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Ladakh Diaries Part 9: Lamayuru

Lamayuru is one of the most ancient monasteries in Ladakh, the oldest surviving structure dating to the 11 th century CE. What makes this monastery particularly fascinating, is its location, amidst what is today called the “moonscape”, for the spectacular natural rock formations, which truly are “out of the world”! As per legend , there once existed a huge lake in this area, populated only by the Nagas (serpents). It was prophesized that there would be a great monastery built here. This prophecy came true when the great acharya Naropa (756-1041 CE) arrived. He emptied the lake, meditated for many years inside a cave, and built the first monastery here. The present structure is a new one, built around the cave where Acharya Naropa is said to have meditated. This legend seems to fit well with the geological formations seen in the area, which suggest this was a paleo-lake, which disappeared around 1000 years ago. Lamayuru is about 130 km from Leh , and the Indus River flows along th

A Sculpture like none other!

He is over 8 feet tall, and simply seems to take up all the space! We were, to be honest, rather startled, when we first set eyes on him. The reason though, was not his size, but the fact that he seemed to be made up of faces! Wondering what I am talking about? Here, let me show you….





At first glance, he appears grotesque, but he gets more and more interesting as we take a closer look, and realize, that he isn’t just made up of faces. The entire statue is made up of animal and human figures, a thought grotesque in the extreme, but a result surprisingly intricate and awe inspiring….



His head has two serpents coiled around, his eyes are frogs, their mouths open, holding eggs as eyeballs. His nose is a lizard, whose legs form his eyebrows; his moustaches are fishes; his mouth is a crab, and his ears are doves!

His neck is another snake, and his shoulder has birds on them, one looks like an owl, while the other seems to have succumbed to weathering. The hands are the legs of elephants, and his fingers, once again, snakes. His chest, stomach, and thighs are all human faces – interestingly, the upper ones seem to be males while the lower are females! His feet and legs are tigers, and yet another snake rises its hood near his feet, as if it formed his cloak!

He is incredibly interesting, but who is he? We were told that he was Rudra Shiva, from the temple of Tala in Chhatisgarh (the figure here is a replica), but he doesn’t seem to be mentioned in the scriptures, at least the ones we know of. It is evident that he is incredibly ancient, and, according to the ASI, he dates back to the 6th century! He is believed to predate Hinduism as we know it, a combination of Aghora and Rudra worship, more common in tribal societies.

This was my first visit to Chhattisgarh, and I travelled to Raipur and Sirpur, to attend the Sirpur Music and Dance festival, on an invite from the Chhattisgarh Tourism Board. There was much I saw and appreciated, but this sculpture - the first one I saw on my visit - is one which has made a lasting impression – and above all, has made me curious about Chhattisgarh and its history. I now have a deep and burning desire to visit Tala and see the original sculpture!


Have you seen anything like this before? If you have, please do write in  and enlighten me!  

P.S. For more detailed information, read this post by Saurabh, on Puratattva.in

Comments

  1. Fantastic Anu! How do you manage to remember so much :) :) :)

    Looking forward to more...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Sid! we all remember what we love.... i cant imagine how you manage to go talk to so many people, remember their dreams and write it up!

      Delete
  2. you know I have to write or take notes.. else i will forget it all what i see sometimes ..

    those are beautiful sculptures.. thank you for sharing

    Bikram's

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. you are welcome, Bikram. I take notes too, at times where there is too much to see and remember... but some things just stay with me...

      Delete
  3. wow........ great job Bhabhi !!!!!

    ReplyDelete

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