Nagna Sundari looking at the scorpion
As you can see from the image, this beautiful shilābālike, popularly known as Nagna Sundari (Nude Beauty), is holding the ends of her dress as though she is undressing. She is scantily clad but covered with a lot of jewelry, including necklaces, bracelets, armbands, and anklets.
Standing with an elegant stance on a disc-like base mounted on top of a lotus pedestal, Nagna Sundari is looking intensely at the scorpion crawling on the side of the base. Her facial expression suggests that she is amused or scared.
Read more about this and other shilābālikes at Belur Chennakeshava Temple: Bracket Figures.
The story behind this shilābālike is anybody’s guess. According to one story, Nagna Sundari is shaking off the scorpion found in the dress. Another one suggests that she is a visha kanye (venomous girl), indicated by the presence of the scorpion, a poisonous creature.
The legends of visha kanyes appear in many ancient Indian texts, including Kautilya’s Arthashastra, a treatise on statecraft authored by Chanakya, the Prime Minister of Emperor Chandragupta Maurya. According to the legend, visha kanyes were beautiful women born with poisonous blood (or other bodily fluids). They were capable of seducing powerful men and killing them with their poison.
Nagna Sundari is one of the 38 bracket figures mounted on the exterior wall surrounding the navaranga (the front portion of the temple). Each figure is attached to an inclined bracket placed just below the eaves, with its base mounted on a pillar slightly below its capital.
Check the Navaraga Layout page for the locations of the bracket figures. Referring to this layout, Nagna Sundari is figure number 26, i.e., she is on the leftmost pillar attached to the facade of the north entrance.
– Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Bracket Figures
– Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Navaranga
– Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Garbhagriha Outer Wall
– Kappe Chennigaraya Shrine
– Somanathapura Keshava Temple
Badami Chalukya Temples:
– Badami, Cave – 1, Cave – 2, Cave – 3, Cave – 4
– Durga Temple at Aihole
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