Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 3:35 AM
In the Chera country, there was great temple-building activity during the Vijayanagara period and the temple of Sthanunatha at Suchindram and the Padmanabhasvami shrine at Trivandrum have had a good deal of additions and embellishments during this period till practically the eighteenth century. The peculiar local type of plan and super-structure may be noticed at Tirunandikkarai and Trikotithanam where the single and double-roofed circular shrines, respectively, represent an individualistic pattern peculiar to Malabar. Though very little has yet been discovered to show the intermediate stages between the early Chera phase at Tirunandikkarai and the late period, there are yet lovely paintings at Tiruvanchikulam that suggest the march of Chera painting in the Kerala country towards the phase that corresponds to the Vijayanagara and the Nayak periods in the Tamil South.
The Chera school closely resembles the contemporary sculpture and wood carvings but, up to the early Vijayanagara period, little has been found to show the intermediate stages. With a distinctive type of anatomy of squat and robust type of figures, peculiar rich ornamentation recalling the Kathakati make-up, they present a subtle combination of the Kanarese and Dravida types easily seen in the peculiar elongate halo surrounding the crown as in Western Chalukya figures and other details. The nandidhvaja in one of the hands of the multi-armed Siva Nataraja on Apasmara at Ettumanur recalls both the Badami and Pattadaskal Natesas as well as the Nallur one. It is interesting to see how closely it resembles a similar painting from the Kailasa temple at Ellora. This huge painting that can vie with the earlier Chola Tripurantaka panel at Tanjavur and with the contemporary Vijayanagara Virabhadra at Lepakshi is a remarkable one located in the temple gopura and forms a fine introduction to the genius of the painter in Malabar at this period of history.
The paintings at Tiruvanchikulam, at Pallimanna, at Triprayer, in the Vadakkunatha temple at Trichur and in the Mattancheri palace constitute a rich heritage from the Cochin area, while those from Vaikom, Ettumanur, Chitaral, etc., having a culmination in the famous paintings from the Padmanabhapuram and Krishnapuram palaces, provide a picture of the painter's art in Travancore area. The mouth is rather wide and the eyes have side-long looks, the body-build is heavy and a smile is evident on the lips of all the figures of this school. Minute details of dress and habits can be studied here. The top-knot of the Nambudiris and the triple lamp so common in Malabar are all present. The scenes from the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the Puranas, including iconographic themes chosen by the painters for portrayal, like the incident of Kumbhakarna gobbling the monkeys so tiny as to escape through his nostrils and ears, are examples of the painters' novel choice of comparatively insignificant but nevertheless interesting scenes.
Writer – C. Shivramamurti