Sunday, July 01, 2012

South Indian Iconography

At 5AM today morning, I found myself standing next to a strange yet familiar creature at the Uttara Guruvayur Temple in Delhi. Next to the Madhya-Haara or Vilakumattam, was a cement & paint rendition an architectural element quite common in South Indian temples: a gargoyle with the head & claws of a tiger, the trunk of an elephant and legs of a horse.

As if to balance out the ferocity of its bulging, glaring eyes it has a full election, and right below it, a rather comical looking elephant holding on to dear life.

What is this creature called? When did it first make an appearance in South Indian temples?
What could be the iconography behind this South Indian imagery which is conspicuously absent in the Northern temples?

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