The Gajasamharamurthy at Darasuram.
SCRIPTURES LIKE Sivamahapuranam reveal that Lord Siva performed eight heroic deeds.
Based on this concept, there exist eight Siva temples in Tamil Nadu with the name Veerattaneswaram. Of these, Vazhuvur is the place where Lord Siva enacted the heroic deed of killing the elephant that had come out of the sacrificial fire, directed by the rishis of Tarukavana towards Lord Siva.
The Lord is said to have entered the trunk of the elephant and caused it to burst. He then wore its hide on Him. Sivamahapuranam, Sivaparakramam and Kandhapuranam explain in detail the killing of demon Gajasura by Lord Siva. Carrying the hide of the elephant in both His hands, He danced with eight arms showing anger and smile on his face at the same time.
The smile was for His Consort, Uma, who watched the sight in awe, shielding the child Muruga. This Gajasamharamurthy sculpture was created by all the kings right from the age of the Pallavas. The figures in their larger forms are the Kanchipuram Kailasanathar temple, Kodumbalur Moovar temple, Gangaikondacholapuram, Darasuram, Thirukadaiyur, Thiruchenkattankudi, Thiruthuraipoondi and Chidambaram temple. In the early Chola temples, they appear in a smaller size on the pillars and arches.
Of all the sculptures of Gajasamharamurthy, the one at Darasuram temple is unique and has now been kept at the Art Gallery in Thanjavur. The sculpture which was created in 1150 A.D. by Rajaraja Chola - II was kept in the temple's northern Devakoshtam at Darasuram. There exists the inscription "Aanai Uriccha Devar" above the Koshtam which can be seen even today.
The sculpture is five feet tall. The head of the elephant is seen beneath. The two rear legs and the tail of the elephant are seen at the top.
The Lord keeps His right leg on the head of the elephant, raises His left leg and turns his body to the fore. The hide of the elephant is in His two hands. He comes out from the torso of the elephant with eight hands, in a dancing form. His two fingers pierce through the hide of the elephant. Damaru, tusk of the elephant, and Trishul are seen in the right hands of the Lord. Kapalam and Pasam are seen in the left hands.
The finger of the other left hand points to Uma Devi moving away in fear. She has Murugan on her hip and prevents him from watching the spectacle. If one moves to the right of the Gajasamharamurthy, the expression one sees is anger. If one moves towards the left the other half of the face can be seen smiling. The expressions of anger and smile on the same face of the Lord and the expression of fear on the face of Devi make the sculpture at once lively and divine.
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