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.

 

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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

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