Sembiyan Mahadevi

Sembiyan Mahadevi


Queen Sembiyan Mahãdevi (also Cempiyan Mãtevi [The Problem of Portraiture in South India, Circa 970-1000 A.D. by Padma Kaimal in Artibus Asiae, Vol. 60, No. 1 (2000), pp. 139-179] , 10th century CE), was the grandmother of Rajaraja Chola I of the Chola dynasty (also referred to as Rajaraja's great aunt). Queen Sembiyan Mahadevi, whose husband Gandaraditya Chola reigned 949–57 AD, was widowed at a young age and lived until about 1006 AD, but did not have quite secluded life style that some Dharmaśāstras advocated for widows. Over a period of sixty years she gave generous gifts to many temples in South India. We hear Sembiyan Mahadevi for the first time in an inscription dated 941; she is said to have made an endowment so that a lamp may be kept permanently lit in front of the Shiva (Śiva) deity (perhaps not long after the crystallization of the Chidambaram Nataraja (Natarāja) cult [A History of India by Hermann Kulke and Dietmar Rothermund (1998) p.134] [A History of India by Hermann Kulke (2004) p.145] [Siva in the Forest of Pines: An Essay on Sorcery and Self-Knowledge by Don Handelman and David Shulman (2004) p.88] ). The last inscription recording her activities is 1001 [The Hindu World (Routledge Worlds) by Sushil Mittal (2004) p.451] .

Archaeometallurgical background

The origins of the Nataraja cult is in the state of Tamil Nadu in southern India. The trajectory of the dancing Shiva is traced: from the processional worship of metal icons outside the sanctum [A sacred or holy place (Origin: 1570–80; n. use of neut. of Latin sānctus; see Sanctus).] to the cultic elevation of the Nataraja bronze into the sanctum at Chidambaram. Archaeometallurgical studies made on south Indian bronzes by Sharada Srinivasan combined with iconographic and literary showed that the Nataraja bronze, depicting Shiva's anandatandava or 'dance of bliss', was a Pallava innovation (seventh to mid-ninth century), rather than tenth-century Chola as widely believed. That formulation was informed of 'cosmic' or metaphysical connotations is also argued on the basis of the testimony of the hymns of Tamil saints [Shiva as 'cosmic dancer': on Pallava origins for the Nataraja bronze by Sharada Srinivasan in World Archaeology (2004) 36(3), pp.432-450] . Sharada Srinivasan has also pointed out that queen Sembiyan Mahadevi's dedications to her late husband Gandaraditya represent a rare example of the 'male muse' in the history of art (Art & Science of Chola bronzes, Orientations, 37(8), 46-55)

ensuous and sacred

Sembiyan Mahadevi was a consummate temple builder [Early Cola Kings and "Early Cola Temples": Art and the Evolution of Kingship by Padma Kaimal in Artibus Asiae, Vol. 56, No. 1/2 (1996), pp. 33-66] and a highly respected patron of the arts. During her lifetime, special celebrations marked her birthday in the Shiva(Śiva) temple in the town of Sembiyan Mahadevi, named after her, and a metal portrait of the beloved queen was presented to the temple in her honor, possibly commissioned by her son. As such, it would have been recognized as Sembiyan Mahadevi by its use in processions celebrating her birthday. This highly stylized bronze image is an instance of the blurring of lines between royal and divine portraiture in ancient Indian art. While the pose is reminiscent of the goddess Parvati, this tall, svelte image with heavy, naturalistically shaped breasts, pliant bamboo-shoot arms and drapery clinging to her lower limbs is uncommonly individualized in the shape of her face, pursed lips, and long nose. This convergence between sensuous and sacred were more likely to be identified by their placement in a temple, or their function in specific rituals, than through an actual resemblance to their human counterparts. Indian artists often portray Hindu deities with great attention to arm/hand details to emphasize their omnipresence and omnipotence. A variety of hand gestures, known as mudras, are used to express the mood and meaning of the images of the gods. For instance, when the palm is raised to face the worshiper, it is the gesture of protection (abhaya), while a lowered hand with the fingers pointing downward signifies a promise to grant the devotee's wishes ("varada"). The contrapposto pose, known in India as "tribhanga", or triple-bent, was a popular stance; it produced a sense of swaying movement, and most images, whether human or divine, are thus poised. :♦ Rajika Puri discusses a Bharatanatyam dancer's history of the form and its profound depth of meaning. Puri introduces the complexities of "abhinaya" (roughly “mime”) and "hasta" mudras (stylized hand gestures), revealing how it is that Indian dancers combine dancing and acting (nryta) with so-called pure movement (nrtta) in every performance. She tells us that both "abhinaya" and "nrtta" are included in "nrtya", the word that is closest to the idea of “dance” in India. And, "nrtya" is the main vehicle of n [`(a)] tya (theater). In an elegant exegesis of the theory of "rāsa" (“taste” or “flavor”) Puri introduces us to the metaphysical concepts that permeate Indian classical dance forms. She concludes by saying that, “Wherever they may be found in the world, the great traditions of dancing deliberately and consciously convey meaning. They are not simply mindless entertainments.” [Bharatanatyam Performed: A Typical Recital by Rajika Puri in Visual Anthropology (2004) 17(1), pp.45-68] .


