Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Surrealistic in Thanjavur

 I mentally revisited Thanjavur today, after six years of actually going there. The reason: I read about my friend’s love of Thanjavur paintings. 
Well, what is Thanjavur painting?
                                           Baby Krishna

 Shiva, Parvathy with children Ganapathy and Muruga

Antique Ashta (eight) Lakshmy, with Lord Vishnu on his Anantha, the serpent couch.

Krishna with mother Yashoda.

It is an ancient, miniature type of painting named after the place Thanjavur [called Tanjore in English] in Tamil Nadu, a southern state of India. The Thanjavur painting was at its zenith during the Maratha rule from the 12th to 18th century.  Materials like wood, glass, mica, ivory, murals and manuscripts were used to make these paintings. Most of the paintings were of Hindu deities & saints

Diamonds, rubies and other precious stones decorated the paintings in the olden days. Ornamentation was done with real gold leaves and gems of different hues. Natural colors were used. Red and green were generally the distinctive background color for Tanjore paintings. Lord Vishnu was portrayed in Blue, Nataraja, Lord of Dance was colored white, and Goddesses were in yellow. Rounded bodies, almond shaped eyes are a characteristic feature of Tanjore paintings. Traditional Tanjore paintings are considered to be priceless heirlooms..

   Now, that was the informative part of my post.

My memories are of a scorchingly hot afternoon when our car rolled into sleepy Tanjore town en route to Chidambaram. Our plan was to visit the famous Thanjavur temple, constructed by Raja Raja Cholan in the years 1003-1010 A.D, the Brahadishwara Temple, also known as the Big Temple, is one of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. (Click for a link to a virtual tour of the temple: )
                     The  temple dome,

  That blazing afternoon, when we reached there, the temple seemed to be a tantalizing mirage floating before our spell bound eyes. Hopping out of the car, we had to go bare feet into the temple.  Easier-said-than-done, we realized, as soon as the fire-hot flagstones seared into our soles. Not willing to drop this wonderful temple from our itinerary, we decided to cool it off till sunset, in the nearest air-conditioned space, which happened to be a movie theater.  

At the theater, huge crowds of passionate Tamilian movie goers were in riotous, to use an understatement, anticipation of the latest blockbuster Rajnikant flick playing at the same theater.  Avoiding that serpentine line, we headed for the queue with next to nil number of people, bought the tickets and got in. 
Inside, dark and cool, the torn seat cushions and the rickety chairs went hardly noticed. The screen soon gave us a shock as Spy Kids 2 in, wait, -hold your breath, 3D loomed large before us spewing Tamil dialogues. Three hours of this strange, outlandish experience of listening to Tamil dialogues from the mouths of Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino, Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara, in a sci-fi movie numbed my senses. Next to me, my companions were snoring, deep in siesta.  

                                                  Fantastic creature from the movie.

By sundown, the temple in all its glory spread itself before us. 
Yet the words of the guide, who explained that the Brihadiswara Temple was built to be the royal temple to display the emperor's vision of his power and the site of the major royal ceremonies such as anointing the emperor and linking him with its deity, Shiva, fell on my dazed, deactivated ears. 

The temple and the sci-fi movie morphed into a surrealistic,  Andre Breton experience for me and that is how I remember the famous temple of Tanjore to this day.

(Pictures from the net).


  1. What an experience....surreal is the perfect adjective I think! The guys in line seemed to enjoy your taking their photo...can you imagine if we had to have police keep our theatre lines in order???

    I stopped by to thank you for your recent comments and I'm glad you found me. I shall visit again!

  2. What an enjoyable read this post was for me. I've always loved Indian culture, I often listen to Indian music while I paint, and the it! I would love to visit India some day and your writing brought a bit of it to me. Thank you. I suppose walking barefoot on fire hot flagstone would make arriving at that temple feel like a test from the Gods.


I am always happy when you comment. It gives me the push to go on painting, writing. Thank you so much!