Hey guys, I do know it has been a really long time since I posted anything. Its been a very busy month and, I’ve been traveling. I’ve also been busy working, just as you work, you just happen to write this rare article that you are really happy about, well… I just wrote one, and I’m sharing it with you. It is a small piece on Mahabhalipuram, I will post a more detailed piece soon enough.
It seems a fantastic paradox, but it is nevertheless a most important truth, that no architecture can be truly noble which is not imperfect.
– John Ruskin
Along the east coast of Tamil Nadu, is what remains of the legacy of King Narasimhavarman. A standing testimony of the artistic temperament of the great Pallava kings, the maestros of the Dravidian school of temple architecture. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Mamallapuram boasts of numerous monuments built between the 7th and 9th centuries. What remains of the ravages of the Bay of Bengal now attracts those in search of lost legacies. The monolithic and cave temples display a rare use of Buddhist technique of rock carving in Dravidian style of temple building.
Myths and Legends
The ancient city of Mamallapuram has been referred to as the land of the seven pagodas. According to legend, alongside the famous shore temple stood six other magnificent works of art in what is now rock strewn beach. So great were the splendorous seven pagodas that it made the gods jealous. So great was Lord Indra’s jealousy that he sank them in a storm leaving only one; the present day shore temple. There have been numerous mentions of fisher folk who claim to have seen these magnificent temples. During the 2004 Tsunami, the sea pulled back 500 m, when the tourists and residents report seeing a row of large rocks emerge from the water. The tsunami also made lasting changes to the coastline, and uncovered some previously covered statues and structures. But the six pagodas and what is left of them is yet to be discerned.
The rathas, are more commonly referred to as the Pancha Pandava Rathas, and mark the point of transition between the ancient rock carved cave temples and the later traditions of free standing stone structures. The five rathas are named after the pandavas but house deities of Shiva and Parvathi in them.
The main hill at Mahabalipuram is dotted with pillared halls carved into the rock face. These halls are adorned with columns rising gracefully and intricate figurines. There are ten pavilions, of which two are unfinished, designed as shrines and an outer hall. The pillars in these pavilions are perhaps the earliest display of a motif that would become a signature of southern architecture- the lion pilaster (a heraldic lion support to an ornamental pillar. This may well be the primal design to the mythical yazhi).
It is among the earliest rock cut temples whose walls describe a scene depicting the lord lifting up Govardhana Mountain, against the wrath of Varuna.
Facing the Bay of Bengal and glinting in the first rays of the sun, the shore temple is the primal attraction in Mahabalipuram. Perched atop a rocky outcrop, this temple is an architectural mmarvel and is a reprecentation of the most evolved forms of temple architecture during the period. The most interesting thing about this temple is its interconnected cisterns that let in water around the temple making it a water shrine. In recent times however, this has been closed away so as to prevent eroding.
It is the largest bas relief sculpture in the world. It depicts Aruna (as an ascetic) doing penance to obtain a boon from Lord Shiva, though this is disputed, as there are sectors believing it to be Bhagiratha.