karaikal in cambodia

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Karaikkal Ammaiyar of Chola Country in Ancient Cambodia U-tain Wongsathit Department of Oriental Languages Silpakorn University, Thailand [email protected] Abstract K raikk l Ammaiy r, the most important among women poet-saints from the southern state of Tamil Nadu. She was one of the sixty-three Nayanars or Shivite devotee-saints of Tamil country. K raikk l Ammaiy r lived in the 6th century A.D. When Punitavati, the young and beautiful girl from Karaikkal town, beseeched the god Shiva to divest her of the burden of her flesh, asking only that she watch him dance into eternity, a miracle occurred. In place of the young lady stood an emaciated hag, known henceforth as K raikk l Ammaiy r or Mother of Karaikkal. She composed beautiful poetry in order to praise her beloved God Shiva, describing herself as a demon. The glory of K raikk l Ammaiy r got more recognition in the time of Chola Empire which flourished during 9th-12th centuries A.D. Her images in the demonic form as the devotee constantly gazing to dancing Shiva were frequently depicted in several Chola temples. Moreover, bronze idols of K raikk l Ammaiy r playing cymbal represented her role as a goddess of music, were found throughout the Chola country. Her legend is very rare in the northern part of India. Thus it is fascinating to find that her figure was depicted in several Hindu temples of ancient Cambodia. The finding clearly shows the strong influence of Chola over Angkor Empire through Shaivism. This paper aims to show the appearance of K raikk l Ammaiy r on pediment and lintel in ancient Cambodian sanctuaries from 10th-12th centuries A.D. which is contemporary to the time of Chola Empire.


Story of Karaikkal Ammaiyal The story of Karaikal Ammaiyar was mainly narrated in Periya Puranam, the Tamil Shaivite hagiography written in 12th century A.D. by Sekkizar, the Prime Minister of Chola Emperor Kulottunga II (11331146 A.D.). The Periya Puranam, the great purana or epic, sometimes also called Tiruttontarpuranam (the purana of the holy devotees) is a Tamil poetic account depicting the legendary lives of the sixty-three Nayanars, the canonical poets of Tamil Shaivism. Karaikal Ammaiyar is one of the sixty-three Nayanars and the most important of female saints. She is the historical person who lived in around 6th century A.D. at Karaikkal, the port town near Nagapattinam, Tamil Nadu. Punitavati or Punitavatiyar was her original name. She was born in a Vaisya family. Her father, Danadathan was a wealthy merchant and very pious, too. From her childhood, Punitavati had an intense faith in Lord Shiva and His Bhaktas. She married to Paramadatta, a wealthy Vaisya. Both of them were leading an ideal householders life. One day Paramadatta sent two mangoes to his house. Punitavati kept them to serve at meal-time. In the meantime, a Shiva Yogi appeared before her. He was hungry and completely exhausted. Punitavati worshipped him and wished to offer him Bhiksha. She had nothing to give him, except the mangoes of her husband. She decided to offer one to the guest. At midday Paramadatta came back to the house. The wife served him with one mango. He liked it, and asked for another. She was upset and appealed to the Lord Shiva for help. When she finished her prayer, mysteriously a mango fell on her palm. She served it to husband. He tasted it and found it was exceptionally sweet. He asked her from where she got it, as he was sure it was not his mango. Punitavati told him the whole truth. Paramadatta, however, did not believe this and challenged her to produce another mango. She prayed again to the Lord and again a divine mango appeared. She gave it to him. But, immediately it disappeared from his


