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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.