Hero Stones in Madras Government Museum

Three hero stones are up for exhibition in the Madras government museum, each one of them depicting glorious battle scenes and inscriptions.

Hero stones were carved and erected for warriors who died in battle. An average hero stone would have three panels, carved out horizontally, depicting various scenes. In the upper most panels, there would be the Sun or the Moon or the deity of worship, symbolizing the heavens. Middle panel depicts the hero, sometimes seated in a palanquin or a shrine being lifted toward the heavens by Apsaras (Heavenly Nymphs). The lower panel would be the warrior’s battle scenes.

The inscriptions are about the warrior’s life, his battle and his greatness, all of which is depicted in detail in honor of the warrior.

The first Hero stone you see as you walk in was found in Hemavati village of Anantapur District in Andhrapradesh and was dated back to 9th century CE. This stone was an inscribed pillar depicting a fight between warriors mounted on elephants carved on one side of it, on the other side there are two warriors carved one below the other. On the other side there are two warriors on horseback one riding the horse and the other wielding a spear and a shield. This stone is inscribed too and the inscription is in old Kannada.

The second stone was found in Chippagiri village in Bellary District, Karnataka. This stone was from 10th century CE. It was showing two warriors on horseback, one with a sword and the other with a lance rushing at a great speed over the battle field strewn with corpses. In the upper panel there is a Sivalinga adored by a seated figure on one side and a standing figure on the other side. On the middle panel there are two Apsaras (Heavenly Nymphs) attending on a hero fallen in battle. A part of the lower panel and portions of the top panel are broken and missing.

The last stone in this museum was found in Ipuru village in Guntur District, Andhra Pradesh. It was dated back to 10th century CE. This hero stone showed a warrior on horseback brandishing his sword and was being attended by two of his attendants one of whom holds a parasol over his head. At one end of the top of the slab there are a number of women carved in low relief as attending on somebody. Perhaps these are Apsaras who attend to those who attain Virasvarga or the paradise of heroes. The stone is somewhat broken at the top.

A walk through the Madras govt museum, looking at the hero stones , is an experience rich in information and history.

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