hand. He was astounded and recognized the greatness of Punitavati. He felt that it was a great sin to live with her as her husband. On the pretext of going to a foreign country for trade, he sailed with a ship load of goods. On return, he established himself in a big city in the Pandya kingdom. He married a Vaisya girl and had a daughter. Punitavatis relatives came to know of her husbands whereabouts and took her there. When Paramadatta heard that Punitavati was coming to him, he with his second wife and child fell at Punitavatis feet. When the people asked an explanation, he revealed that he regarded her as a Goddess. Punitavati understood his mental condition, and prayed to the Lord to divest the burden of her flesh: In that case, Oh Lord, deprive me of the present physical charm and let me have a demonic form. Her prayer was immediately granted and her charming body was transformed into a skeleton. Since then she was called K raikk l Ammaiy r which means the Mother of Karaikkal town. Then she went on a pilgrimage to the holy Kailasa. She felt that it was a great sin to place her foot on those sacred grounds. Thus, she made the last part of the journey on her head. Mother Parvati was surprised to see her strange form and wonderful devotion. The Lord Shiva welcomed her with extreme love and granted her a boon. She fell at His Feet, and prayed: Oh Lord of Mercy, give me sincere, pure, unalloyed, eternal and overflowing devotion unto You. I want no more birth. And whenever You dance, I must be at Your feet singing Your praise. This is my only wish. Lord Shiva granted the boon and asked her to proceed to Tiruvalangadu to witness His cosmic dance. She went to that place and spent her life singing the praise of Lord Siva. Karaikkal Ammaiyar was credited for 4 works - Arputta Tiruvantadi containing 100 verses in the form of Venpa in antali style, Tiru Irattai Mani Malai containing 20 verses and two short poems called Tiruvalangkattu and


Mutta Tirup patikam or Divine Verses in Tiru Alangkatu (Cutler 1987: 118).


Iconography of Karraikkal Ammaiyar Mutta Tirup patikam or Divine Verses in Tiru Alangkatu is the main source providing the iconography of K raikk l Ammaiy r. As per boon granted to see cosmic dance at Tirukkailai and sing under the sacred feet of Lord Shiva, K raikk l Ammaiy r reached there by walking on her head. She saw Lords divine dance along with the ghosts or Bhutaganas. She was struck by divine grace, and then sung to describe the greatness of cosmic dance in Mutta Tirup patikams. In the first verse of patikam she speaks about herself as follow: Breast fallen, nerves bulging, Eyes sunk, stomach hollow, White teeth with two projecting, Heels raised, angles lengthening, (Parmeshwaranand 2004:59) And in another work she said


The ground is damp with liquid marrow-Skeletal ghouls with sunken eyes jostle and elbow-looking furtively around them extinguishing the fires with gleeful hearts they eat half-burned corpses-There, in that menacing forest holding fire in his hand dances our beautiful lord. (Vidya Dehejia 1990: 105) From these sources K raikk l Ammaiy r image was presented in the form of skinny female demon with big bulging eyes and along pointed deterrent lean breasts accompanying the cosmic dance of Lord Shiva. She constantly fixes her eyes on the Lord. She occasionally was depicted as a demon musician playing cymbals along with other gods or Shiva attendants. Karraikkal Ammaiyar in Chola country Although the worship of Shiva Nataraja is a long tradition in Chola country since the time of Pallava around 7th century A.D. (Srinivasan 2004), but the first appearance of K raikk l Ammaiy r is introduced in the time of Chola Empire probably since the popularity of Periya Puranam. In Chola country we found the appearance of K raikk l Ammaiy r in two aspects. (1) The first aspect is the group appearance as one of the attendants of Lord Shiva. In this context K raikk l Ammaiy r is depicted as a female demon devotee seated on the pedestal of the Shiva Nataraja with the other musicians or demons.



The second aspect is an individual. Besides presentation of K raikk l Ammaiy r as part of a Shiva Nataraja, there is also the individual appearance of the skinny woman found terrifying and playing cymbals, often with inscriptions identifying as K raikk l Ammaiy r.

K raikk l Ammaiy r was not only depicted in bronze, but also in the stone reliefs of many great Chola temples. The most interesting is an image of Shiva Nataraja in an alcove south of the great Shiva temple, Rajarajesvara or well known as Brihadisvara in Thajavor. Directly below Shiva there are a group of four musicians. At the most left of the


