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Temple cloth - Temple cloth

Temple cloth

  • Object:

    Temple cloth

  • Place of origin:

    Tamil Nadu (made)

  • Date:

    late 18th century to early 19th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted cotton

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

A large painted cotton (kalamkari) cloth designed for hanging in Hindu temples during religious festivals. This cloth, according to its Tamil inscriptions as translated by Dr Mangalam Mathrubutham, depicts the Subrahmanya temple at Tirupparankunram, Madurai. This is denoted by the temple gate-tower (gopura) in the lower register, flanked by a temple car (ratha), awaiting decoration in the next annual temple festival. These cloths are both decorative and instructional, recounting great events from the epic literature of Hinduism for the benefit of the devotees who would have an opportunity to enjoy and study them whilst waiting for their turn to see the icon of the god (‘take darshana’) in the temple sanctuary.

This example has a central assembly of five presiding deities: Devayani Amman, Subrahmanayasvami, Valli Amman, Durgai Amman and Vigheshvara. The
composition is organised into four registers in which selected scenes from the exploits of Subramanyana, otherwise known as Skanda (Sanskrit) or Murgan (Tamil), the god of war. Glosses written in Tamil accompany each scene identifying the episode depicted. For example, a battle scene centre-right depicts Arumurugan battling Simhamukhasura, a powerful demon. Other battle scenes occupy further panels. Murugan is seen on his peacock vahana upper-left, and so on. The border design has a recurring design of animals – peacocks and deer – and Hindu holymen (rishis), some meditating, some in discourse and others performing yogic austerities in a variety of remarkable (and often acrobatic) postures.

Physical description

Brahmanical temple cloth of coarse cotton fabric painted, chiefly in red and black, with representations of various Hindu deities, depicting scenes of the life of subrahmanya, mythological battle scenes and a view of the Thiruparankundram Hills in Madurai. Rectangular cotton textile painted with figures in red and black dyes.

Place of Origin

Tamil Nadu (made)


late 18th century to early 19th century (made)



Materials and Techniques

Painted cotton

Marks and inscriptions

Inscriptions are in Tamil


Width: 2755 mm Top edge, Width: 2762 mm Bottom edge, Length: 1912 mm Proper right, Length: 1915 mm Proper left, Weight: 17 kg Weighed on roller

Descriptive line

Brahmanical temple cloth of printed cotton, Tamil Nadu, South India, late 18th century to early 19th century

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

p.231, Cat.186
L'escultura en el temples indis : l'art de la devoció : exposició organitzada per la Fundació "La Caixa" i el Victoria & Albert Museum, Londres. [Barcelona: Obra social, Fundació "la Caixa", c2007 Number: 9788476649466

Production Note

Madurai region, Tamilnadu, South India



Subjects depicted



Hinduism; Textiles; Religion


South & South East Asia Collection

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