Unique Sculpture of Rudra Shiva
The most important piece of sculpture at Tala is a more than two meters high figure in red sandstone called Rudra Shiva. This is a unique piece of sculpture that is not found anywhere else in archeological history. This one of its kind piece that to me looked more like a Yaksha figure but for the Raudra or Ugra (aggressive) expression that it carries. It has been named Rudra Shiva. Another potential reason why it might have been inferred as Shiva is that Shiva is known as Pashupatinath or the Lord of the animals. And this figure portrays that aspect of him through various animal figures sculpted as body parts of this image. I think this can be the signature sculpture of Chhattisgarh.
Understanding this unique sculpture
Body parts made of animal and human faces make this a unique figure. Look at the picture attentively and you will see the following.
- The headgear is made of coils of a snake.
- The nose is a Chameleon with endings like Scorpio.
- Eyebrows made with Frog.
- Eyeballs as eggs.
- Ears like Peacocks.
- Chin with Crab.
- Moustache made of fishes.
- Shoulders are the mouth of Crocodile.
- Arms like an elephant trunk.
- Fingers like the mouth of a snake – some say Panchmukhi Nag or five-faced Snake.
- Human figures on the breasts – may represent twins.
- A round pot like human figure as stomach – may denote Kumbha.
- Vidyadhar figures on the thighs – may be Matsyakanya or mermaids – also similar to a balance or Tula.
- Gandharva figures on the sides of the thighs – may be Matsyakanya too.
- The lion faces on the knees – Leo.
- Feet like elephants.
- Two snakes as Rakshaks on both shoulders.
- Another snake wrapped from behind near the lower legs.
Animals & Astrological signs
As you can see some of these animals are associated with various astrological signs. Like Twins with Geminis, Kumbha with Aquarius, Lions with Leos, Balance with Libra, Crocodile for Capricorn, Virgins for Virgo, Scorpios, and Cancer, etc. Some locals say that this figure contains all the 12 Rashi’s or astrological signs. Though there is no further explanation that I could get off this. Surprisingly, though some parts of the image are broken, it is still worshiped. ASI has put it in a small enclosure that is kept locked and people worship it through a metal door.
Devrani Jethani Complex
The Devrani Jethani temple complex where this statue is currently housed is placed during the Gupta period but there is no clue about the date of this particular statue. From the style also it is so unique that it is difficult to map it to a certain period. Going by the bulkiness it could belong to an ancient period or it could be later folk art.
Visiting this sculpture of Shiva at Tala was discovering an absolutely unknown piece of history, just like I discovered Ahom dynasty at Sivasagar. This sculpture of Shiva keeps me intrigued even today, as its iconography is so bizarre. Could it be a piece of some artist’s imagination, some animal lover’s or some astrologer’s expression of the human body? Is it really a standalone piece or we are yet to discover its peers? The fact that someone called it Shiva and today it is being worshiped as Shiva, tells us how the faith propagates. And how it the faith that makes a piece of stone God.
Hong Kong-based Orientations Magazine that focusses on Asian Art for the collectors and connoisseurs of the art features a picture from this blog.
The article by Rachel Parikh talks about the composite art where a larger image is composed of multiple smaller images, both in paintings and sculptures.
India, how many treasures you have in tour layers to keep my wonder ON all the time!
Recommend you to read the following tourist places in Chhattisgarh on my Travel Blog.