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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Rudra Shiva of Tala (Bilaspur)

Around 29 km's South of Bilaspur in Chhattisgarh (India) there are ruins of two temples popularly known as Devrani and Jethani on the banks of the river Maniyari at Tala or Talagaon. Fragmented sculptures lie scattered all around. During the site clearance operations, (although it is named so but factually it was a large scale excavation carried out around the temple ruins) very many huge sculptures, most of them broken, were recovered from under the soil. The complex looked like a grave yard of sculptures. Amongst them one was unique in the sense it defied all attempts to identify it with anything known so far.

sculptures are not made mindlessly. Normally they are supposed to conform to the Shilpa Sastra and the characters are from various mythological beliefs. The one we are talking about, which got christened as Rudra Shiva, does not fit into the framework of known characters. The intricacy of carvings encountered at Tala (Bilaspur) is superb. The ruined structures are massive. Scholars have so far failed to associate them with any of the known art forms viz. Gandhara, Mathura and so on. The period being 6th century AD, one would be tempted to assume that the temple and the art associated with it are derivatives of the Guptan style at its zenith still quite distinctly different. The closest match could be the ruins at Sisdevri of Baloda Bazaar Tahsil in Raipur District of Chhattisgarh.

Devrani Temple Ruins

Although it is very difficult not to talk of very many other features which lend grace to every thing there, we need to confine ourselves to the mystical execution of the so called Rudra Shiva alone for which this post is intended. If one looks at the huge sculpture which is almost 8 feet in height and weighs more than 5 tonnes, it would appear as if it is a massively built demon with emphasis on muscular strength. The sculptor seems to have used every conceivable creature to energize and to form part of its anatomy; serpent seems to have been a favorite. One may even feel as if evolution of life on earth is taken as a theme for this creation. Coming to its various bodily parts, we may perhaps start from top progressively going down.
Jethani Temple Ruins

Two snakes make the head dress. They are tied around like a turban and the hoods crossing each other to give a bow like impression. Two serpent hoods are found above each shoulder. We do not know where the tails rest. The ears are adorned by Peacocks. The nose is made of a descending lizard and so are the eye brows. Eyelashes are either in the pattern of an open mouth of a frog or the mouth of a roaring lion. The upper lip and moustaches are made of two fishes while the lower lips and chin are shaped like a crab. Crocodiles have been depicted as shoulders and both the hands look like coming out of its mouth. Seven human heads are engraved in various parts of the body. Of these a pair of small heads may be seen in either side of the chest. A bigger face forms the abdomen. These three faces have moustaches. Each thigh consists of a pair of heads of which two smiling faces are carved on the front side, while the other two are carved on both sides. Heads of lion are depicted on each knee. The waist band is also designed like a snake and the finger tips on both the arms end with snake heads. The genital organ (Penis) is made of head and neck of a tortoise. Two bell-like testicles are designed as forelimbs of the same animal. A snake is also shown entwining the left leg. Probably the legs are also formed like that of an Elephant but it is not very clear due to the bottom being broken.

At the time of the discovery of this massive idol, it was found lying in a 10 x 4 trench (on the front right of Devrani temple) which was laid out with stone slabs at the bottom. Some mud was poured into it before the sculpture was put down with head downwards and later on filled with soil. There appears to have been a deliberate attempt to bury it under the soil and not due to any accidental fall as otherwise the sculpture could have been found broken. At least the head could not have sustained the fall. Why then this marvelous sculpture was discarded. The only plausible reason seems to be that it was no longer required. Even today we find many construction sites displaying a demon like head to ward off evil eyes. This sculpture too could have been created for a like purpose and when the construction of the temple got completed, this evil catcher was consigned to the grave. A senior archaeologist is of the opinion that there would have been two such sculptures and the second one still remains to be discovered.
According to the Shivapurana (6-9-14):
Rur duhkham duhkha hetum va
tad dravayati yah prubhuh
rudra ityucyate tasmat
Sivah paramakarana
"rur is sorrow or the reason for getting sorrow. The lord who destroys that is called rudrah who is shiva".
Therefore Rudra Shiva could not have been sculptured at Tala in such devilish characteristics.


