SCULPTURAL MARVEL OF SOUTH INDIA
is a combination of a long and eventful history. It is a conglomeration of
beliefs from diverse sources and numerous variations in content .It is a
historical religion that has close similarities to ancient religions of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece and Persia. As the word HIND
- was used by Persians to refer the region of indo-Gangetic plains and the
people living there. Evolution of Hinduism in India has passed through many
stages of history .The creation preservation and three deities Brahma Vishnu and
Shiva represent destruction in the universe. The latter two gods however became
the objects of sectarianism from the olden days.
These three deities have largely influenced practical Hinduism till
a symbol of its rich tradition, spirituality and culture remains the temples and
palaces of the Hindu kings who ruled India. One of which is Mahabalipuram in
Mahabalipuram is one of history’s intriguing enigmas. Situated just 60 km off Chennai on the
Bay of Bengal coast in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Was this sculptural glorification a king’s fancy? A
celebration of war victories? A queen’s fantasy? Nobody has the answer. Mahabalipuram
a site of many ancient sculptural marvels!
Mamallapuram was its
original name. The word Mamalla means great wrestler, and is a reference to the
Pallava King Narasimhavarman I, to whom the title was given.
The town was originally built by King Mahendravarman of the Pallava
dynasty, but it was during Narasimhavarman`s reign that it achieved prominence
as a seaport. Mamallapuram was the second capital of the Pallava dynasty, which
ruled from Kancheepuram. The Pallavas commissioned mythological themes on the
rocks at Mamallapuram. The excellent rock sculptures and architectural wonders
on this 8-sq km spot have put it on the world map. Legend
has it that the name of Mahabalipuram came from the name of the Demon Mahabali,
whom Lord Vishnu killed in a dwarf incarnation. These marvels of Mamallapuram
embody Pallava art during the 6th to the 8th century AD, and draws visitors by
thousands. They represent day-to-day life during the period, mythology and the
Panchatantra Tales. A site of many ancient sculptural marvels the monuments here
are hewn out of solid rocks. The whole complex consists of 10 cave temples
(man-made), 9 monolithic chariots-all in the name of 5 Pandavas, 4 Bas -relief
sculpture panels on the rock walls, and the Sore Temple. The main places of
enormous relief made on two huge boulders is the universe itself in stone,
throbbing with a vastness of conception. This colossus of art, 27 meters long
and 9 meters high, is perhaps the world’s largest bas-relief.
It gets its name from the figure of an ascetic who is believed to be
Arjuna, the hero of Mahabharata, doing penance to obtain a boon from Lord Siva.
However, there are others who think that the figure is actually King Bhagiratha
who entreated Siva to let the river Ganges flow over the earth. Among the other
carvings on the rock are animals and heavenly beings witnessing the descent of
the Ganges from the Himalayas The
two large elephants are remarkable for their artistry, and so are the scenes
from the Panchatantra. There is a forest carved out with tribal people and all
forms of animal life, just as they would appear in their habitat. Women are
clothed in an aura of ineffable grace, a rich inner beauty transfiguring the
plainest of them.
most famous monument of Mamallapuram is the Shore Temple. This breathtaking
piece of architecture represents seventh century Pallava art, and stands
sentinel on the shore, witness to sunrise and sunset alike. The Pallava King
Raja Singha built the five-storied Shore Temple on the sea beach at the end of
seventh century in pure dravidian sculpture. This temple was the last work of
Pallava dynasty. Guarding the temple is Lion-King Nandi or the row of oxen’s.
polygonal dome protects shrines to Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva, a masterpiece of
its kind, it gained World Heritage listing, and now a huge rock wall seeks to
protect it from the vagaries of wind and wave. The Sore Temple Though known as
the land of Seven Pagoda’s, there is only one remaining today. This is one of
the oldest temples of south India.
The Shore Temple
forms the backdrop of the
Dance Festival celebrated in the month of January/February every year. This
festival is an occasion when artists from all over the country come together to
perform. The Mahabalipuram Dance festival is an occasion when artists from all
over the country come together to perform. The Sthalasayana Perumal temple
festivals, Masimagam and Brahmothsavam, are held in the month of March.
Mandapam The Krishna Temple is one of the
earliest rock-cut temples of Mahabalipuram. The walls of the temples depict
scenes of pastoral life, one with the image of Krishna lifting the Govardhan
Hill in his fingertips to protect his people from the rain god Indra.
The decorated Krishna stall is depicted with the episodes from Lord
Srikrishna's life. Caves The Varaha
Cave, a small rock-cut mandapam (hall), is a gem with two incarnations
of Vishnu—Varaha (boar) and Vamana (dwarf). Particularly noteworthy sculptors
here are four panels of the famous Pallava doorkeepers. The Dharma raja Cave,
built in the early seventh century, contains three empty shrines. The
Mahisasurmardini Cave (mid-seventh century) has fine bas-reliefs on its panels
of enduring beauty. The Somaskanda sculpture radiates peace, power, and wisdom
while Lord Vishnu is shown in omniscient repose in a masterpiece of dhwani
(the art of suggestion). On the opposite side is a huge theatrical panel
showing, Goddess Durga’s fight with the demon Mahishasura, an episode called
from the celebrated Sanskrit poem Devi Mahatmya. About 5 km north of Mahabalipuram
is another cave called Tiger Cave, a rock-cut shrine possibly
dating back to 7th century. Tiger's Cave
The main monument complex, has an open-air theatre,
where cultural programmes were held for the benefit of the royal family. Rathas
A group of structures lying at the southern extreme of Mahabalipuram, amidst
casuarina trees, are the famous Rathas (chariots). The Pancha Pandava Rathas, as
they are called, are five in number. Out of these, four are carved out of a
single rock, while the fifth on the west is scooped out from a small rock. The
square Draupadi and Arjuna Rathas, the linear Bhima Ratha, the taller Dharamraja
Ratha and the apsidal Nakula-Sahadeva Ratha, constitute the complex. Besides
these, there are the Ganesha Ratha to the north of the main hill and two Pidari
Rathas on the eastern side. The rectangular Ganesh Mandapam was also built
carving out of a whole rock and is worshipped still daily.
The hut-like Draupadi Ratha sports doorkeepers and Durga with a
worshipper offering his head. The Arjuna Ratha, facing west, has its outer walls
carved with the most graceful figures of gods and mortals. The Sahadeva Ratha
with a huge monolithic elephant in front; the Bhima Ratha with its two storeys
and lion-based pillars; and, of course, the Dharamraja Ratha—the biggest and
finest of them all with its eight panels of exquisite sculptures—provide the
visitor with insight into the craftsmen’s skill of a time long gone by.
anybody is interested in visiting mammalapuram or want to
experience the intricacies of sculpture carving or experience the exotic
primitive settings of south India, do get in touch with me.