|1010 AD old Thanjavur big temple, a foreigner with a European hatYouTube.|
|Big temple Thanjavur, Europen head. www.team-bhp.com/|
|Thanjavur big temple, tntemple.org|
There are different versions as to the origin of this foreign figure on the Vimana's north side. From the way the image is portrayed, it is obvious, the man is not positively a tall figure, may be of medium height vaguely resembling Chinese. His mustache, eye brows and lack of thin Chinese beard appear to be non-Chinese features. So, it is difficult to figure out his ethnicity. The foreigner's image is in the middle of the Vimana along with three other human figures. You can view it very well by standing close to the Arthanareeswara shrine on the north prakara. The figure with a Bowler's hat attracts our attention.
|European head marked out. Big temple.thewanderingsoul.in|
One plausible explanation that foreign figure is close to Chinese is that the Cholas excelled in foreign trade and maritime activity, extending their influence overseas to China and Southeast Asia. In the 9th century South India, particularly the Cholas had extensive maritime and commercial contacts with the Chinese and Arabs. Historical records point out the Tang dynasty of China, the Srivijaya empire in the Malayan archipelago under the Sailendras, and the Abbasid Kalifat at Baghdad were the main trading partners with Cholas. So, it is obvious the foreign figure in the middle of Indian stone images on the north tower could be a Chinese, implying the builder's close contact with Chinese traders. This is an assumption. But, his hat on the head is an odd one, never worn by the Chinese.
Is this European figure was carved during the Martha rule especially Raja Serfoji who is believed to have renovated the big temple during hie reign. Fr. Schwartz was the one who helped Serfoji get back his kingdom from his uncle with help from the British. This figure does not look like Fr. Schwartz, an Angelo Saxon Christian missionary settled in Thanjavur at that time. Did Raja Serfoji add Fr. Schwartz' figure on the north tower to honor him? if it were so, the European figure would have worn Christian father's regalia! Again, the hat is against this theory.
The mason in charge of the construction one Soma Varma from Kanchipuram had four figures carved - the images of a Chola ruler, a Nayak, a Maratta and a European to show the prospective line succession of rulers of Chola Desam. There is a likelihood the later Nayak rulers added European figures along with certain Vaishnavite figures on the Vimana of big temple. During the civil woks, the Nayak rulers were assisted by Danes whom they allowed to have a trading post at Tharangampadi in Nagapatnam District. The European figure was added before or after the acquisition of Tharangampadi (Tranquebar) in 1620 AD. Hemingway, historian thinks that the European head was that of Dane Roeland Crape, a pioneering personality in Dutch industry in this country.
Yet another version is the European figure is that of the great Venetian traveller Marco Polo who passed through South India on his way back home 1288-93 AD. Later rulers might have added the image of Marco Polo. The Bowler's hat on the European suggests that it was not that of any Englishman, for Englishman used to wear different types of hat, not the one portrayed in the stone image.
Based on the facial features in the image portrayed on the Vimana at the Big temple, besides the style of hat worn on the head, there is every possibility that the European was a Dane carved on the tower / gopuram during the reign of the Nayaks of Thanjavur. This is the closest possible assumption one can make.