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Details from sculptures. A yali, some mythical creatures and a trompe d’oiel elephant and water buffalo

Details from sculptures. A yali, some mythical creatures and a trompe d’oiel elephant and water buffalo

Artist: Anonymous

Medium: Pen and ink on paper

Date: 1801

Shelfmark: WD1063

Item number: f.50

Length: 37.1

Width: 24.8

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Drawing

Pen and ink drawing of sculptures from the Minakshi Sundareshvara Temple in Madurai, from an 'Album of 51 drawings (57 folios) of buildings, sculpture and paintings in the temple and choultry of Tirumala Nayyak at Madura. c.1801-05', by an anonymous artist working in the South India/Madurai style, c. 1801-1805. Each picture is inscribed with a title and a number in ink.

Construction of the Minakshi Sundareshvara Temple complex was made possible by the wealth and power of Tirumala Nayak (1623-1659). He was the most prolific builder of a long line of Nayaka kings, a dynasty who ruled a large portion of Tamil country in the 16th and 17th centuries. The complex contains two main shrines; one dedicated to Shiva and one to his consort Minakshi, an ancient local divinity. Each shrine is set within its own walled complex containing several subsidiary shrines, mandapams (assembly halls), courtyards and galleries. Every available space is heavily ornamented with magnificently sculpted figures of Hindu deities and portrait sculptures of the Nayaka rulers. This drawing represents mythical figures that are carved onto the enormous columns of Tirumalai's mandapam, situated outside of the east gopura (entrance tower) of the sacred complex. The top drawing depicts a composite animal often used as a decorative motif in South Indian architecture. The middle drawing depicts three half-human and half-beast figures, while the bottom drawing is a bull and an elephant.

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