The Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram is a gold mine for sculpture buffs. Here you can see this fabulous sculpture of a team of dancers. A girl dances in the middle flanked by 2 men who are playing musical instruments. At first sight, this carving looks completely normal, but look carefully and you'll notice something very strange. There should be 6 legs for 3 people, but there are only 4 legs.
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This is yet another optical illusion carved at least 850 years ago. This creates some fabulous visual effects. If I cover the 2 men on the sides, you can see the girl showing off an excellent dance pose.
|This trio only has 4 legs!|
Now if I cover the woman's body, you'll see that the 4 legs match with the bodies of 2 men. It looks like these 2 guys are playing musical instruments shown turning away from each other. One mysterious detail about this carving is that it appears that the woman's hands are glued to the heads of the men. Was some kind of a strange act where the performers tied themselves together? Below is a carving on a pillar at Darasuram which seems to confirm this theory.
|A small sculpture which also employs a similar optical illusion|
Now if you look around, you can see a lot of sculptures that all show dancing or some kind of art form. Out of a thousand different sculptures in this amazing temple, there are only a few that are created with these kind of illusions involving human beings. The most famous illusion is of course, the Bull or Elephant Illusion. Below is another carving which also employ a similar optical illusion.
|Yet another sculpture carved at Darasuram|
Here is another carving where you can see 3 guys playing musical instruments while a woman dances to your left. But instead of 6 legs for these 3 guys, only 5 legs have been carved. If you ignore the guy playing cymbals on the left and focus on the other two, you'll notice how they share a leg.
|2 guys on the right share the middle leg|
If you cover the torso and one leg of either guy, the other person appears to be complete. Traces of various colors are found on all these sculptures which means that 850 years ago they were richly painted to highlight the optical illusion effect. The Cholas are known not only for creating beautiful sculptures, but also for employing brilliant tactics like illusions and even humor in their carvings. Below is a similar carving at Darasuram.
|Another sculpture with a similar optical illusion|