Monday, April 25, 2005

The Art of Creation

The foamy surf laps gently on the shores of Mahabalipuram. I visited there when I was a little girl just as so many tourists visit there. The rock sculptures were beautiful and expressive but that was all they were to me. Beautiful sculptures cut in rock by the sea side. Till I read Sivagamiyin Sabatham by Kalki. A story of romance, art, valor all woven together like strands in a beautiful cloth, it captured my imagination like few other things have. In that immortal classic, Sivagami is a dancer non pareil and Narasimha, the heir to a powerful throne. Narasimha Pallava invades Vathapi, capital of the Chalukyas, and razes it to the ground primarily for the sake of love for Sivagami and her unequalled prowess in dance. I thought it pretty silly at that time. I’ve changed my mind since then about love and art.

Art seems to have a mysterious, irrational and irresistible sway over people. The striking chords of a song, an energetic dance executed gracefully, a life-like painting all have a way of arresting one’s attention and transforming moods like nothing else can.

5000 BC. Cave men returning from a day of perils and sheer terror draw stick figures on the walls of a cave depicting the day’s events. Time passes by. The rudiments of an agrarian, river-based civilization begin to appear. The ancients slave under the hot sun and fight nature’s vagaries in the sheer will to survive. Yet, they find the time to paint pots with bright colors depicting scenes from daily life and expressing their feelings. Time continues its unrelenting march. And today, we find an explosion of art forms, a variety of ways to express our innermost thoughts and feelings.

It is not very remarkable that today, we devote more time to music, art or literature. We have the leisure, the assurance of a long life and the technology to aid us. But in the Darwinian struggle for existence, what relevance did painting a pot or carving stones have to daily survival? Of what use was decorating cave walls with bright colors when your very life is in question everyday? Yet humans have from time unknown devoted time to such things. Perhaps the human eye innately craves symmetry, balance and aesthetic sense? I don’t know.

I happened to watch Chandramukhi on Saturday. In the movie, there’s a painting of Chandramukhi. I am no art connoisseur or judge of great art, but that painting attracted me irresistibly. There was a glow to the face, a grace to the mudra struck, a speaking quality to the eyes that imprinted itself on my mind. As I write this post, I can still see the painting in my mind’s eye. That day, I found myself wishing that I had learnt to dance!

The foamy surf laps gently on the shores of Mahabalipuram. I visited them again on a moonlit night after a gap of many years and this time, I had a strange appreciation for the Pallava’s art and Sivagami’s dance. I do not know if Sivagami’s father was indeed a sculptor or if he modeled those incomparable statuettes on his daughter or if Narasimha Pallava did indeed love Sivagami or even if Sivagami was real or not. But I do know this: that night as I roamed around the beach amongst the rock-cut sculptures, I felt that they were talking to me, telling me stories of the days when Narasimha Pallava enjoyed Sivagami’s timeless dance; of their creators; of romances and tragedies; of mortal desires and immortal creations. How many people who go there know of the history that lies behind them?
I am still mesmerized when I think of that day. The Pallavas are long gone and so is their kingdom but art lives on.

“Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away. “

I think I understand why Narasimha Pallava reduced Vathapi to cinders.


Anonymous said...

Even I love the chandramukhi painting....The glow on her face and the dance pose greatly influenced me.......wish I had a girl like her

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

It's very inspirational ..
A very good one !


Anonymous said...

I faintly remember seeing the sculptures at mahabaliburam but have heard a lot abt them. I was equally impressed looking at the marvellous painting of chandramukhi. wish i could do some good painting..
anyway good blog subha!!!

Anonymous said...

Very well-written. Quite inspiring. I share your sentiment about the painting in Chandramukhi. It felt as if the painting was talking to you.

Priya said...

nice.. you have inspired me to read the book...

F e r r a r i said...

Strange. But this reminded me of Vathapi Ganapathy :-)

Anonymous said...

Very good one Subha. The way u depicted
how art has become an inseparable part
of our lives since time immemorial is truly impressive.

The Chandramukhi painting in the movie was really very good.


Prashanth said...

u totally inspired by art and mahabs huh...although i ve been livin in chennai for a long time now i ve never been there...after reading ur post,i ve got this sudden urge...thx...

