Postcards from… is a new series and is all about one picture perfect postcard from a place I have recently travelled to. I was in Uzbekistan (my second time!) last week, revisiting some old favourites and visiting new places.
This postcard is from Rishtan in the Ferghana Valley of Eastern Uzbekistan, famed for its fruits, art, and automobile manufacturing units. No prizes for guessing what is the theme of this postcard is. 🙂
In one of the galleries on the ground floor of the Government Museum, Bengaluru, there is a cordoned off area in the centre which holds a large wooden piece of furniture with delicate inlay work. From the cordon and the placement one would assume that this is an important exhibit and also be a little puzzled by the lack of any information about it. Except for a piece of paper taped on the surface which says “Dressing Table”. That’s it.
It is almost as if the Museum was telling the visitor that now that you know what it is, you can admire it and move on. Or you can attempt to interpret it.
I chose the second option once I saw the details and the theme of the inlay work on the dressing table, which has two distinct parts — the lower simple table with minimal inlay work, and the ornate upper part. The upper part of the dressing table has an elaborate depiction of the Hindu god of love and desire, Kamadeva and his consort, Rati. Both are depicted with bows made from sugarcane stalks and flower tipped arrows. Kamadeva or Manmatha as he is also known as, sports a mustache and is heavily bejewelled. Rati, who is also the goddess of sexual desire and pleasure strikes a bewitching pose. Both are framed in separate panels with very delicate arabesque design on them.
Stories in Stone is all about sculptures — either standalone or entire narrative panels. Each post in this series showcases one such sculpture, looks beyond its iconography and deconstructs the details in an attempt to understand the idea and/or the story it conveys.
The sculpture under discussion in this post has a bit of an identity crisis. The temple it is located in refers to it by one name; I refer to it by another name based on its iconographical details; and a book that I highly respect and refer to frequently refers to it by a third name. What’s in a name, you may ask? Plenty, I say, for in this case, with change in identity, the story and the context changes as well.
The sculpture in question is that of Shiva and Parvati and is located in one of the external niches of a shrine in the outer praharam or circumambulatory path of the Lalithambigai (also spelled as Lalithambikai) Temple at Thirumeeyachur (or Thirumiyachur) in Tamil Nadu. At this temple, Shiva is known here as Meghanathar and though He is the main deity here, the shrine to Devi or Lalithambigai is more popular
Like most temples, the Lalithambigai Temple too has a sthala puranam or legend associated it. There’s a long version and a short version and since this post is about a particular sculpture and not the temple, I’m going to share the short version with you.
There are two ways to explore the former Danish colony of Tranquebar (or Trankebar as the Danes spell it) or Tharangambadi (as it is known officially). The first is as a day trip from Pondicherry or Nagapattinam or any of the nearby temple towns and the second is to base yourself at Tranquebar, like I did, and then explore the town at leisure.
This coastal town is on the east coast of the southern state of Tamil Nadu, about a 100 km south of Pondicherry. Either way, you will soon discover that the sea and the citadel of Fort Dansborg at Tranquebar are its best known sights.
In fact, the first thing a visitor to Tranquebar will see is the Dansborg citadel — to me, it looked like a giant slice of commercial kesar ice cream shimmering (or melting) in the heat.
And if you stay at The Bungalow on the Beach, like I did, then a view of the sea and the Dansborg Fort, is a constant (see the header and the photo on the left).