sculptures of Sri Lanka:
In Bharatha Natyam repertoire the dance item Sabdam is based on seven
counts in the thala scale. Misrachaapu thala in Carnatic music is based
on seven thala counts. Sabdam is the dance item which is a must that it
should always be based on Misrachaapu thala and it starts with Kambothi
Raga. In Hinduism the seven Rishis are called Sabda Rishis. These Sabda
Rishis could be still seen among the stars.
Sabda Thandava of Lord Siva has seven different Thandavas depicted in
one single Thandava known as Ananda Thandava. Sabda
Swaras in Indian classical music means seven Swaras. Similarly, Sabda
Lokhas means seven worlds. The seventh day after the full moon day and
seventh day after the dark full moon day is called Sabthami.
In Sri Lanka seven Maathas( seven mothers) are carved in three
different same size slabs. All these different seven Maathas are called
Sabtha Maathas. Today these excellent ancient sculptural figures are
seen at the National Museum of Colombo titled Sabtha Maathas. The same
category of Sabtha Maathas (seven mothers) sculptural images are still
seen at the Indian archaeological sites, National Museum of New Delhi
and numerous Sivan temples of South India.
There are altogether three individual slabs which are seen with the
carved figures at the Colombo National Museum. Actually the Sabtha
Maathas' stone slabs sculptures were found at the ancient th Sivan
temple of Polonnaruwa. All the carved figures of Sabtha Maathas are
based on Hinduism and depicted with four arms. They are seen putting
their right legs down and keeping their left legs in a crossed seated
According to Hindu mythology the seven Maathas are named Brahmi,
Maheswari, Vaishnavi, Varaahi, Kaumaari Indraani and Chaamundi. In
Hinduism there are legends surrounding the origin of the Sabtha Maathas.
According to one of the Sabtha Maathas Brahmi originated from Lord
Brahma, Goddess Vaishnavi Maatha originated from Lord Vishnu and
Maheswari originated from Lord Siva. In another legend Goddess Brahmi is
the consort of Lord Brahma (the God of creation). Lord Brahma is often
referred to in Tamil as Naanmuhan, because it reveals that Lord Brahma
is always depicted with four faces. Naanmuhan means four faced Lord. In
this stone carved Sabtha Maathas the sculpture Goddess Brahmi is
depicted with three faces.
The cause may be the sculptor who carved this sculpture could not
carve the fourth face because the backside is blocked and covered with
the slab base. This may be the cause that the Brahmi sculpture might
have been sculptured with three faces. The symbols of the two upper
hands are not clear and cannot easily identify the symbols in the hands
Lord Vishnu is the God of protection and his consort is Goddess
Vaishnavi. Goddess Maheswari is considered the consort of Lord Siva the
God of destruction. Lord Siva is often referred to as Lord Maheswaran.
One of the unique sculptures among the Sabtha Maatha slab sculpture is
Goddess Maheswari. The head of this sculpture wears a crafted headgear
with four arms. Except this sculpture all other sculptures are seen
wearing uncarved head gear. Her lower right arm is holding Thirichul,
upper right arm is holding Udekku (Udeki or Damaru), and the down left
hand is resting on the thigh. The left upper hand is holding Pasa cord
(worldly illusions, desires and attachment). The costume patterns and
ornamental decorations are not seen.
Among the other seven Maathas, Kaumarai is said to have originated
from Lord Skanda. Varahai is another Maatha among the group of Sabtha
Maathas. It is assumed that Varahai is the consort of Varaaha
incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Among the 10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu,
Varaaha Avathara Lord Vishnu appeared with a boar face and protected the
earth from destruction.
Here among the seven Sabtha Maathas Varahai is depicted with a boar
face to imply the consort of Varaaha. Indran's consort Indrani is also
considered as one of the seven Maathas.Chaamundi is considered one of
the divine origins of the Sabtha Maathas.
The period of this particular stone slab sculpture is estimated in
between the period of 10th, 13th century A.D. The sculptures are
depicted in three individual slabs and all the sculptures are
beautifully carved with four arms each. The Sabtha
Maathas are carved on horizontal level and all are sculptured in the
There are no differences in the size of the seven sculptures. The
word hastha in Sanskrit means hand gesture.
Both these Hasthas are the common features among all the Hindu
sculptures. In sculptures there are altogether 32 different varieties of
sculptural hands which are in use.
Yet Abaya hastha, Varatha hastha and Viyakiyana hastha are commonly
seen in the sculptures. Abaya Hastha means protecting hand,Varatha
Hastha means pouring blessings (Facing down)and Viyakiyana hand means
preaching hand. Among the Sri Lankan Archaeological sculptures the group
of Sabtha Matha statues is unique and implies the deep Hindu philosophy.