Riddle of Archeology - Who is he?

Flashback to 1988, excavation was going on at Talagoan site by the department of Archeology and Museum, Madhya Pradesh. Started in 1968 large-scale excavation carried out at site and team unearthed ruins of two temples (known as Devrani-Jethani). Around the temple they found many sculptures sadly in bad condition.

But 1988 was different. One fine day the archeology excavation team discovered a giant sculpture in a 10x4 trench. With their skilled hand and carefully they started cleaning around. Sculpture was buried under mud, lying head downwards and at the bottom there was stone slab. Measured 2.7 meter and weight 5 tons, when the sculpture was completely unearthed and visible, everyone was surprised. It was the first time they were seeing sculpture like this unique.

Experts were called in and they were too surprised, No one has seen, read about it before, no reference in any of the archeology books, no reference in the mythology. What is this sculpture? what’s his name? why its buried like this deliberately? Is this form of God? Is this form of demon? Is it just mindlessly imagination of sculptor?

These were the questions hovering around in 1988 and after nearly 30 years we still don’t have an answer. At present he is locked behind iron bar, which make sense. Looking around the site, kind of graveyard of sculpture and preserving the unique sculpture is really needed. 

What are we going to call him. Just because it was found near the Devrani temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and looking it to its furious form, people started calling him Rudra Shiva (Angry form of Lord Shiva).

Ok, so before we talk more about this riddle of iconography. let me describe you how it looks like. It was very difficult to take pictures as it was behind bars but somehow I managed this

Starting from Head. The headgear is made of snake, nose is lizard, ears as peacocks, mustache as two fishes, there is crab on chin, both the shoulders seems to be crocodile and snakes on above the shoulders, eyebrows and eyeballs as frog and eggs, two human face on chest,fingertips are designed as snake.


Human face on stomach, the genital organ seems to be head and neck of tortoise, the waist band is designed like snake. Two faces (seems to be female) carved on the thighs, have hands joined for pranaam , you can also see two more human face on buttock.

lion face on knee, there is snake coming out from left. The sculpture is broken at the bottom , so its not clear what was there.

Including his head. there are 8 human head, two head on chest, one on abdomen, two on thigh and two on buttock. Addition to 8 human heads, there are two lions head on knee and 2 crocodile heads coming out of his shoulders.

Looking at the snake like headgear and furious face no wonder he is called Rudra Shiva (Furious form of Shiva). Nothing much mentioned in Rigveda and few hymns dedicated to him, a storm god prone to anger and quick to dispatch weapons (arrow). He was identified as "fierce like a formidable wild beast . In one hymns he was believed to cure diseases and known as healer. Other vedas describe Rudra as personification of terror, most frightening one.

But the sculpture we have here is not completely matching to Rudra described in ancient books. In our ancient and mythological books we have 10 headed Ravana, The giant Kumbhkarna, Lord Narasimha (Half human and half lion), 8 handed Goddess Durga, Fiery Goddess Kali. But there is no reference to this sculpture we have in Tala.

If you see all ancient temples, archeological sites, all the sculptures there are based on mythological characters or from our lives Gods, dancers, poets, music, war scene, hunting, celebration, education. The sculptor made all those considering the shilpa shastra. So how the sculpture in Tala can be just pure imagination of sculptor. There must be some logic, some belief, some reference behind this sculpture.

From the last 30 years, archeological expert still struggling to identify him correctly or get the reference. There are already many theories

Number of animals carved on his also suggest us to call him "Pashupatinath" (The God of animals)

Could this be based on astrological, zodiacal signs? Crab (Cancer), Lion (Leo), Fish (Pisces), Female Face (Virgo), Twin face on chest (Gemini).

Could this be temple demon, carved for protecting the temple during construction? Once temple construction is done. It was not needed and buried under stand. Remember he was buried deliberately not the accidental fall otherwise it could have been broken.

Could this be fiery gatekeeper (Like Tanjore temple). Is there possibility that excavation team only found one and another such sculpture is still buried under sand?

Could this be yakha or Rakshasha figure, more frighting and benevolent? Such a complex form has never been given to any Rakshasa either.

So there are many possibilities, many theories and we dont know yet, we are not sure about his identity, why such massive unique and marvelous sculpture was discarded? This is indeed riddle of our archeological, mythological and iconography studies.

Devrani-Jethani temple in Tala where you can find this unique sculpture is located in Ameri Kampa village, 29 KM from Bilaspur. I will write more about the Devrani-Jethani temple in next blog

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1 comment:

  1. Life is not always a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes, playing a poor hand well.
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