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 ...

Typical pastoral village life as reflected from the Govardhanadhari panel

[Full title: Socio-Religious Life of the Pallava Period: Typical pastoral village life as reflected from the Govardhanadhari panel]

The Govardhanadhari panel (fig. 11) at Mamallapuram provides, insight into the life of a pastoral village, where the main subsistence is rearing of cattle. A study of the sculptural panel show that, even though the theme was derived from the Bhagavata Purana[1], yet the persons and scenery depicted has an indigenous element in it and the inspiration seems to be from the then pastoral village. A superficial observation of this panel shows, two main occupational groups, which can be identified based on the kind of work they are involved in and differentiation in dress and ornamentation. To the first occupational group, is the cowherd who can be identified as of Ayar community, whose main subsistence is rearing of cattle. Both men and women of this group engage in different types of work like milking the cow, cutting wood (two men with axe is shown in the panel) probably for fuel and collecting haystack for feeding the cattle. Two women depicted with pots can be interpreted as carrying milk products either for their own use or to sell them in the village and its neighborhood.

To the second occupational group are the people of royal household. In this panel five persons can be satisfactorily identified as belonging to this group. Of these, two are men, identified as Krishna and Balarama and the remaining three are women. Of the three women, the one by the side of Krishna can be identified as Nappinai. Here Nappinai is shown leaning over a lady, who could be her companion. The other lady portrayed near Balarama could also be of the royal house-hold as hinted by her costume. If the representation of this group can be taken generally, leaving aside the legendary story associated with it, then they can be identified as belonging to the family of the village chieftain.

Apart from these groups, representation of dancing couple and a solitary man playing a flute can also be seen. The dancing couple may not be professional dancers, but common villagers, who started to dance in ecstasy by witnessing the happy scene of Krishna lifting the mount Govardhana and saving them from the difficulties caused by torrential rains. Even though the scene depicted narrates a puranic story, yet it can be said that the village folks used to gather together and celebrate with music and dance during the times of joyful moments like ceremonies and festivals. Similarly, a solitary man is seen playing flute amidst the cattle.

Footnotes and references:


Srimad Bhagavata Purana, part II: Books 9 to 12, translated by C. L. Goswami, Gorakhpur 1892, (2nd ed.), book 10, discourse 25, 1162–1165.

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