Nammalvar sits in lalitasana on a platform. His complexion is blue, he wears a headdress, the chayakkontai, and Tengalai namams (emblems) are drawn on his forehead throat, arms and stomach. His jewellery is made of Kamalakshi beads. His right hand is in the teaching gesture and in his left he holds a palm leaf manuscript. Two Brahmins flank the image of the Alvar (south Indian poet saint). The one on his right writes with a long stylus on a palm leaf, the one to his left is in teaching attitude. At the bottom of the page, immediately opposite Nammalvar, is an image of Ramanuja, set off by a green background and surrounded by a metal frame. The philosopher, dressed in a russet dhoti and wearing a cylindrical cap, sits in virasana with his hands folded in anjali mudra and his typical banner resting on his right shoulder.
Shown in the background is a tamarind tree, suggesting that the painting refers to the Adinathasvami temple at Alvar Tirunagari (Tirunelveli), birthplace of Nammalvar, where the tamarind tree is still the focus of worship.
Gouache painting on paper
Text and image credit:
© Trustees of the British Museum