row, it is shown K raikk l Ammaiy r as a seated woman with thin pointy breasts whiles her wild hair spread all sides. She looks a bit like the fearsome goddess Kali, to the right of Shiva is depicted in the niche. The individual figure of K raikk l Ammaiy r is found totally over Tamil Nadu and Kerala, the two southernmost states of India. The earliest image is from the date 981 A.D. It was a stone image found in a niche as the fact that Gangaikondacolapuram Kailasanathasvamin Sembiyan Mahadevi temple in the village on the southeast coast of India. Apart of that we found bronze images of Karaikkal Ammaiyar in a big number. The unique of these images is the seated woman in the terrific form playing cymbals. The Karaikkal images were worshiped in individual as the goddess of music or poet since her talent and contribution in such science. Because generally the South India images refer directly to the great epic and puranic stories as all over India, it is regarded as unique to a local poet / saint as Karaikkal Ammaiyar so popular from the tenth century A.D. This reveals cultural tensions concerning womens roles and the devotional path. Karraikkal Ammaiyar in Ancient Cambodia Among the countries in Southeast Asia which received Indian culture, Cambodia shows very strong Indian influence in varied manner. The Funan, the first kingdom in Southeast Asia emerged in around 1st C.A.D. Shaivism also played very important role in Ancient Cambodia society since the early time. The people of Ancient Cambodia worshiped the Shiva Nataraja since the 5th C.A.D. The K.440 inscription of King Ishanavarman I who ruled around 616-628 A.D. recorded the installation of the silver image of Nrittesvara. Then in 10th C.A.D. one record of King Suryavarman I, K.276 mentions the name of Shiva god as ShriNatakesvara dasabhuja along with other deities. Even though the Ancient Khmers respected the Shiva Nataraja for many centuries, but the first appearance of Karaikkal Ammaiyar took place in around 10th C.A.D. and continued until 12th C.A.D.


Bateay Srei Temple was built in 968 A.D. by Yajnavaraha who enjoyed the honorific title of Vrah Guru, holy preceptor of Jayavarman V of Angkor Empire. Yajnavaraha was a grandson of one previous king Harsavarman I. He found the jewel of ancient Khmer monuments, Bateay Srei temple to enshrine the Shivalinga named Tribhuvanamahesvara. On one pediment of the temple the scene of cosmic dance of Lord Shiva was depicted. On the left corner of the pediment we witness the figure of K raikk l Ammaiy r. If we compare this image with that of Chola Shiva temples, then indeed, apart from stylistic and regional differences, many similarities can be found. We see a dancing Shiva with musicians including, drummer at the right corner and one to the left, terrifying female figure playing some instrument. She has large round eyes, a gaping mouth with big teeth in it as a female demon and it is clear skinny.


Prasad Banteay Srei, Cheam Khsan, Prah Vihear Province

It is not only in the Angkor area where the capital located that the image of K raikk l Ammaiy r was represented, but outside the capital to the west we also found her image. A pediment of the Prasad Basset temple in Battambang province shows an image of eight-armed dancing Shiva and in the below part of the said pediment at the most left corner we found the seated woman is depicted. Mireille Bnisti (1969) identified her with K raikk l Ammaiy r. We know from the several inscriptions from the site (K.205-208) that the temple was erected in 1063 A.D. probably by high official Gunapativarman dedicated to Shiva. This date coincides with the Baphuon style of 11th C.A.D. in that pediment.


Prasad Basset, Songkea, Battambang Province


Map of Cambodia


Prasad Sneng Krabei Chaung, Cheam Khsan, Prah Vihear Province

To the North of Angkor in Preah Vihear province we found a stone temple, Prasad Sneng Krabei Chaung. On the pediment of that temple the Lord Shiva was engraved in dancing gesture with ten arms. On the left side of that there was a figure of seated female attendant who has pointed lean breasts. Although her body was not quite skinny, but she cannot be other than K raikk l Ammaiy r since having the pointed lean breasts is a unique of her iconography. It is interesting to note that her gesture is same as that on the lintel of Prasad Basset, Battambang. Although we do not know the date of the temple, but from the Ancient Cambodia Art background this pediment belongs to Angkor Vat style of art which falls to 12th C.A.D.