Muthukumar Puranam said...

wow, very well written. Ofcourse I do not beleive in darwinian concepts and all, I like your style and command over the language.

Prabhu said...

"It is not very remarkable that today, we devote more time to music, art or literature."
-- but do we really spend more time to art, music and literature these days?
i feel not!
its only a selected few who are able to and not the rest of us. isnt that why they are called extra-curricular activities?

i feel people were more appreciating those days about art than today.

again beautifully written and u really kindled me to read sivagamiyin sabatham!

Anonymous said...

I tend to think Art is a way of searching of one's self and when done with that sole purpose it reins eternity as the soul and can resonate many a hearts forever.

I haven't read Sivakamiyin Sabadham but having read Ponniyin Selvan I can relate with what you felt on the moonlit shores of Mahabalipuram. As for my opinion
on art and love .. well this comment might end up being a blog.
(ippove ennanu kekkaradhu puriyudhu ... )

Allow me to take a little liberty ,I guess this is your best blog till date.


Kay said...

"But in the Darwinian struggle for existence, what relevance did painting a pot or carving stones have to daily survival?"

Had this thought earlier, was surprised to see u blog about this.

If PB doesn't believe in darwanian theory, does he have a theory of his own ?????

Nice post

Prabhu said...

i concur VV.

dinesh said...

A beautiful post ! I don't have a very good eye for art, and reading this post makes me want to consciously try to understand art better. Nice !

virumandi said...


the blog was really good...but only thing i try to understand is not art or anything..but y people had been killing people from time immemorial!!!!??

Subha said...

Vasu, ipdi oru aasaiya unakku...:)

Ferrari, you are right to be reminded about Vathapi Ganapathy! Narasimha Pallava retrieved the statue of a beautiful Ganapathy from the carved walls of Vathapi and hence the name...:)

Subha said...

Prashanth, you should visit Mahabalipuram and this time with a different eye...:)

We have the time to pursue anything we want. But unfortunately, namma adhellam panradhillai...:)

I didn't mean art as in paintings and drawings alone. I meant it as a generic term for all creative expressions.

Kay said...

No question, this is your best post so far....

Ram said...


Fantastic post! I was quite angry when I first visited your blog since I wanted to start a blog with the same address to impress my wife, who is your namesake!

Wonderful description of the Chandramukhi painting. You hit the nail on the head. I will stay plugged into this blog for sure!

Zeppelin said...

kaviye, un pulamai vaazhga... thamizh vaazhga...

awesome blog subha... though I dont know much about Pallava histroy (actually zilch!), really enjoyed reading this one..

hope u got some more like these up your sleeve... :)

cheers !

Narayanan Venkitu said...

Mahabalipuram / kanchipuram / Sivakamiyin Sabadham all these mesmerize me.

I am not sure if the story was true on not, but whenever I read that story..I could feel it.
Kalki was amazing.

And so were the Pallavas. I still wonder what happened to the Pallava Palaces in Kanchi.? How could they just vanish like that..with no signs.!

I am from Perungalathur, a small town south of Madras. There is a village called 'Padappai' 10 kms from my place, which is on the way to Kanchi. Looks like ( I've heard ) N.Pallava defeated Pulikesi-II at Paddappai.

I always thought Padappai Means ( Padai + Pai) the mat they used to carry dead bodies. Maybe they made the mats there to carry the dead soldiers...Who knows.

But..But...You have a wonderful way of writing...mixing C.Mukhi here...and also describing your walk in the beach with the amazing sculptures of Kanchi.!!

Thanks to Kay I stopped by today, and I enjoyed reading you.!!!

Now..can I blogroll you please.?

Subha said...

Didn't mean to steal your fave url....:)Didn't know I was losing readers because of url mix-ups..:) Welcome to my blog!

Subha said...

kavi thiran ellam namakku kidaiyadhu irundhaalum...But thanks, anyways!(ennoda 1000 porkaasugal enga?:) )

Subha said...

