Sunday, August 7, 2011

Chola murals - The Brihadisvara temple paintings

The Chola paintings in the Brihadisvara temple rank next only to the Buddhist paintings at Ajanta in Maharashtra. While the murals at Ajanta come under the tempera variety, those at the Big Temple are called frescoes. The artists at Ajanta applied a coat of plaster on the wall of the caves and did the paintings after the plaster dried up. The paintings survive to this day because the painting material holds together the pigment in it and the plaster. But the Chola-age artists used a more difficult technique at the Brihadisvara temple. They applied lime plaster on the wall and painted the murals on the plaster while it was still wet. This demanded that they should do the sketches and complete the painting before the lime plaster dried up. This might not be easy given the humidity conditions in Tamil Nadu. In this technique, the paintings formed part and parcel of the thin lime plaster. Both the plaster and the painting integrated together. The frescoes are, therefore, more durable but their execution would have been very difficult.

The murals, each 15 feet tall and 10 feet wide (4.5 meters x 3 meters), are about 1,000 years old. They are located in the narrow and dark passage around the temple's sanctum sanctorum. The great Chola king Raja Raja I built the Brihadisvara temple between CE 1000 and CE 1008 and the paintings were done between CE1008 and CE1012.

Most visitors now have no access to these paintings because of their location. But they can now visit the exact photographic reproductions at Interpretation centre on the temple premises.

The credit for photographing the murals in exact detail goes to the Archeological Survey of India team comprising Dr. T. Satyamurthy, P.S. Sriraman and N. Thyagarajan.

  • Single frame of mural depicting Siva as Nataraja.
  • The above Nataraja picture in the montage, accurate reproduction of Mural.
  • Rishi and Rishikumara
  • Village elders reading a document
  • Royal ladies
  • Vishnu
  • A demon and his consort
  • Siva as Tirupurantaka
  • The Banyan Tree - There is a sudden change in the mood among the animals and birds as a cobra enters the scene.
  • A Royal lady

Courtesy: Archeological Survey of India

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