  1. I think, I saw, I read and I commented! You have re-posted!

  2. the post is very informative...
    no controversion...
    but still, to me, need to be somewhat brief and more interesting...
    maiN ghalat bhi ho saktaa hooN...
    phir bhi mubarakbaad qubool farmaaeiN..

  3. I feel like having visited the ruined shrines
    in a Mater's company.

    All the dreams left behind by a generation -
    lying scattered in the soil with their glow still!!

    Nice and fascinating!!


  4. Very nice.
    ''स्वामी विवेकानंद जयंती'' और ''युवा दिवस'' पर ''युवा'' की तरफ से आप सभी शुभचिंतकों को बधाई. बस यूँ ही लेखनी को धार देकर अपनी रचनाशीलता में अभिवृद्धि करते रहें.

  5. Very informative post and I have marked this in my list of to visit places.

    The description as well as the photo of Shiva is quite intriguing.

  6. Interesting post and blog!
    Thanks for your comment at Blogtrotter and for your interest in reproducing some of my posts in Hindi. I've no objection (provided the source is mentioned...;)). I'm flattered!

  7. superb post! it seems that the idol has many totems of tribal origin and has nothing to do with or very little to do with classical hinduism.The geographical location suggests this.later puranic form of brahmanism may have had influened the content and idea behind idol making.do'nt u agree?

  8. आपकी रचनाधर्मिता का कायल हूँ. कभी हमारे सामूहिक प्रयास 'युवा' को भी देखें और अपनी प्रतिक्रिया देकर हमें प्रोत्साहित करें !!

  9. what a post..I wish I could go there immediately

  10. ऐतिहासिक विषयों पर आपके आलेख बहुत अच्छे होते हैं. इस वर्ष छत्तीस गढ़ घूमने का प्रयास करूंगा.

  11. that was an interesting one indeed. I have heard of Shiva with 5 or even 6 faces. But this is new.

  12. आपको लोहडी और मकर संक्रान्ति की शुभकामनाएँ....

  13. Thanks for bringing my Purana Qila post into Hindi! It's amazing the amount of comments you got in such a short time. Sadly, I can't understand them and don't trust that much the automatic translation... :-(
    Have a great week-end!

  14. आपके दो पोस्ट पढे । रुद्र शिव और पाताल कोट ।सचित्र जानकारी बहुत कुछ कह जाती है ।
    शिव आदि देव हैं और जंगलों पहाडों में बसने वाले । प्रकृति के अत्यंत निकट । स्वाभाविक है कि मानव को जिन जिन से भय हैं उन सबको शिव ने काबू में कर लिया है ऐसे दर्शाना चाहती हो ये मूर्ती । मै कोई जानकार नही जो लगा वही लिखा । पर आपको जानकारी पूर्ण लेखों के लिये बधाई ।

  15. रोचक एवं जानकारीपरक पोस्‍ट के लिए हार्दिक बधाई।

  16. When will we have a new post in English? ;))
    Have a great weekend!

  17. गणतंत्र दिवस पर हार्दिक शुभकामनाएं।

  18. गणतंत्र की जय हो .
    गणतंत्र दिवस पर हार्दिक बधाई एवं शुभकामनाऐं.

  19. very intresting...how do you get such information? the sculpture is really very different, never seen anything like this either in a book or in real. thanks for sharing.

  20. Quite interesting! 'I' would generally like to write comments at one location so that those are readily available at one place...

    FYI 'I' have posted the following at Ms Kavitha's blog on Indian.temple, as follows:

    Shri Subramanian, 'I' had a cursory glance at the recommended post and found it quite interesting...

