One of the most fascinating themes from the Mahabharata is the story of Arjuna obtaining the boon of Pasupata from Siva, the Kirätarjuniyam, It has been a favourite episode which has attracted the attentions of poets, sculptors and artists of our Country for literary and visual representation. Taking the lead from Prof. T.N. Ramachandran, who wrote his classic essay, The Kiratarjuniyam in Indian Art, Dr. M.S. Nagaraja Rao has made a deep probe into the subject. In the present work, he has presented to the scholarly world the theme as known from literature-Sanskrit and Kannada-through the ages; from local traditions; and in plastic representations. Although he has confined his study to all the known artistic manifes tations of the epic episode, he has paid special attention to the theme as known from the literature and art of Karnataka. In the words of that well-known doyen of Indian art history, C. Sivaramamurti, "Dr. Nagaraja Rao has done a special service to Scholarship by discussing Kiratarjuniyam in literature both in Sanskrit and in Kannada, discussing the folk-traditions of the theme in Karnataka and the places associated with it. He has specially dilated upon the artistic representations of Kirätärjuniyam theme in sculpture as well as in painting with its literary parallels...... He explains the theme to show how the Karnataka Crafts men had a bias for local tradition as in Andhra."
Dr. Rao's book also reveals the popularity of the theme in Kerala where it is represented in wood and murals. The author has tried his best to incorporate all the known examples of the artistic representations, and "his exposition clarifies and helps better understanding of a universally popular theme in our Country".
M.S. Nagaraja Rao (b. 1932), obtained M.A. degree in Indology, with first class from the university of Mysore, in 1955 under Prof. K.A. Nilakanta Sastri. With a U.G.C. Scholarship (1962) he worked in the Deccan College on the Chalcolithic cultures of the Deccan with special reference to North Karnataka under the guidance of Dr. Sankalia and was awarded Ph.D. Degree of the Poona University (1967). In 1966 he went to U.K. on a Commonwealth Scholarship & worked under Dr. Allchin. He was also awarded the John D. Rockefeller 3rd Fund fellowship to undergo training in Museology at the Institute of Fine Arts & Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Dr. Rao has several excavations to his credit. Noteworthy among them are at Tekkalakota, Sanganakallu in Bellary District, Hallur and Tadakanahalli in Dharwar district, and Muttalavadi in Mysore district. In 1970 as a member of a team of archaeologists from Harvard University, he participated in the excavations at Tepe Yahya, Iran. He has also co-directed the excavation at the Satavahana site of Vadgaon-Madhavpur, with Dr. Sundara (1972). Presently he is directing the National Project of Excavations at Hampi (Vijayanagar), along with the Superintending Archaeologist, Bangalore, of the Archaeological Survey of India.
Dr. Rao is a member of several professional organizations. He was one of the three Indian delegates to the Unesco Seminar on the development of Museums in South-east Asia, (Delhi-Bombay in 1966). He has also participated in several conferences on Museums held in Poland, West Germany, United Kingdom, and U.S.S.R. He has visited many important Museums in Western Europe, U.S.A, Mexico and the U.S.S.R. He is a member of the International Council of Museums and Executive Member of the Commonwealth Association of Museums.
Dr. Rao started as an Epigraphist of the State Archaeological Deptt. Mysore, and also served in the Survey Archaeological for some years before becoming the Curator of the Museum of Art and Archaeology, Karnataka University (1964-1972), from which position he took over the reins as Director of Archaeology and Museums in Karnataka.
Dr. Nagaraja Rao's publications include besides several research papers: Stone Age Hilldwellers of Tekkalakota, 1965; Excavations at Sanganakallu, (with Dr. Z.D. Ansari) 1969; Protohistoric Cultures of the Tungabhadra Valley, 1971; Progress of Archaeology in Karnataka, 1977; Chalukyas of Badami (Seminar papers edited by Dr. Rao) and the pre sent work.
I am most happy that Dr. M.S. Nagaraja Rao has chosen the noble theme of KIRATARJUNIYAM IN INDIAN ART with special reference to Karnataka. The Kiratarjuniyam theme has been a favourite from the earliest phases of Indian Art and there is no part of our country, which is a great sub-continent, where it has not been thought of by sculptors and painters for visual representation. If Bharavi has created a great Mahakavya on this theme, great masters in the field of sculpture and painting have equally created masterpieces to represent it.
From Rajaona there is the famous Gupta carving narrating the story of Siva as hunter fighting Arjuna. In Eastern Chalukyan sculpture series, on a pillar of the ninth century of great importance, with an inscription on it, in the Parthisvara temple on the Indrakila hill, is a visual portrayal of the story of Arjuna for the Pasupata weapon, narrated in the inscription as well. In the large seventh century Pallava carving on a boulder at Mahabalipuram, Arjuna's penance has a Pallava version. The early Western Chalukya sculpture in Vikramaditya's temple of Virupaksha at Pattadakal, the Chola carving as an elaborate version of it in a lengthy narration of sequence of incidents from the story on the plinth of the early Chola gopura of the Rajarajesvara temple in about 1000 A.D., are not only interesting from an aesthetic vision but also as illustrations of the popularity of this noble episode from the Mahabharata. The continuity of the popularity of the theme is so reflected in art that at Lepakshi there is a spirited Vijayanagar painting in the Virabhadra temple depicting this story.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
Children’s Books (79)
Brahma Sutras (85)
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