Sunday, 31 August 2014

Roots of Rock Art in Ancient Kongu

An ancient rock painting at Vellarukampalayam

 It is true that every work of art on earth has its origin somewhere in the distant past. And by tracing its roots, one may conclude that art has been inseparable from human life throughout man’s long journey of evolution

“The beautiful sculptures, which we admire at temples today, have their roots from cave paintings belonging to various periods of history” said T.Subramanian, retired Assistant Director, State Department of Archeology.

Kottravai or Kannagi at Marayur?

The archeologist, who addressed on the title Kongunaattu Gukai Oviyangal (Cave paintings in Kongunadu) at the monthly lecture series of The Vanavarar Foundation on Friday, pointed out:

A cave painting at Kovanur

“The cave paintings of Tamil Nadu date back to the Neolithic age and the practice of painting images on rocks continued through Megalithic age and reached the Sangam age”

Pointing out the references on art in the ancient period, Subramanian said that many lyrics from Sangam literature mention the places, where paintings were done, as Chithirakoodam, Chithiramaadam and so on. He also noted that descriptions about how pictures were drawn are detailed in the great Tamil epic Manimekali.

Tracing the discoveries of cave paintings in Kongunadu, Subramanian said:

“The first cave painting discovered in the Kongu region was at Vettaikaran Malai in in Coimbatore

Displaying the picture of the cave painting in his power point show, the archeologist explained:

“The ancient piece of art depicts two men, one seated on the elephant and another on horseback holding a spear in his hand. The painting also shows men dancing in a row holding their hands together. The images drawn on the rock could be implying a fight between two tribes or a hunting scene.”

Displaying another cave painting discovered at Marayur on the way to Munar, Subramanian said:

“The rock art depicts a human being in a standing posture surrounded by a number of deer.  Many archeologists have opined that the human image is none but Kotravai (A Goddess of victory mentioned in the pieces of ancient Tamil literature) as deer was Her Vahanam (Vehicle)”

Nevertheless, Subramanian noted that a popular tale among the tribes of Marayur links the rock art with the events in the great Tamil epic Silapathikaram.

“The tribes at Marayur believe that numerous goldsmiths of Madurai migrated to Munar after Kannagi set the city on fire condemning the Pandya king’s killing of her innocent husband Kovalan. A wicked goldsmith in Madurai, who actually stole the Pandya king’s anklet, charged Kovalan with the theft. With his charge leading to Kovalan’s unjust execution, the tribes at Marayur believe that all other goldsmiths left Madurai and began worshipping Kannagi. Hence, the tribes say that the human being depicted in the rock art is none other than Kannagi drawn by the goldsmiths” 

Link to my article in The New Indian Express:

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