    In brief, with the background belief of 'Hindus' related with soul and its passage through 8.4 million animal forms to reach the most evolved human form, 'I' would say that communication of this concept has been attempted by some ancients in the 'past' to depict the various body components related with various animal forms...Krishna in Gita says that He is present within each evolved animal form, viz. crocodile, etc. Also Tortoise is believed as the second avatara of Vishnu, Peacock is devtas' army's powerful commander Kartikeya's vehiclde, and so on...Essence of Sun is believed located at the solar plexus...

  21. I have visited this place and it's really a fantastic experience for me

  22. The day I saw a picture of this stature, I developed an intense desire to know more about the philosophy behind it. Your article has come as a good explanation.

    JC has enriched it with further insights.

    We need to preserve our past heritage in every way, and I commend you for what you are doing.

    with love - Shastri

  23. I visited in '95 on the strength of a book on Gupta art by Joanna
    Williams, now at UC Berkeley. Tala has the most amazing sculpture of any site in India, I believe. Vakatakas, 6th century. They're still trying to figure it all out. As well as the Rudra Pasupati there's a roundel of rishis under the doorway lintel, bears carved in 3 places, snake that's eaten a rat, many rishis w consorts, and 2 completely vegetal Sinhamukhas on either side of the doorway. Go see for yourselves!

  24. This is the most astounding picture of an idol I have ever seen !
    Perhaps the sculptors tried out a " composite" figure made of smaller figures - a motif commonly seen in many temples where a "horse" or " elephant" is fashioned out of "women" figures arranged in a certain way.

    Tala seems like a fascinating place.

  25. I was there in 12/95 & I have a closeup of its face and belly if you'd like it. Hard to photograph through the cage mesh. Best Sculpture in India, I think, and have seen a lot. That was my comment earlier. Last winter I saw several similar strange murtis in the Nagpur Museum. One with faces on two sides of its knees, 4 faces around head. Think it's a SadaShiva. You can see it under
    AIIS Photo Archive - under Nagpur. A great site anyway.

  26. @injamaven:
    I would love to get the close up shots. Thanks for directing me to AIIS Archives. I knew about your visiting Nagpur last winter.

  27. so glad you're using my shots! I love that place. Can't wait to visit there again!

  28. so nice place i invited all to see this place

  29. Pl read this portion of an article on Shamanism :

    '...Hypotheses on origins

    Shamanic practices may originate as early as the Paleolithic, predating all organized religions,[80][81] and certainly as early as the Neolithic period.[81] Early anthropologist theorize that shamanism develop as a magic to ensure a successful hunt or gathering of food.Evidence in caves and rock with drawings support indications that shamanism started during the Paleolithic era. One such picture featured half-animal, with face and legs a man, with antlers and a tail of a stag.[82]

    Archaeological evidence exists for Mesolithic shamanism. In November 2008, researchers announced the discovery of a 12,000-year-old site in Israel that they regard as one of the earliest known shaman burials. The elderly woman had been arranged on her side, with her legs apart and folded inward at the knee. Ten large stones were placed on the head, pelvis and arms. Among her unusual grave goods were 50 complete tortoise shells, a human foot, and certain body parts from animals such as a cow tail and eagle wings. Other animal remains came from a boar, leopard, and two martens. "It seems that the woman … was perceived as being in a close relationship with these animal spirits", researchers noted. The grave was one of at least 28 at the site, located in a cave in lower Galilee and belonging to the Natufian culture, but is said to be unlike any other among the Natufians or in the Paleolithic period.[83]'

    Ref : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shamanism.

    Perhaps, here lies the clue of understanding the origin of this imagery.

  30. After seeing the murthys in Nagpur museum, I still feel strongly that He's a form of Lord Shiva.

  31. After seeing the Shiva Murthys in the Nagpur museum w faces on their knees, I still feel strongly that this guy is some form of Lord Shiva.

  32. Wow! Fascinating! So the one in Chanderi could well be the 2nd one?!

    1. The you have seen at Chanderi is a replica (Plaster Cast)

  33. I have visited the temple referred above. The statue is unique piece of sculpture.