Gangadhara

 

 

Ardhanarisvara

 

Siva Nataraja

Sapta Matrkas

 

Varaha & Bhudevi

Durgamahisasuramardini


 

 

 

 

 

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The sculpting experience at Rāvaṇa-paḍi

The research paper provides a detailed description and analysis of the architecture and sculpting of the Rāvaṇa-paḍi cave, and offers extensive interpretation of the site as an artistic whole. Rāvaṇa-paḍi is a small temple cave, integrating a spiritual message and the artistic means used to achieve it.
The cave was excavated at the beginning of the temple cave building era in the south of India, at Aihole in the state of Karnataka. It is dated to the beginning of the Chālukyan Kingdom, which ruled the Deccan for nearly 200 years, from mid-sixth century AD and onward. The cave is carved in red sandstone at the bottom of a precipice overlooking the fertile fields of Aihole a small village, that once was the first capital of the Chālukyan kingdom.
The cave is dedicated to the god Śiva, and the spiritual being of the cave is presented as a journey of familiarization and transformation that the believer undergoes on the way to the god and his inner self. After preparing the soul by watching the cave entrance from afar, the believer meets Nandi, Śiva’s mount, and so already encounters parts of the god outside. While climbing to the cave the believer absorbs the sun’s radiance, and becomes filled with light in preparation for the cave’s darkness. On entrance to the maṇḍapa the believer is surrounded by a relief carved into the walls and a “Garden of Eden” carpet etched into the ceiling. The believer stands on a lotus flower at the center of the room, connecting heaven and earth and purifying himself before meeting the god. The short route is in a straight line that begins with Nandi, passes through the lotus and concludes at the peak, theliṅgam, in the sacred room. The path of the believer in the cave is more complex. He must undergo processes of openness, removal of barriers, temperance and transformation until he sheds his fetters and is redeemed. The believer begins by meeting Ardhanārīśvara. The unified form of Śiva and shakti cracks and opens to the mothers who accompany Naṭarājain his cosmic dance, along with his family and the loyal watcher Brahingin. After Gaṇeśa removes his obstacles, the mothers promise protection and Śiva fulfills his heart’s desires, the believer opens, and from this point and onward the connection between man and god intensifies along the way to the sacred room. The believer passes through a restraining curtain of guards in the form of Śiva dvārapāla and into the corridor, the antarāḷa. Here he meets the goddess Durgā, who slashes the buffalo, and for the believer identifying with the buffalo this is an experience of conflict and sacrifice, a transformative process that takes him higher. In the relief across the hall Varāha saves Bhūdevīfrom the deep water, symbolizing the saving of the Atman from the depths of existence.
The spiritual message concerning the Yoga activity at the cave is intensified by emphasizing the human ascetics Bhagīratha and Bhṛingin, who are located at the corners of the maṇḍapa, as parts of a triangle whose final vertex is the lingam.
The Yoga activity is completed in an empty room at the side of the maṇḍapa, and finally, upon leaving, the believer identifies with the story of Gaṅgādhara and its dual message – the water pouring down to quench the land and the ashes of the ancestors rising to the eternal sky.
The research examines the iconography and the artistic elements of the relief according to the Hindu principles and guidance books on one hand, and tools of western art criticism on the other. The research also examines the relief of Varāha and Durgā according to Alice Bonner’s divided circle theory.
The uniqueness of the statues in the cave lies in the fact that the god speaks to us through them, at eye level. The god is standing on the floor, without the mediation of the padma or the serpents, and the message is passed concisely, without any redundant details. The artists’ freedom of expression and the rich cultural infrastructure allowed this complex creation that is one, whole and fascinating.