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Sunday, 9 February 2014





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Sabtha Maathas

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 position.

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 properly.

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 same size.

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.


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