Preah Theat Baray, Srei Sonthor, Kompong Cham Province

We found two other lintels from the South of Cambodia which the image of K raikk l Ammaiy r was carved. In Kompong Cham province an unfinished lintel from Preah Theat Baray illustrates the ten-arm dancing Shiva surrounded by several deities. On the left next to god Brahman there is the seated K raikk l Ammaiy r gazing to the cosmic dance. In this lintel her hair style is similar to that of Bateay Srei Temple, but the gesture is same as that of Prasad Basset. This lintel also is in Angkor Vat style of 12th C.A.D.


Lintel from Phnom Thma Doh, Bati, Takeo province

Another lintel is from Takeo province, south Cambodia. The lintel is found at Phnom Thma Doh mountain of Bati district. Although the lintel is not in good condition, but it is clear that it shows the scene of Nataraja. On the most left corner of the scene one picture is very obvious. An image apparently represents the female demon and her location in the last left also implicates the humble status. She cannot be any other than K raikk l Ammaiy r who was in the demon form.


Prasad Phimay, Nakorn Rajasima Province, Thailand

K raikk l Ammaiy r is found not only in Cambodia, but also in the Northeastern of Thailand. Three ancient Khmer temples from that area draw her figure on base-relief. Phimay temple, the biggest Khmer monument in Thailand, was built during 11th-13th centuries A.D. Although Phimay was a Buddhist monastery, but sculptures also present images of Rama and Shiva. A pediment of main sanctuary depicted the scenes of Nataraja. On the most left of the pediment there is an image of skinny female which can easily identify with K raikk l Ammaiy r, even though her face was lost. Regarding to the style of art that pediment is apparently carved in Angkor Vat style of 12th C.A.D.



Prasad Phnom Rung, Burirum Province, Thailand

The Phnom Rung temple located in Burirum province was built by Narendraditya, a relative of King Suryavarman II of Angkor. On the eastern pediment above the entrance of the main hall (Mandapa) there is a representation of a ten-armed Shiva dancing surrounded by deities such as Ganesha in the right part whose hands keep joining. This relief is unfortunately severely damaged, and other figures are difficult to identify. On the left side there is the figure of woman having the pointed lean breasts. Her face was huge damaged. However from the iconographic surroundings this signifies K raikk l Ammaiy r. The time of construction of Phnom Rung falls in 12th C.A.D.

In the National Museum Phimai a lintel from the Prasad Ku Suan Taeng temple from Buriram Province is dated back to 12th C.A.D. A two-armed dancing Shiva is depicted with this on right the four-headed Brahma and Ganesha playing instruments. On the left of another


terrifying seated female figure depicted with big bulging eyes. Peter de Bruijn, Dutch scholar made an identification of K raikk l Ammaiy r.

Prasad Ku Suan Teang, Buriram Province, Thailand


Map of Thailand


Prasad Naray Ceang Veang, Sakon Nakorn Province, Thailand

Another example from Northeastern Thailand is from the Prasad Naray Caeng Veang, Sakon Nakorn dated 12th C.A.D. On a pediment inside the main sanctuary the Nataraja picture was depicted. In the left part next to Ganesh who is attaining an audience figure of seated woman is represented. The decorative ornaments mark her more significance than other attendants in the right side. This is a good evidence of K raikk l Ammaiy rs appearance as the female saint. Conclusion From the data of all images of K raikk l Ammaiy r in Khmer Art both in Cambodia and Thailand it is worthy to note that the appearance of K raikk l Ammaiy r is in group as devotee attendant companying with the Nataraja scene. She never appeared in individual. Her position in the audience in Khmer Art is fixed in the left part of the setting from various temples during 10th 12th C.A.D. Three styles of Khmer Art are employed for her appearance namely


Banteay Srei (967-1000 A.D.) Baphuon (1050-1080 A.D.) Angkor Vat (1080 1175 A.D.) The Iconography of K raikk l Ammaiy r in Khmer Art is represented by the artists in two features i.e. 1. The female demon with the skinny body occasionally playing cymbals 2. The female saint with normal body and has pointed lean breasts sometimes posted in audience gusture. These two forms of K raikk l Ammaiy r agree with that of Chola bronzes. The Ancient Khmer artists probably learned the character of K raikk l Ammaiy r through these images.


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