Ammai in Phnom Chissor

 

Karaikkal Ammaiyar in Phnom Chissor

IMG_2363
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

IMG_1333 - Copy

 

phnom chissor

IMG_2363 - Copy
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.
IMG_1397

 

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
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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

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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

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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

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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

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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