"The psychology of art and the evolution of the conscious brain" [The Psychology of Art and the Evolution of the Conscious Brain by Robert L. Solso MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2004. 296 pp. (ISBN 0-262-19484-8)] are the two most nebulous topics in psychology [V. S. Ramachandran, “The Emerging Mind,” BBC Reith lectures, 2003] . In the 1950s, C. P. Snow pointed out that the “two cultures” (science and the humanities) are separated by a huge gap, which many have considered impossible to close. But during the last ten years there has been a growing realization that neuroscience provides an interface that may allow us to bridge the gap.There have been two recent groundbreaking books on "neuroaesthetics": one by Semir Zeki, who coined the term [S. Zeki, Inner Vision: An Exploration of Art and the Brain (Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford, 1999)] , and one by Marge Livingstone [M. Livingstone, Vision and Art: The Biology of Seeing (Abrams, New York, 2002)] . Both emphasize neuroscience more than aesthetics, which gives a different psychological perspectivefor to the Chola bronze of Sembiyan Mahadevi. How does the artist convey the very epitome of feminine sensuality? He simply takes the average female form and subtracts the average male form - leaving big breasts, big hips, and narrow waist. And then amplifies the difference. The result is one anatomically incorrect but sexy goddess.Here the Chola bronze artist has done something quite clever. There are some postures that are impossible for a male owing to the constraints imposed by pelvic anatomy, curvature of the lumbar spine, and angle between the neck and shaft of the femur. A man cannot stand like that even if he wants to. But a woman can do it effortlessly. So the artist visits an abstract space we could call it "posture space", subtracts the average male posture from the average female posture, and then exaggerates it. Doing this produces the elegant triple flexion-or tribhanga-pose, where the head is tilted one way, the body is tilted exactly the opposite way and the hips again the other way. And again the viewer's reaction is not that the figure is anatomically inappropriate because nobody can stand like that. What the viewer should see is a beautiful celestial goddess. This evocative image is an example of the peak shift principle in Indian art.

Visual metaphor

A metaphor in literature juxtaposes two seemingly unrelated things to highlight certain important aspects of one of them. The same is possible in visual art. With all exaggerated features, Sembiyan Mahadevi bronze is not meant to be taken literally. Sembiyan Mahadevi is a visual metaphor yet the most elusive from neuronal and aesthetic perspective. According to Ramachandran the exaggerated features of Sembiyan Mahadevi are meant to symbolyze specific divine attributes [A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness: From Impostor Poodles to Purple Numbers by V. S. Ramachandran Pi Press (2005) p.40] .

ee also

* History of Tamil Nadu


External links

* [ WhatisIndia Inscriptions, Volume 13, ASI]
* [ The equals of men]

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