Incredibly Creative Yali Pillars at the Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram, Tamil Nadu, India

The Yali is an incredibly recurrent motif in Hindu temple architecture. Most often the Yali is portrayed as part lion and part elephant- sometimes also part horse. The Yali sculpted on the outer pillars of the Airavatesvara temple at Darasuram caught my eye because of how exquisitely the sculptors had carved the tail of the creature- yes the tail!

Just look at that tail will you?
Just look at that tail will you?

It is normal and natural for sculptors (especially when carving pillars) to pay more attention to the front rather than the back part. However these sculptors took nothing for granted. I love how the tail swirls and curves before settling back down on the creature’s back.

Profile of the Yali
Profile of the Yali

The profile of the Yali is no less exquisite- you can see the fierceness of the lion’s teeth and its exquisite mane- but note the almost gentle fold of the trunk.

Here's how they look from the front
Here’s how they look from the front

It was a bright day so apologies for the slightly washed out look of my photos but I hope you get a sense of what I’m talking about.

If you’re interested you can also look at my earlier post about the pillared hall in this temple.


12 Comments Add yours

  1. Lav says:


    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      Thank you!

  2. V del Casal says:

    India is on my bucket list as one bullet. Now I have to add sub-bullets; there are so many places to see!

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      oh yes! It’s impossible to see everything in here- you have to make a list and prioritise 🙂 the UNESCO heritage sites are a good start!

  3. Really interesting to read these.. do post more Sukanya

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      Thank you- I will definitely shate what I have.

  4. nivs24 says:

    It is also interesting for the fact that the pillar is not the usual square.
    I have never seen one where the base form is anything but square. Well, yes… the big kitty tail is cute 🙂

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      I thought I’ve seen circular pillars but maybe not but yes the tail is the winner!

  5. Nirmala says:

    If one really took the time and patience to look ,we can really find treasures in these temples!

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      Yes, mostly we run short of time or get runover by the crowds

  6. Apar says:

    When I think of yali, I think of veenas 🙂 may be growing up with Amma playing one with an exquisite yali at the end.

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