Sculpture Park

    * Heritage in a park *


    Twenty seven sculptures speak of Tamil Nadu's rich literary tradition at
    the Semmozhi Sirpa Poonga in Mamallapuram.

    * SLICES OF HISTORY: Tiruvalluvar's statue at the entrance; depiction of
    elections at Uttaramerur; King Rajasimha paying respects to Poosalar; Appar
    seeking the blessings of Tirugnana Sambandar; and Madhavi dancing with pots.

    A Classical Tamil Sculptures Park (Semmozhi Sirpa Poonga) has come up on
    spacious grounds at the Beach Resort Campus of the Tamil Nadu Tourism
    Development Corporation (TNTDC) in Mamallapuram, 55 km from Chennai. The
    park boasts of 27 sculptures, most of them depicting events and scenes from
    classical Tamil literature.

    Also adorning the park are figures of literary personalities (from Avvaiyar
    of the Sangam age to nationalist poet Subramania Bharati), religious
    personalities (such as St. Thomas who came to Tamil Nadu, and Karaikkal
    Ammaiyar) and Saivite saints Appar and Tirugnana Sambandar. The 11 dance
    poses or karnas of Madhavi, an important character in Ilango's epic
    ‘Silappadikkaram', also find a place here.

    The figurines are arranged in the shape of the Tamil letter ‘zha,' which is
    unique to the language. The park is a forerunner to the World Classical
    Tamil Conference that the State Government is organising in Coimbatore from
    June 23 to 27.

    “With the Tamil Conference round the corner, we want to remind our people
    about Tamil Nadu's heritage and its rich literature,” says V. Irai Anbu,
    secretary, Tourism, Tamil Nadu, who has been the driving force behind the
    park. “We want to teach people through tourism.”

    *Universal theme*

    At the entrance, visitors are greeted with a sculpture of Tiruvalluvar, who
    is seated on a globe, holding the Tirukkural in one hand and a stylus in the
    other. Irai Anbu, who calls the park an open-air museum of sculptures,
    explains, “Tiruvalluvar is seated on a globe to indicate the universal
    nature of the Tirukkural couplets.”

    The park has been set up at a cost of Rs. 88 lakhs, funded by the Tamil Nadu
    Government. The sculptures are made of granite by the staff and students of
    the nearby Government College of Architecture and Sculpture.

    “Experience yourself – that is the aim behind the park,” says S.
    Subramanian, deputy director, TNTDC. “Since Tamil Nadu Tourism Department's
    prime activity is to preserve and highlight the State's heritage, sculptures
    of Kannagi, Madhavi and Karaikkal Ammaiyar have been erected. Avvaiyar was
    chosen because she is a non-aligned literary person and acted as a bridge
    between feuding Tamil kings.”

    A sculpture that instantly arrests attention is the one portraying an
    election under way at Uttaramerur, in around 920 A.D. The entire village has
    gathered to cast its ballot in a terracotta pot (the ‘Kuda Olai' system as
    it is called in Tamil Nadu) to elect the members of the village assembly.
    Uttaramerur, situated about 90 km from Chennai, had an elaborate and highly
    refined electoral system even about 1,100 years ago and a written
    constitution prescribing the mode of elections. The details of this system
    are inscribed on the walls of the village assembly, a rectangular structure
    made of granite slabs.

    The dance poses of Madhavi are exquisite statements. These include ‘Kodu
    kotti,' ‘Alliyam,' ‘Thudi,' ‘Mal,' ‘Pavai' and ‘Kudai.' The figure of her
    balancing pots on her hands, shoulders and head is a sight to behold!

    *Musical instruments*

    One can also find sculptures of wind, percussion and stringed instruments
    that were in use during the Sangam Age, and a coin that belongs to Rajendra

    Two outstanding pieces depict Saivite saints and poets, Appar and Tirugnana
    Sambandar, who admired each other, meeting between Chidambaram and Sirkazhi.

    Another highlight of the park is a carving that shows the Pallava king
    Rajasimha and one of the 63 Saivite saints, Poosalar. While Rajasimha built
    the Shore Temple in a dramatic setting on the sea shore at Mamallapuram and
    the majestic Kailasanatha temple at Kanchipuram, Poosalar was hard up for
    finance to build a Siva temple. So he built a temple in his mind's eye.

    The sculpture shows Poosalar meditating under a tree and building a temple
    in his imagination while the monarch Rajasimha stands deferentially next to
    him. In the background is the relief of the towers of the Shore Temple and
    the Kailasanatha temple.

    A brochure, written in simple Tamil and explaining with literary flourish
    the significance of the 27 sculptures, has been brought out by the TNTDC. It
    has been authored by Subramanian.

    A pamphlet in English is also available.

    A garden too…

    Besides the sculptures' park at Mamallapuram, a Garden of Classical Tamil
    will come up in Coimbatore, the host city of the World Classical Tamil
    Conference in June 2010. The garden will occupy 165 acres on which the
    Central Prison, Coimbatore, is now situated. The project is expected to cost
    Rs. 20 crores. The Tamil Nadu Government will also establish Tolkappiar
    World Tamil Sangam on 14.15 acres at Tallakulam in Madurai. This Sangam will
    have a museum of Tamil scholars belonging to the Sangam age, and a
    convention centre.
    Here the language of stone surpasses the language of man
  • Dear VJ

    Thanks for that..Really interesting!

    SPS is there a plan to do audio guides ? If not is that a venture we should think of we have discussed that in the past...We can do multilingual guides....


    If I can stop one heart from breaking,I shall not live in vain;
    If I can ease one life the aching,Or cool one pain,
    Or help one fainting robin, Into his nest again,
    I shall not live in vain.
    Emily Dickinson

    To: [email protected]

    "REACH" has provided basic data re Thanjavur Big temple.

    Tourism Deptt should have incorporated at whose instance these have been prepared.

    But there have been administrative changes and nothing concrete did take place - including reiumbursement of expenditures !

    let us wait..

    rgds/ sps

  • dear Friends

    Its an honor to advise this august group that my abstract has been selected
    for the upcoming tamil conference ( june 2010) in coimbatore. Its titled -
    Thamizhar sipak kalai - Min pathippum vizhippunarvum - ( the sculptural art
    of tamils - digitisation and awareness). Would welcome ideas to include in
    the same. am short of time, as i need to get the draft out by mid of this
    month. Seek you blessings and wish to thank all the stalwarts who motivated
    me on this journey and still choose to stay behind the screens.
    தமிழர் சிற்பக் கலை: மின் பதிப்பும் விழிப்புணர்வும்rgds
    Here the language of stone surpasses the language of man
  • great news vj congrats
  • Congratulations!!!!
  • Wonderful Vijay. Congrats. Wish you all the good luck in this venture.
  • Very best wishes dear Vijay,

    hearty congrats.

    anbudan / sps
  • Dear Vijay,
    It's certainly time that all your careful research be recognized!
    That's wonderful. All best wishes for success.
    ps thanks so much for explaining 'Anamalaiyaar' --
    it's not a 'who', it's a 'what'
  • Vijay, Congratulations are in order, Sir.
  • Congratulations Vijay. I am a regular visitor to your is a great and informative site

  • thanks everyone. Kathie...its not about recognition, am more excited about
    the additional reach for the site. hopefully a few hundred more visitors and
    one or two gems like you from them
  • Vj,

    All the best, there should happen a mass conversion from ignorance to
    sculptural institution...I am sure you will achieve it.

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