Ivory sculpture of Meenakshi Amman temple
Since pre-historic time man is using Ivory to create beautiful sculptures. The source of Ivory is mostly Elephant tusk, but some other animals like Walrus are also used as source. Among ancient civilizations, Egypt, China & India were famous for Ivory sculpting. In India ivory sculpting is a time honored craft dating from eras before Christ. It is said that King Solomon acquired some ivory sculptures from India in 10th century B.C. & King Darius used Indian ivory works in his palace in 6th century B.C.
Several centres in India are famous for Ivory works. In eastern India, Murshidabad in West Bengal has a rich tradition of ivory sculpting. In northern India, Rajasthan is famous for ivory works. In southern India, several states like Kerala, Karnataka & Tamilnadu have rich traditions of ivory sculpting.
The patrons were mainly the Royalty (including Kings & Emperors) & the Temple authorities. Figurines of gods & goddesses were traditionally sculpted in ivory. Besides these, Kings often used thrones made of ivory.
The Meenakshi Amman temple in Madurai, Tamilnadu has a beautiful collection of exquisite idols made from ivory. Mostly figures of human couples in several intimate postures are displayed in the museum of the temple. According to some, these figures are of Apsaras, the celestial dancers & musicians.
Whatever they reprsent, these figures are examples of ivory works of the highest quality. They are a visual treat.