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Terracota idols in Kerala

Now a days you see only dieties made of stone or marble in temples; very rarely you see ones made of terracota. But during Harappa times, objects made of terracota were common. There was an economic class distinction also there. Stone, metal and ivory were materials of the rich, while terracota was used by the poor.

Crude clay figurines of godesses, some of which were early forms of Durga, were worshipped by the lower class before they were included in the orthodox pantheon. Usuallu most of the terracota objects did not even have any religious significance. There were figurines of mother and child and many figures of man and woman and divine heads. Such figurines are dated from the Mauryan time to the Gupta period, but there has been evidence of modeling in later Buddhist sites in Bihar[13].

Though most of these terracota objects were found in North India, now we have some evidence of such idols being used in Kerala.

Several pieces of terracotta idols, believed to be dating back to the 15th century, have been dug up from the premises of a temple at Kadambattukonam near here. The broken pieces of idols and figurines have been referred to the Archaeological Department, whose experts said they appear to be at least five centuries old.

The figures, some of them so vivid with sharp facial features, were chanced upon the other day when the ground around the temple was being dug up using an excavator for building compound wall around the shrine. On sighting a couple of broken pieces, the local people went ahead with the job, delicately thinking that what was coming out could be remnants of a long buried temple.

According to Director of Archaeology Department, V. Manmadhan Nair, the practice of offering terracotta idols to temples was prevalent during the 15th and 16th centuries in parts of Kerala. Based on that, it could be assumed that these pieces could date back to the 15th century. Similar idols were unearthed in the past from Kodungallur in Thrissur district, known in the annals of history as Muziris centuries back.

“One difficulty in assessing the exact date of these objects is that the carbon-dating method for terracotta is not available in the country now. We are still looking for ways on assessing the date,” Nair said. The finds would be brought to the archaeology museum here, he added.[Terracotta idols found from temple site]

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One Response to Terracota idols in Kerala

  1. The Palm Leaf January 20, 2006 at 7:00 am #

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