Pallava period (Social and Cultural History)

by S. Krishnamurthy | 2017 | 143,765 words

This study examines the Social and Cultural History of the Pallava period (as gleaned through the Sculptural Art). The Pallavas (6th-9th century A.D.) mainly ruled over the Tondaimandalam (Tondai Nadu) region in the Northern part of Tamil Nadu (South-India). The Pallava dynasty ensured a golden age of architecture, arts, and spirituality and while ...

Other employers in a royal court and palace

[Full title: Socio-Religious Life of the Pallava Period: Other employers in a royal court and palace]

In all the rock-cut and structural temples, a pair of dvarapalakas or dvarapalikas can be seen either flanking the main entrance or even on either side of entrance into the garbhagriha. As suggested earlier by some scholars[1] some of these door-guardians were actually ayudha-purushas of the deities enshrined in the shrine. Accepting this view that they were the personification of the various weapons held by the deities, a question may be put forward here for speculating the source of inspiration for such a portrayal. May be the most plausible explanation could be that, they were actually the reflection of the door-guardians, watching over the entrance into the royal palaces and inner apartments. So these dvarapalakas can indeed be regarded as representing another occupational group i.e. door-guardians in Pallava society. However in the sculptural art, as the door-guardians are mostly seen in association with gods and goddesses, their costume and ornamentation may not be an exact replica of the door-guardians of the real life and there could be some exaggerations. A fine example of a dvarapalaka, guarding the entrance of a royal mansion (fig. 19) can be seen in one of the panels in the Vaikunthaperumal temple at Kanchipuram.

A royal household also caters to number of personal attendants, who looked after the comfort of the king, his family and other dignified courtiers. Among them, the most frequently met personalities in the sculptures are the chamara-dharas (fig. 20) and chhatri-dharas (fig. 21). In many of the sculptures, both divine and royal, a pair of attendants holding fly-whisks in their hands can be seen flanking the principal image. Similarly they are sheltered by an umbrella held by another attendant. Examples of royal persons being attended by them can be best seen in the historical panels of the Vaikunthaperumal temple at Kanchipuram. Panels depicting war scenes in the same temple also gives a rare glimpse of those employed for beating cymbals (fig. 22) and drum (fig. 23), either for declaring the coming of a king or for signaling the commencement of the war or announcing royal orders in public.

Parallels can be drawn from the historical paintings of later period depicting the royal personages, seated in the durbar and guarded by the door-guardians, fanned by the fly-whisk bearers and attended by other royal entourage. The successors of the princely royal families still display employment of such staff during the traditional performance of ceremonies and festivities.

Footnotes and references:


Michael Lockwood et. al., Pallava Art, Madras, 2001, pp. 7 ff; Annual Report on Indian Epigraphy 1921 -22, part 1, pp. 3–4.

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