Sacred and the Visual

                                                                            Chola Sculptures

The Chola sculptures of South India, created during the Chola Dynasty between the 9th to 13th centuries, are some of the most well known artifacts from the Indian subcontinent. They represent the deep roots of religion in traditional Hindu art during the Dravidian era. These were used traditionally for ritual or darshan, and King Arulmoli’s (who adopted the title of Rajaraja, King of Kings) temple at Ranjavur housed almost 60 of these bronze images of various deities. [1]

Another significant aspect of these sculptures is the way in which they were created. The method involved the artist creating a highly detailed version of the final sculpture out of wax and covering it with layers of clay with a drain-like channel at the base of the sculpture. Then the entire piece was baked in a kiln, melting and draining the wax, and hardening the clay to form a hollow mold. Then the metal was poured into the hot clay mold and left to cool for several days. The final sculpture was obtained by breaking away the clay; polishing and smoothening out the bronze. [2]
This entire process is called the Lost Wax technique, and a fascinating aspect of it is that the clay mold once used can never be used again—thus no two bronze casts would ever be exactly alike. Even the amount of detailing done on the deities was done using warmed, soft beeswax, and required careful precision so that it could be replicated in the mold, and then onto the final sculpture.[3]
The sculpture that I liked the most is that of Lord Brahma, with his four heads, seated cross-legged on a lotus. Considered the Hindi God of Creation, his smiling features and wide shouldered posture give the sculpture an ethereal feel. Much like other Chola sculptures, his bodily proportions are perfectly balanced, with a wide collar, narrow waist and long arms ending with gently curved fingertips. As the Creator, he himself seems to be the ideal of beauty and natural form. A special aspect is that of the detail given to his body and attire. Not only are his limbs beauty crafted, but the details of the beads, creases in fabric and even his eyelids are so well done one can only remain in awe of the sculpture as well as the amazing skill of the sculptor.

[1] The Sensuous and the Sacred: Chola Bronzes from South India
Exhibition Overview, pg 2-3

[2] The Sensuous and the Sacred: Chola Bronzes from South India
Creating a South Indian Temple Bronze, pg 9

[3] Art of Cholas


This dance, originating in Spain and Portugal, is a courtship one, where the narration involves a girl and boy falling in love with the girl snubbing the boy and then finally chasing after him. Originally, the dance is supposed to be between two people only with little to no touching but facing each other.
This lively dance was usually accompanied by upbeat music at a 3/8 or 3/4th time. Guitars, tambourines, mandolins and castanets play an important role in the dance, both musically and theatrically.
The dance, being too dramatic to be performed in halls or ballrooms required its own stage and set which added to its spectacular setting. This led to women and men having their own specific costumes. The women wore short silk skirts (considered short in that time, not anymore) which were puffed up with lace and the men wore embroidered shirts and waistcoats while playing the tambourine.
A significant mark of this dance is the tapping of feet and heels or clapping of hands to the measures. This dance is said to be the basis of all other Spanish dances, the most well known being the Flamenco.[1]
The first instance of the dance onstage was in 1720, as part of the ‘Entremés El novio de la aldeana’ by Francisco de Leefadeal.[2] This soon led it to become popular even amongst the aristocrats who found it highly fashionable.
A Fandango between two men however is a sort of dance-off. While one dancer performs some steps at a certain pace, the other adds to it thus building up an entire choreography until one of them is the ‘winner’. Thus the term Fandango became synonymous with an argument or quarrel.





One comment

  1. aparnaandhare · February 15, 2015

    Hi Vritika, I’m quite intrigued by your choice. You’ve picked a seated bronze and contrasted that with a dance form. While you have described the process in detail, I wish you’d given your chosen idol some more screen space! Also, I’d have liked a video link of the dance form or some photos to go with your post. Lastly, good job on the references!


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