat Baset

broken lintel of adalvallan/dancing shiva – vat baset

IMG_1136closer look shows karaikkal ammaiyar

IMG_1135
In search of details of Vat Baset…

 

Vat Baset was built during the reign of King, Surya Varman I (1002-1050) and located on a hill at Ba Set village, Ba Set temple adapts the architecture of 11th century and was built between 1036 and 1042. http://www.tourismindochina.com/battambang-attractionsite1.htm

 

The book – ‘The Indianized States of South-East Asia’ by George Coedes provides a clearer picture about the King who built Vat Baset and his relations with the Chola Empire of Tamilagam.

The accession of throne by Surya Varman seems to have been a complicated affair. Two inscriptions mention of one Udayadityavarman, cousin of Jayavarman V who comes to throne in 1001.  In 1001 and 1002, there are four inscriptions referring to Suryavarman, who belongs to royal ancestry in the female line. From 1003 to 1006, King Jayaviravarman is mentioned in inscriptions and according to his inscriptions he establishes the throne of Angkor from 1011.

In the following pages of the book, the author also gives more details on the capturing of throne by Suriyavarman after nine years of war, approximately in 1010. Later in his inscriptions, he dates his accession as year 1002, the year of death or disappearance of King Udayadityavarman I.

There is another thought provoking fact that the author mentions –

In 1012, Suryavarman feeling threatened by the Srivijaya King Maravijayottungavarman, seeks aid of Rajendracholan I by presenting him a chariot. Later, Rajendra Cholan I launches a war against the same Srivijaya King.

 

The first half of the eleventh century, during the  long reign of Suryavarman I, saw indeed the empire become more vast, populous and prosperous.

 The king established four lingas to delimit his empire:

The first Linga was consecrated at Vat Baset, 70 km to the south-west of Angkor.

The three other Lingas were established during 1018 CE at:

Preah Vihear, on a promontory of the Dangrek Range, 140 km to the north-east of Angkor

Phnom Chissor, a sacred hill located 270 km to the south-east.

– Isanatirthi, somewhere in the east.

http://ancientcartography.net/hinterlandsaturn15.html

 
Among the five temples where Karaikkal Ammaiyar is sculpted in Cambodia, Phnom Chissor, Vat Ek and Vat Baset are all built by King Suryavarman I.  The same Rajendra Cholan – I, with whom Suryavarman sought friendly relations, built Adalvallan – Nataraja or the Dancing Shiva with Karaikkal Ammaiyar in his Gangai Konda Cholapuram Kovil (temple). Before Rajendra Cholan, his father Rajaraja Cholan immortalized Ammaiyar in sculpture in his Thanjavur Brihadeswara Kovil.

Could this throw any light on the historic tamil connection of Karaikkal Ammaiyar in Cambodia? But, Vat Baset is certainly not the earliest temple with Ammaiyar sculpture. Banteay Srei temple in 10th century is earlier. This would be discussed in forthcoming posts.

Adalvallan/Nataraja or Dancing Shiva and Karaikkal Ammaiyar – the duo sculpted in South-East Asian temples, kindles more interest in the Yesteryear relations among these Kingdoms and Tamil Kings. Let’s try to explore further to decipher more…..

Books, Research Papers and Links on Karaikkal Ammaiyar

1. Interpreting Devotion: The Poetry and Legacy of a Female Bhakti Saint of India by Karen Pechilis- link – https://nirc.nanzan-u.ac.jp/nfile/4275

2. http://www.southwestern.edu/academics/bwp/pdf/2005bwp-craddock.pdf

3. Medieval Indian Literature – by K. Ayyappa Panicker

4. http://www.academia.edu/310962/
 
5.Siva’s Demon Devotee, Karaikkal Ammaiyar by Elaine Craddock

6.Karaikkalammaiyar: An iconographical and textual study by Peter J. J. de Bruijn

7.Classical Civilizations of South-East Asia edited by Vladimir Braginsky

link – https://books.google.com.kh/books

8.The Indianized States of South-East Asia  by George Cœdès

9. http://www.shaivam.org/nakaarai.html

Exploring Tamil Connections

This first post could be a glimpse of images from the mysterious/yet to be fully discovered – ancient past that motivates me to share my viewpoints through ‘glorioustamils’.

