Temple architecture

Ancient optical illusion found in Tamil Nadu temple

Optical illusions are the talk of the season, and we’ve all spent hours watching these mind tricks to learn more about our personalities, or as they claim. However, despite being so viral all of a sudden, they are nothing new.

It turns out that optical illusions have been around for decades, and artists and psychologists have been using them for a long, long time. We’ve never seen an optical illusion as old as this – carved in stone!

KARTY JazZ Wikimedia

The Airavatesvara Temple is a Hindu place of worship at Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu, and it is a jewel of the Chola dynasty built almost 900 years ago. There is beautiful 12th century Dravidian architecture and carved ornaments of chariots and avatars.

The ancient optical illusion looks like two conjoined creatures with a single head. However, what animal do you see?

If you look at the creature on the right, you should see an elephant, but if you cover the elephant’s body and legs, the animal on the left is clearly a bull gazing skyward.

The bull, Nandi, is the vehicle of Lord Shiva in the Hindu faith, while Airavat is a mythological white elephant who is the vehicle of Indra, the heavenly king.

Purohit Temple

The video below separates the two creatures in the Airavatesvara Temple optical illusion to show how they would appear on their own.

The optical illusion we often see is created digitally using software, but the fact that artists managed to do it decades ago using stone. The oldest optical illusion was believed to come from a 16th century painting by Hans Holbein the Younger, but the The optical illusion of Airavatesvara Temple predates about 400 years.

The painting
Holbein’s Ambassadors

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