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Brass Horse-Mounted Aiyanar
Pudukottai region, Tamil Nadu, South India
circa 18th century
height: 21cm, length: 13.2cm, width: 7.3cm
This image, almost certainly from Tamil Nadu, in India's south, shows the god Aiyanar mounted on a horse. Aiyanar is shown with luxuriant hair pulled to the
top of his head, a long moustache, copious jewellery, and a Shaivite mark on his forehead. One hand grips the rein of the horse and the other is held aloft as
if gripping a spear. [Pal (2003, p. 280) illustrates a similar model of a mounted Aiyanar which also holds an arm aloft but with the spear missing.]
The well-cast horse also has copious jewellery and decoration. It stands on an open platform.
Aiyanar and his horse have been cast separately. The god sits atop the horse and can be freely removed.
Aiyanar (also spelt Ayyanar, Ayanar or Iyenar) is a village deity of Tamil Nadu. He is primarily worshipped as a protective guardian deity. Most Hindu priests
with a strong attachment to Aiyanar are from the local potter communitiy, but other caste members also officiate in his temples. The linkage with potters
accounts for the large numbers of terracotta models of horses to be found in the grounds of Aiyanar temples in those parts of Tamil Nadu where Aiyanar
worship is practiced (see the images below.) These models are there for the god to use at night when he emerges from the temple. It is why many of these
models verge on being life-size.
The example here is in fine condition. It is heavy and well cast, with a fine patina.
Pal, P., Art from the Indian Subcontinent: Asian Art at the Norton Simon Museum, Yale University Press, 2003.
Provenance: UK art market
Inventory no.: 3384
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Aiyanar image at a temple in the Chettinad district of Tamil Nadu, South India.
The photographs below who terracotta statues of Aijanar made as offerings
at a similar temple. Photographed in January 2015.