Queerly conceived and modelled, obviously a component of temple or palace architecture used for holding or supporting a balcony, balcony-type projection, or eaves, these two identically sculpted wood pieces are Yali brackets, a form of brackets widely used in South Indian temples. In traditional or pre-RCC architecture eaves or balcony type projections were held over stone-brackets that also contributed artistic and decorative aspect to the façade though after the emergence of reinforced concrete-cement construction technique the use of brackets is rarely seen. As suggests the architecture of a number of temples, especially those in South, a bracket is also fixed into a wall, it is usually assembled with a column or pillar fixed along its upper end where together with the column it holds the balcony or eaves over its head.
Sculpted out of fine timber and sensitively painted using delicate tones of colours this pair of brackets has been conceived pursuing the model of brackets actually used in medieval temples, palaces or mansions especially in structuring their wooden interiors, or a façade. Whether the replica of a stone or wooden bracket actually used in some particular ancient building – a temple, palace or mansion, or just conceptual and fancy’s creation artistically crafted and brilliantly painted – mere ornamental artefacts of ethnic character, these wood-sculptures are magnificent art-pieces borrowing their form and ethnicity from medieval architecture. In a contemporary house, eager to look like a sixteenth-seventeenth century villa with all its ethnicity and feudal grandeur, such pair of brackets either displayed as an isolated decorative artefact or fixed on a wall for supporting on them an identically conceived wooden plank displaying on it some specimens of folk art shall be the ultimate source of ethnicity and medievalism.
With the same image in mind and with similar precision, the two pieces are sculpted exactly alike. Grotesqueness is the main element of the sculpture, and a queerly conceived mythical figure, its main image. Such figure or anatomy is known as Yali – a blend of a number of animals. In mythological tradition such creature is identified with the Sanskrit term Vyala, also called Vidala. Usually part lion, part elephant and part horse Vyala figures, translated as dragon in English, have been conceived with widely various forms. The animal is sometimes also described as leogryph or leogryphon : a blend of lion and griffin, and is conceived with many other combinations. In any case, a Vyala is believed to be more powerful than any of the animal in any combination. The sculptures at Khajuraho temples alone have eighteen types of Vyala figures. Most of these Vyalas have catlike graceful figure irrespective of the form of the rest of the body. In Chinese mythical tradition the larger part of the animal consists of a ferocious pantheon often with awful wings, while in Christian cult the eagle like mythical bird comprises its larger part. A Vyala figure is believed to guard a premise by its sheer presence.
The figure in this sculpture has been sculpted with a far different combination. It is composed of a widely different anatomy. Its back is horse-like, neck and mane, like a lion, trunk and tusk, like an elephant, hind legs, like a pantheon, and fore-legs and nails, a ferocious demon’s arms-like. There rides on its back a mahout, a normal human being. Except the styles of their moustaches the two mahout figures are exactly identical – similar facial features and anatomy and clad normally in identical turbans and loincloths or short ‘antariyas’. In one hand they are carrying driving cords, and in the other, the animal’s reins. With its hind legs planted on a decorative moulding which comprises the base of the statue the rest of the Vyala figure is made to shot vertically into the space. A beautifully saddled, crowned and ornamented elephant figure occupies the forepart of the base-moulding.