Plate 10. 'Kurma Avatar.' The churning of the cosmic ocean. Bas relief from temple of Nilkanth
Artist: Maisey, Frederick Charles (1825-1892)
Medium: Pencil on paper
Pencil drawing by F.C. Maisey of the relief depicting the myth of the churning of the milk ocean from the Nilakanth Temple at Kalinjar, from an album of 60 drawings, dated 1847-1854.
Situated atop an almost impregnable 1000-foot-high hill, with cliffs on all sides, Khalinjar was an ancient Chandella stronghold from the 9th to the 15th centuries; it was later conquered by Akbar in 1569 and fell to Colonel Martindell in 1812. Within the fort there are numerous archaeological remains.
In his 'Description of the Antiquities of Kalinjar' of 1848, Maisey wrote, 'The bass-relief of the Kurma avatar ... represents the churning of the ocean with the mountain Mandara; on the right is Indra with his Chhatabardar; the mountain is represented by a human figure. Some of the wonderful emanations caused by this churning are shown in the sculpture: Sri, the goddess of plenty-seated near the tortoise, the Jewel Kaustabh, the white horse Uchaisrava. The brahmans say that originally all that are mentioned in the legend were represented in the sculpture..."