(Tamil Heritage Group)
invites you and your friends to a talk on
the Great Penance Panel
Dr S Balusamy
at 5.30pm on the 3rd of April, 2010
at Vinobha Hall, Thakkar Bapa Vidyalaya, T Nagar.
About the Talk
Open-air bas-relief is a novel innovation by the Pallavas, unique only to Mamallapuram. It has not been reproduced anywhere else in India since then. Amongst the bas-reliefs in Mamallapuram, the greatest is 'The Great Penance'.
Some scholars have interpreted this as Arjuna's Penance. The ascetic in penance is seen as Arjuna, who wants as book from Lord Shiva, the Pasupathastra. Few other scholars interpret this scene as Bagiratha's Penance. After failed attempts Bagiratha's father and grandfather, Bagiratha succeeds in his penance and convinces Ganga to come down. The only person who can hold the force of Ganga is Lord Shiva, and Bagiratha continues his penance and gets Shiva to gently receive Ganga and then pass her on to the earth.
Which of the two stories above is depicted in Mamallapuram? Some scholars even think the whole panel is a slesha - it is a single panel representing both the stories.
Dr Balusamy has a fresh perspective. For him, The Great Penance Panel holds much more. He concurs that it is Arjuna doing the penance and it is Shiva offering the Pasupathastra. But according to Balusamy, the sculptors of Mamallapuram have attempted something much bigger.
In the process, Balusamy has meticulously catalogued every character in the large panel: every animal and bird, every celestial being and every human. Balusamy shows that the animals there are not depicted randomly. They all belong to a specific place and they have been carefully selected and depicted there.
Why is the 'hypocritical cat' carved there? What is the idea? Is it simple humour? Balusamy has a clear answer to this.
Balusamy's work is truly a work of a great scholar and yet easily accessible to the lay men. His work on The Great Penance panel has been published as a book in Tamil by Kalachuvadu.
Dr Balusamy is well known to the Tamil literary world through his pseudonym, Barathiputhran and presently teaches Tamil in the Madras Christian College.
A. Annamalai: Gandhi Study Centre - firstname.lastname@example.org; 94441-83198
Badri Seshadri: Kizhakku-p-padippakam - email@example.com; 98840-66566
TK Ramachandran, IAS : TN Slum Clearance Board - firstname.lastname@example.org; 99406-41144
S. Kannan: Bank of Baroda - 2498 5836)
S. Swaminathan: Marg Constructions - email@example.com; 2467 1501