The Untold Story About A Rearing Horse

A marriage in the family and a land transaction took me to Chennai and then down south to Thirupparaithurai, my village near Trichy (contraction for Trichinapoly or Tiruchirapalli). And from the village, I went over to the temple town of Srirangam, abutting Trichy across the river Cauvery. Srirangam, an island caught between the rivers Cauvery and Coleroon, and its ancient temple of Ranganatha evoke feelings not easy to describe adequately, a challenge I plan to take up some day. But for now…

To the east and just outside the temple was my uncle’s house where I stayed – also my birth place, making it possible to make several rounds of the temple for darshan in a short time. There was no one to rush me as I moved from shrine to shrine inside the temple at my own pace, pausing to observe closely the sculptures and the paintings on the temple structures. The mobile camera was handy for capturing the objects of my new found interest. An obvious stop for sculptures was the Sesha Raya mandapam (open hall on stone pillars) known for its richly featured iconic ‘horses’.

It was three in the afternoon on a bright sunny day when I was gawking at these rearing horses. There was no living soul in sight, save an occasional devotee making his way to the shrine of Chakkarath Azhvaar also located in the same prakaram to the north.

I had not noticed him until he came up to me from nowhere as it seemed: ‘Sir, I see these catching your interest. It’s so unfortunate that very few pause to look at these and listen to what they’re telling us.’

Eyes alert and sincere, decently dressed, shirt-tail flowing freely outside of his pants, shod in chappals. He was probably in his early thirties, a couple of days worth stubble on his cheeks, carrying a sling bag on his shoulders.

‘A guide?’

‘No, no, Sir. Just a serious student of history looking at these legacies of the past and putting together their stories. ’

I was stuck for words at this sudden and unsolicited meeting.

‘Not to worry, Sir. I’m not commercial. There are no charges for my services. Err…it’s not services – I’m just glad I can share what I know with someone genuinely interested like you.’

I was left groping for an appropriate response.

Seeing no vigorous rejection, he considered it as my assent and took charge right away with practiced ease, starting off with some general details: The Sesha Raya mandapam had 104 pillars to count, standing on the inside and left of the Vellai Gopuram (the White Tower) as one enters from the east, located in the fifth of the seven nested prakarams (enclosures) called Swar Loka. On the right of the Gopuram was the thousand pillared mandapam. The Sesha Raya mandapam was possibly constructed by the Hoysala Kings around 1200 AD. It was embellished later thanks to the munificence of the Tuluva King Krishna Deva Raya.

He then took me to examine closely the panels sculpted on the bottom of the stone pillars of the mandapam. Lots of interesting religious and social motifs that I surely would have missed but for his drawing my attention and his explanation (possibly the subject of another post?). Finally we came to the amazing horses arrayed in a row, about fifteen feet high, all broadly similar, but each one different in details – no words would be adequate to describe their beauty and richness in details. Again he had so much to show and tell about them. He even knew them by their names, I suspected!

‘Come with me, Sir, to this one with the most interesting story behind it.’ I followed him like a lamb.

There it was – one of those rearing horses. One could see even at first glance something intriguing. Under the horse on one side was a figure standing up and sticking a short dagger treacherously from behind into the thighs of an unsuspecting sword-carrying victim, perhaps a soldier or a guard. The figure looked like that of a firangi (a foreigner) in features and wearing a tunic. Essentially, a foreigner unfairly getting better of a native, sculpted for public display! Looked a little bizarre, you’ll agree. Well, my appetite for the story was now whetted right and proper. And, of course, the master story-teller was ready for the occasion, further encouraged by the perplexed look on my face. As he unspooled the history, I was transported to a different age, a different world, of kings winning and losing battles, of forts besieged and seized, of ever-fluid military and trade alliances of convenience, of betrayal by the trusted and of succession intrigues. My felicity of expression is not good enough to communicate to you the entire canvas and the drama that he unfolded. Let me present a brief and linear narrative of the story including the high points – a story that I had never heard before in all of my history classes.

End of Part 1

(To be contd.)

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10 Responses to The Untold Story About A Rearing Horse

  1. govind says:

    athimber good.

    Like

  2. Mani says:

    eager to know more.

    Mani

    Like

  3. Nithya says:

    Interesting and little sad…I am sure every statue has some story behind it

    Like

  4. aiyshwarya says:

    its amazing!! i love it! very inspiring Raghu athimber. 🙂 reading your post was a treat. it transported me to a different time and the pictures are really beautiful! 🙂 looking foward to reading the rest! 🙂 🙂

    Like

  5. Bala Ramachandran says:

    Thanks Raghu, I felt as if I made a trip and enjoyed the temple sculpture with both of you. I really miss those things very badly. Only good thing is I have learnt to Keep myself happy with what what ever I am blessed with. What brought you both together at the same time? Is it the thirst For the knowledge from your side so real it was answered at once . Leaving both of you so happy WE too can share that happiness . God is great. In Bharathi’ s words ” ehthani kodi enbam vaithai Eriva ” Thanks again Raghu. Bye now.

    Like

  6. trisha says:

    India is a treasure for beauty seekers. beautiful photographs. i love these sculptures. they are exquisite and awesome.

    Like

  7. Buvana says:

    Waiting for more……..Very interesting. Beautiful photos!

    Like

  8. T Ashok says:

    Amazing story Raghu. Enjoyed the reading, wonderfully captured. Srirangam is my favorite temple and I go there every year. When i do so this year, I would love to relive the moments via your story when I look at the horses.

    Wonderful.
    Ashhok

    Like

  9. V Narayanan says:

    Awaiting eagerly for the story

    Like

  10. Ravi says:

    Nice Athimber! V. interesting !……..
    Enna athimber suspense madhiri uttuteenga?

    Like

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