Sitting in the city of Siem Reap, visiting ancient temples of Cambodia, one feels a strange connection between the Cambodian Ruins of yesteryear temples and the temples that are still in worship in Tamilnadu, India. And Cambodia is not the only country. Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia are other countries I have visited that makes me feel the similar connection.

The Temples and the Classic Temple Architecture of these countries have striking resemblances to those in South India, specifically Tamilnadu.

Some of the Inscriptions on the walls of these temples mostly in ruins have also been identified to be Pallava Grantha – the script established by the Pallava Kings who successfully ruled most parts of then Thamizhagam/Tamilagam during the 4th  to 9th Centuries ACE.

 
In Cambodia…

The Shiva Lingams, the Lingams accompanied and sometimes not accompanied by Nandi (ruined by nature/man-made or stolen), the Eight Handed Vishnu in Angkor Wat and the Reclining Vishnu in Kulen Mountains are only a few to mention, which exhibit strong resemblance to the living/worshipped ancient temples of Tamilnadu and few other parts of Southern India. Ashtabhujakaram is a temple situated in Kanchipuram, Tamilnadu where, Eight Handed Vishnu armed with different weapons is the presiding deity.  Similarly, Prasat Kravan is a 10th Century Temple in Cambodia, where Vishnu is sculpted as the Supreme God with Eight Arms.

 Vishnu with Eight Arms at Angkor Wat, CambodiaIMG_0447

The Reclining Vishnu in Kulen Mountains sculpted under the flowing waters of Phnom Kulen, is sheltered by the Seven Headed Snake – Ananta. He is seen relaxing in reclining position, with his consort Lakshmi holding his feet;  and Brahma is shown branching out of his navel. The sculpture under water is certainly a sight no camera can capture better than one’s eyes.

The countless Lingams and Yonis alongside the reclining Vishnu and the thousand Lingams at Kbal Spean may also denote the co-existence of Saivism and Vaishnavism. Along with Brahma, the Trinity of Hindu Gods is seen represented at one place.

There are many other ancient sculptures of Reclining Vishnu throughout India. Which connection/influence does the Reclining Vishnu of Cambodia talk of?

 
Reciprocal Influence

Any Connection which leads to Influence need not be one way, and could be reciprocal. What were the Reciprocal Influences churned out of specific Indian Connections? It is true that South East Asian Countries have plenty of Indian Influence, where Religion holds an enormous space. The efficient seafarers and merchants of coastal kingdoms couldn’t have transported and transferred their merchandises as a one-sided affair,  but also must have brought back various known and unknown representations from the far off countries they visited. In this aspect, special emphasis on particular ancient kingdoms is needed for clarity in written history.

One such historical fact, might be the travel of a Prince Pallavamalla from Kambhujadesa (present day Cambodia) to Kanchipuram, the capital city of the Pallava Empire in Tamilnadu.

The history of south-east asian kingdoms would not be convincingly clear without adequate mention of influences of the Tamil Kingdoms. The same way, the history of the Tamil Kings and the Tamil People would certainly be incomplete without adequately exploring the Thailand-Laos-Vietnam-Cambodia and Indonesian connection.

The master piece of Rajasimha Pallava – Mamallapuram Shore Temple

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Nandivarman II ( 8th Century ACE) – The Cambodian Connection in Tamilnadu

Much has been talked about the Indian connection in South East Asia, but here is a Cambodian connection in Tamilnadu.  Pallavamalla, a Prince from the kingdom of Kambhujadesa travelled to Kanchipuram in Tamilnadu, to continue the legacy of the Pallavas.

Following the death of Pallava King Parameswaravarman II (730 ACE) without a progeny, representatives from different arenas traveled to Kambhujadesa. Kambhujadesa was then ruled by King Kadavesa Harivarma, who rooted from Pallava lineage. He was the descendent of Bhimavarman, brother of Simhavishnu, the great king hailed to have brought back the Pallava stronghold in Thamizhagam – around 550 ACE.

Pallavamalla, the fourth son of Harivarma agreed to go to Kanchipuram to become their new Ruler. From a Prince in Cambodia, he reached Tamizhagam, to be the King of the Tamils in the Pallava terrain as Nandivarman II. He excelled to be one of the greatest Pallava Kings, who not only took forward the skillful, aesthetic art of  the extra ordinary ‘Pallava Style Temple Architecture,’ but also helped the Pallavas as rulers gain control of most parts of Tamizhagam and other parts of Southern India. Imbibed into the lineage of the architecturally inclined Pallavas, Nandivarman took to building beautiful temples as his predecessors, who were famous and revered for their fascinating temples.

