Plate 27: Bhikshatana and Mohini

Image title: Plate 27: Bhikshatana and Mohini

Description of the photo

[Full title: Bhikshatana and Mohini, Nayaka, Chidambaram, 17th century]

In the temple at Chidambaram, on the ceiling of the large maṇḍapa in front of the shrine of Śivakāmasundarī, there is represented the story of the genesis of the Bhikṣāṭana form of Śiva and of Mohinī of Viṣṇu. The plan of Śiva and Viṣṇu to proceed to Dārukāvana to test the Ṛṣis and Ṛṣipatnis, by assuming the strange guise of the naked beggar and the bewitching enchantress, succeeds. Bhikṣāṭana captures the hearts of the Ṛṣipatnis while Mohinī ravishes the hearts of the sages, as narrated at length in long panels, row after row, in bright and beautiful colours.

Beyond this story is that of the discomfited Ṛṣis performing the ābhicārika homa to destroy Śiva and how, out of the fire, arose the deer, the snake, the tiger, Muyalaka and so forth. Towards another end of the maṇḍapa, there is Gaṇeśa and Umāsahita with Ṛṣis, Skanda with Vallī and Devasenā, Nandī conversing with Śiva and Pārvatī in Kailāsa, Naṭarāja as Sabhāpati with Śivakāmasundarī, surrounded by Gaṇas dancing and playing musical instruments. There are also several other stories from Śivapurāṇa, illustrating the lives of saints.

Gallery information:

This plate is contained in the book “Vijayanagara Paintings”, a valuable aid to the understanding of Indian iconography (also known as śilpaśāstra). The Vijayanagara empire was established in 1335 by Harihara, Harihara, Kaṃpa and Bukka (sons of Saṅgama) and grew to be a dominant power in the South. Painting has been considered in the Citrasūtra of the Viṣṇudharmottara, the early standard text on painting, as the premier art.

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