Sri Dakhinmurthy is the form of Shiva that depicts Him as cosmic guru, imparting wisdom which enlightens and enriches. The iconographic depiction of the form though not consistent mostly illustrates Shiva in a seating posture, under a Vat Vriksha, His right leg stretching down resting on a dwarfish demon.This demon symbolically represents lack of knowledge. In the fresco at Lepakshi though Shiva’s foot does not rest on demon but he can be seen near His foot. As Dakhinmurthy extolls Shiva in supreme teacher form, His one hand is shown in gyan mudra. Normally Rishis, munis are seen sitting on the ground near Him imbibing the divine words.But in this mural at Lepakshi the artists have mingled the prevelent local cultural influences. On Shiva’s head rests a cap like Sufi saints. Jana receiving/ arriving to receive the Gyan are seen dressed like Sultans and Muslim saints. Creatures from Hindu mythology too can be seen and near the demon is perhaps standing goddess Parvati. The creative liberty mixed in right dozes with mythological references makes this mural an interesting document of history, culture, spiritual beliefs and interpretation.
Kiratharjuniyam is a sanskrit Mahakavya composed by Bhairavi narrating the story of severe penance by Arjun to obtain weapon Pashupatha from Lord Shiva in order to defeat Kaurava in the battle and the in between incidents till he finally becomes successful in his mission.
Fresco below depicts one of the scenes from Kiratharjuniyam.Perhaps a scene from the very beginning of the story where Vyas muni advises Arjuna to obtain weapon Pashupatha. Though fresco has suffered a lot through ages yet muni can be seen clearly.The lady in black can be Draupadi and the figure next to her one of the Pandavas.Or may be it depicts Arjuna asking permission of Yudhisthara to leave to forest for doing penance.Whatever it might be despite the damage due to vagaries of time the intricacies of human features, ornaments etc is very endearing.
This one is the boar hunt scene from Kiratharjuniyam — Arjun tried to attack boar from one side while Lord Shiva, disguised as Kirath attacked from other side. During hunt Arjun realized that it is not any ordinary Kirath and Shiva appeared before him in His real form and later on granted the boon of weapon Pashupatha.
Below are the scenes of Draupadi’s svayamvara. On leftmost side is shown Kala-Bhairava with eight arms holding a severed human head and a bowl and His vahana dog is depicted nearby. Two persons, one short and another tall are shown in front of him, one of them would be Drupad worshiping his tutelary God. Next on right is King Drupad , Draupadi, his daughter is shown seated on his lap.This made me remember a ritual of marriages in South India being carried out till date, where the bride sits on the lap of father while the bride groom ties the Thali [ Mangalsutra} and Kanyadan is performed. How deeply rooted and connected are our rituals, customs etc. Next on right, in front of Drupad, Arjuna is shown shooting the matsya-yantra (fish dial) with an arrow looking its reflection in the water below the dial. This follows by the marriage of Arjuna with Draupadi.
Here are shown Virupanna and Viranna worshiping their tutelary deity, Veerbhadra, with their family members.As per a legend, the Veerbhadra temple was constructed by Virupanna using the state treasury. The king came to know about it and announced the punishment that Virupanna be blinded. When Virupanna heard this order, he executed it on his own on the same spot. Local guides will show you the place inside the temple where they say Virupanna threw his eyes.
Here is Goddess Parvati with her friends and attendants. May be a scene before marriage of Shiva – Parvati. It is a lively piece of painting. The attires, the hair styles…variety is astonishing and reflects the skill of artist to capture trends of the time beautifully.
Parvati with friends and attendants.
This one next to the above one depicts the most favourite theme of the artists of yester years India….Shiva – Parvati marriage
There are many others mythological anecdotes painted there —a mural depicting King Muchukunda, the monkey-faced legendary Chola king who is attributed to have established Lord Thyagaraja at the Tiruvarur temple from the heavens, Shiva and Parvati playing Chess, coronation of Rama,Nataraja dancing while other demi- Gods played various musical instruments and a large panel depicting the story of the legendary just king Manunidhi Cholan etc.
Veerbhadreshwara temple at Lepakshi is one of the greatest treasure of murals and frescos .These jewels of art not only depict the mythological themes but also documents the prevalent trends of social life of that time.
All the pictures by Sunder Iyer.