Among the other temples built by Nandivarman Pallavamallan, the beautiful ‘Thiru Parameshwara Vinnagaram’ or the Vaikunda Perumal Kovil in Kanchipuram, the Pallava Capital is important as the temple walls depict the story of his coronation and especially the Pallava Geneology.

‘Samudramanthan’ or churning of the eternal ocean, which is given primary importance in Cambodia and other parts of south-east asia is also sculpted on the walls of Vaikunda Perumal Temple.

 
Karaikkal Ammaiyar -6th century AD

Karaikkal Ammaiyar holds a very special place in Tamil Bhakti Movement. She was the earliest of the 63 Nayanmars (Saivite Saints) and also one of the pioneer saints of the Indian Bhakti Movement  – which was formed to curb the influences of Jainism and Buddhism. The sculpture of this Saint in Ghost/Demonic Form – ‘Peyuru’ in Tamil, can be found in a few temples in Cambodia. This certainly is one Glaring Evidence of the Tamil Connection.

Adalvallan (Nataraja) – dancing Shiva and his devotee to his right

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How did Ammaiyar from Karaikkal in present day Puducherry, under the then Pallava Empire visit Cambodia through her sculptures? Who transported her.. How could this be just a transport of temple architecture alone? Many Researchers indeed feel more than a simple transport, inclusive of cultural, linguistic and economic ties.

 

Inscriptions

Some of the Inscriptions on the walls of temples in Cambodia, which Archeologists and Linguistics claim to be Pallava Grantha, and mentioned sometimes by local guides as Ancient Khmer has not had much research. Pallava Grantha was a writing method introduced by the Pallavas of Tamilnadu. The language might be Tamil, Ancient Khmer or Sanskrit but the script would require an all-inclusive research on ‘SPECIFIC INDIAN CONNECTION’. The ornamental beauty of the Pallava Grantha, exclusively developed to write Sanskrit in the Tamil speaking areas, which is also found in Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Indonesia, needs a deep analytical view.

 

Specific Indian Connection

Why I call this ‘Specific Indian Connection’?

As an Indian, any historical research to me would be incomplete if the word ‘India’ alone is mentioned. I want to know more… more precise facts – ‘which part of today’s India?’ – South, North,  East, West or North East? Which state in today’s India?

So, when I see the beautiful temples in Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia, (the ones that I have visited till date), I am awestruck by their similarities to the Indian temples… But to be more precise, South Indian Temples which belong to that particular part of Southern India – Tamilnadu!

Well read Scholars and Researchers find different other connections with other parts of India too. In today’s world, Advanced Research Standards have been developed. Such Advanced Research Techniques with Technology,  could aid in a ‘Microscopic View’ of the area of study – historically, geographically and scientifically! Hence, It is a humble feeling of a history enthusiast to emphasize the need for a comprehensive, all-inclusive study on the TRUE Indian Connection.

These and many more thoughts and questions that arise along with the simple single word ‘CONNECTION’ is the lifeline of this Blog.

The very few topics put forward in this preface itself is sufficient enough to explain the ‘need to connect’ this Jigsaw Puzzle called South East Asia and Tamilnadu.

Of Course, there have been different influences which history and legends of concerned countries talk about the vast country called India.  It is high time we give minute attention focusing on ‘Specific Connections and Influences’ from different parts of India.

Here, in this blog, I have chosen to explore the Tamil Connection.

I register my true Awe and Admiration towards all other Indian Kingdoms, Indian Merchants and Skillful Seafarers, who without any technologically advanced assistances of today, tried making this Vast Globe into a Small World of Connected Kingdoms.

With due respect to all Researchers who have put in their knowledge, time, effort and life to the cause of true historic research, this blog is a layman’s approach to history and a commoner’s wish to portray research in its true form – one which could inspire the discovery of new things with a specific, scientific, systematic approach.

This is a Genuine Wish for more ‘In-depth Researches’ which would help unearth Precious Information – many more New Commodities from Ancient-Old stock. It is also a hopeful desire to spread an inquisitive interest in many more energetic minds and scholastic brains beyond age and borders as much as possible in discovering new truths.