Amazing museum quality very rare unparalleled example of the art category 'Tanjore' paintings. Borders have real gemstones and the paint might contain some precious metal gold leaf.
Depicts Shiva, Parvati, Ganesh & Karthik and the 63 devout Nayanar saints and their acts of devotion & worship at the lingam shrines.
Thanjavur, 18th century (1700s)
118 x 87 cm
From Bonhams, London.
The Nayanars were a group of 63 saints living in Tamil Nadu during the 6th to 8th centuries CE who were devoted to the Hindu god Shiva
Stories of some Nayanars depicted in this painting:
a) Kanampulla Nayanar - Legend has it that Shiva decided to test Kanampulla Nayanar’s devotion. Due to a famine, he was unable a to sell grass, but the Nayanar saint wanted to continue to serve Shiva by lighting lamps in his temple. He prepared a wick from the dry grass and burnt it, but it soon extinguished. In despair, he offered his own hair for burning. He extended his head near the lamp and spread his hair to be burnt. Pleased by the Nayanar's deep devotion, Shiva appeared before him and released him from the cycle of rebirth.
b) Kali Nayanar He was a devotee of Shiva and used to serve the devotees of Shiva (Shaivas). Every day, he welcomed them, washed their feet, and worshipped them. He also served lunch to the devotees and offered them money and gifts. Once, when the devotees gathered for lunch at Kalikamba's house, he started with his daily ritual of pada-puja (washing of feet to show respect) of the devotees. His wife helped him in the service. The wife would pour water from the pot, as Kalikamba washed the feet. When Kalikamba was about to wash the feet of a devotee, she recognised the devotee as their former servant and hesitated from pouring water from the pot. Kalikamba felt that the wife has desecrated the sacred service. He took the pot from her hand and cut off the hand by his sword.
c) Seruthunai NayanarThe queen picked the flower and smelt it. In Hinduism, it is taboo to use or smell flowers meant for God, before they are offered to him.. Though she accompanied the king on official visits to temples, as a non-Hindu, she did not worship Shiva.[ Seruthunai Nayanar another Nayanar, served at the temple noticed the queen's actions. He was enraged by the conduct of the Pallava queen. Ignoring her royal status, he dragged her by her hair and pushed her on the ground.
These are three of the 63 stories .. there are many more waiting to be explored.
This has been a rewarding journey into Hindu legends that are local to a particular region within India and not even religious scholars / priests from other places are aware of these.
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