Venkitu Sir,
thanks for blogrolling me!
Actually, as far as Sivagamiyin Sabatham goes, N. Pallava defeats Pulikesi at Vathapi. Don't know how accurate that is. Yeah, there are no remnants of any of the palaces of the Cholas, Cheras or Pandyas. Legend has it that in the intermittent wars that they fought, they revelled in destroying the capital cities, palaces etc..of each other's kingdoms.

visithra said...

Oh wow what a post

Somehow my first experience of Mahabalipuram matches your 2nd visit for I had gone with the knowledge of Sivagamiyin Sabatham - since I acted in a drama of the same title numerous times in numerous roles. Everytime I passed one structure my mind would reel to thoughts of that story. The romance of 2 lovers of art, cheated by lust and fate.

I didn't know Vathapi was named after that Kriti - thanks for the info.

Beautiful mention of the Chandramuki painting.

Zeppelin said...


naan enna Paandiya mannana, por kasugal koduppadharku ??

naane dharmi maadhiri enakku evanavadhu oc la edhavadhu kudupana nu paathundrukken... !! :))


Anonymous said...

Even I love the chandramukhi painting....The glow on her face and the dance pose greatly influenced me.......wish I had a girl like her ...

yaar ba athu????

Ennna da Subha Oru paithiyam maari response panraaley-nu nenaichain evvalavu nalla post pannittu ..Anaaa !

Eppo than enakku purinjathu un comment-ku artham .. vasu, edhu vera unakku aasiya ? :)) LOL..

Vara vara Anonymous area-kulla pugunthu periya revolution-a undu panral(n)....Anyway nan Late-u Pick up-a poitainey :) ..

Me said...

good one !!

wondering whether those lines @ the end were from ozymandias

Subha said...

anonymous, yaaru neenga? dhaririyama velila vandhu vasu-vai nakkal adikkalaame...:)

Subha said...

yes, those lines are from Shelley's Ozymandias..

IBH said...


Absly adorable piece u have written....I am a major fan of History...(sounds a bit wierd) but am fascinated by arts,cutlture and people..and if it is old to be in history book that adds an extra kick ! I loved this blog!

Keep it rolling gal!

IBH said...

hey forgot to mention..that picture was a poetry in itself...marvelous....ennai tejas andha ponnoda mukathule illa????

Subha said...

ibh, absolutely agree about that painting. I really do wonder if it was something they created just for the movie or perhaps borrowed it from some collection! If it was just for the movie, then hats off to the artist who seems to have put his heart and soul into it!!

Prabu Karthik said...

"But in the Darwinian struggle for existence, what relevance did painting a pot or carving stones have to daily survival?"

Interesting question.

I am not good enough to answer that straight but let me pose another question.

In this competitive world where everyday is a 100m dash, what relevance does blogging have to a person's prosperity?

Do we get paid? Of course No.

Does it take time and effort?

Of course Yes.

Are we not happy expressing ourselves?

Of course yes. Otherwise we would've stopped blogging long back.

Enjoyment is different from pleasure.

We find pleasure in food or drink or making love only to a limited extent. Those things gives us pleasure till we restore the physiological imbalances. Appuram avlodhaan.

Enjoyment requires skill, effort, the rules or knowledge about the art or craft and the new ways and means to extend that domain and our self.

Appo cave painting, scupture ippo
kavidhai, kadhai, blogs, photography, music, digital art, open source software, even hacking to some extent:-)

I maybe be wrong. But blogging is one of the many autotelic experiences - acts which we do even if we did not have to.
I guess there is a tinge of discontent in all of us.
A kind of " is that all there is?" to life. All of us want to be happy. But the routes we choose differs. Some want as much pleasure in as many ways. Still they feel empty. They become addicted to pleasure in the process.

Some, in spite of all the sufferings still manage to make their lives worthwhile by stretching their selves.

Rombo pesitennu nenaikkiren:-)

Credit goes to your blog.

Came here now through Kay's blog.
" Read Sivagamiyin.." some time back. Ellam marandhu pochu.

Venky said...

took the time and patience
to make myself read this...(u know me!!)
guess was worth it;)
good one!!

Subha said...

Prabhu Karthik,
Agree with you.Nice exposition!
I am astonished that you bothered to read this fully! Guess you were totally without anything else to do....:)

Anonymous said...

ur a looney