Rare Vishnu sculpture found
CHENNAI: : A rare piece of beautifully executed sculpture, depicting Vishnu seated on a Naga coil under the five hoods of the serpent deity, was unearthed a couple of days ago at the Nithyakalyanaswamy temple at Thiruvidanthai, about 45 km from here.
Workers found the sculpture below the ground at the "yagasala mantapa". "Kumbhabhishekam" at the temple is scheduled for June 10.
At the bottom of the one-metre-high "Naga stone sculpture is a decorated pedestal with several components. Above this pedestal is a peeta (pedestal) in the form of a "koorma" (tortoise) and above this is the Naga in five coils. Vishnu is seated on the topmost coil. The five hoods spread out like an umbrella over him.
The sculpture belongs to the 17th century Vijayanagara period. The temple was built in the 7th century A.D.
T. Satyamurthy, superintending archaeologist, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Chennai Circle, said it was "a unique Naga stone". Such stones were generally found in Siva temples, with the linga seated on the Naga coils. The Naga stones were offered as votives for boons granted. But the Nithyakalyanaswamy temple was a Vishnu temple, and this Naga stone had a Vishnu at the centre. Besides it was found at the yagasala mantapa, where it could have been given as an offering.
Vishnu is seen seated in a "sukhasana" (relaxed posture). He has four arms, holding a chanku (conch), `chakra' (wheel), a stylised `gatha' and a `padma' (lotus). His cylindrical "kreeta", elaborate ornaments and the posture of holding the weapons indicated that the sculpture belonged to the Vijayanagara period. The serpent's five hoods had "mukhapattika" — ornaments on the forehead. The hoods had prominent eyes. "It is a beautiful and finely executed sculpture. The finish is excellent," Dr. Satyamurthy said on Friday. It was a made out of a single piece of greenish granite.
The temple is one of the earliest on the east coast. The sanctum has a big Varahamurthy (boar deity), with Bhudevi at his left. Varaha is more than seven feet tall. The temple, celebrated in the hymns of Thirumangai Alwar, is protected by the ASI. It has been conserving the temple for the past several months, ahead of the kumbhabhishekam.
G. Thirumoorthy, Assistant Archaeologist, ASI, said the temple had several inscriptions, including that of the Rashtrakuta king Krishna III of the 10th century A.D. and the Chola emperor Raja Raja I. The inscriptions were in Tamil. One of them mentioned a donation made by 12 fishermen families for conducting a seven-day festival in honour of Raja Raja I.
"The sculpture of a Naga, depicting Vishnu at the centre — that too, seated on a koorma pedestal — is rare," Mr. Thirumoorthy said.