- Place of origin:
Tamil Nadu (made)
mid 11th century (made)
- Materials and Techniques:
- Credit Line:
Bequeathed by Lady Ampthill
- Museum number:
- Gallery location:
South Asian Sculpture, Room 47b, case 5
This refined figure represents Sambandar, one of the 63 Saiva saints (‘Nayanmars’) of Tamil Nadu. It stands on a circular lotus pedestal with holes that allowed it to be secured during processional use.
Sambandar was born at Sirkali, near Chidambaram, in the late 7th century. As a child he devoted himself to the worship of his lord Shiva. Here he is depicted as a child, standing in a relaxed pose singing hymns in praise of Shiva. Characteristically, the index finger of his raised hand is pointing heavenward , a gesture of devotion he first made as an infant.
He is naked but for a waist belt (‘channavira’), a broad necklace, bracelets and anklets (‘padasaras’) on his feet. His hair lies close to the crown and is neatly dressed in delicate curls. His earlobes are extended but without ornaments.
The veneration of saints had become a feature of popular Hindu worship in South India in the Pallava (about 300 - 888 AD) and Chola (about 850-1267 AD) periods. Sculptures of the saints were installed for veneration and regularly accompanied those of the divinities in temple processions. They retain this place of honour to this day.
This sculpture was reportedly excavated in Tirunelveli (Tinnevelly) District. It entered the collection of Lord Ampthill, Governor of Madras (Chennai) from 1900 to 1906.
This refined figure represents Sambandar, one of the sixty-three Saivite saints of Tamil Nadu. He is depicted as a boy, standing in the thrice-bent or tribhanga pose in the act of singing, the pointed index finger of the right hand serving to articulate the hymn. He is naked but for a belt garland (channavira-type harness), a broad necklace,bracelets, and padasaras on the feet. The hair lies close to the crown and is neatly dressed in delicate curls. The earlobes are extended but without ornaments. The figure stands on a circular lotus pedestal with holes for processional carrying.
Sambandar makes his characteristic gesture of the raised index finger with which, as an infant, he first pointed to Shiva and Parvati. The veneration of saints had become a feature of popular Hindu worship in South India by the Chola period (850-1279), when this image was cast. Sculptures of the saints were regularly installed for veneration alongside those of the divinities and retain this place of honor today.
Place of Origin
Tamil Nadu (made)
mid 11th century (made)
Materials and Techniques
Height: 43.2 cm, Diameter: 18 cm
Object history note
This child saint was acquired by a senior colonial official in the early decades of the twentieth century. This piece was reportedly excavated in Tinnevelly District, Tamil Nadu, and entered the collection of Lord Ampthill, governor of Madras from 1900 to 1906. Lord Ampthill lent it for exhibition at the Festival of Empire, Crystal Palace, in 1911, and it was finally bequeathed to the Museum in 1935 by Lord Ampthill's widow in his memory.
Standing Sambandar, copper alloy, Pandinadu, south India, mid-11th century
Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)
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
Baker, Malcolm, and Brenda Richardson (eds.), A Grand Design: The Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London: V&A Publications, 1999.
E.B.Havell, Eleven Plates Representing Works of Indian Sculpture Chiefly in English Collections, India Society, London, 1911, plate IV, Exhibited at the festival of Empire Exhibition held at the Crystal Palace, 1911.
Reproduced: c.Kar, Indian Metal Sculpture, Tiranti, 1952, pl 28
For iconography see Gravely & Ramachandran, Catalogue of the South Indian Metal Images in the Madras Government Museum, 1932 PP 15 and 134
Labels and date
8. The Poet-Saint Sambandar (Campantar)
Sambandar, a devotee of the god Shiva, lived around 600–
700. As a child, when left by his parents at the temple tank,
he was fed with milk by Shiva’s consort Parvati. When his
parents asked who had fed him, he pointed upward. He later
composed hymns in Tamil and proselytised, becoming one of
the 63 Shaivite poet-saints.
Southern India (Tamil Nadu)
Reportedly found at Tirunelveli
Bequeathed by Rt-Hon. Lord Ampthill GCSI, GCIE, Governor of Madras
Museum no. IM.75-1935 [06/06/2011]
Reportedly Tirunelveli (Tinnevelly) District, Pandinadu, south India
South & South East Asia Collection