Mahabalipuram Monuments - Part 3 (Rathas)


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The Pallavas contributions to temple architecture are many, of which conceiving temples sculpted out of single blocks of stone would remain the most important. There are as many as eight in Mamallapuram, each of which has certain special features. The Panch-pandava group is the most important, in which the Dharmaraja Ratha stands out as the best, containing some exquisite sculptures never found later in this part of India.
A presentation by Prof.Subramanian Swaminathan

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Mahabalipuram Monuments - Part 3 (Rathas)

  1. 1. Pallava Mallai<br />Unfinished poetry in stone - 3 Rathas<br />S. Swaminathan<br />(<br />
  2. 2. Single-stone rathas<br />Ratha-s are the cynosure of Mamallapuram. <br />They are made out of single living rock and <br /> hence are called monoliths (‘one-stone’). <br />Each is a complete temple. <br />We may even say that they are <br /> sculptured replicas of temples ‘in the round’. <br />
  3. 3. Single-stone rathas<br />The Pallava-s are the pioneers in <br /> this branch of temple architecture. <br />And for reasons unknown to us, <br /> even the Pallava-s have not attempted <br /> ratha-s outside Mamallapuram. <br />
  4. 4. Single-stone rathas<br />There are nine of them in various locations. <br />The group called Panchpandava Ratha-s is <br /> the most important. <br />There is one more in the main complex, <br /> called Ganesa Ratha. <br />There are three in the outskirts: <br /> the two Pidari Ratha-s and the Valaiyankuttai Ratha. <br />Apart from these there are a few where work <br /> had been abandoned immediately <br /> after the starting of the excavation. <br />One cannot but wonder why did they make <br />so many and in so scattered places. <br />
  5. 5. Single-stone rathas<br />The Pallava-s revelled in variety. <br />There are three different forms in plan: <br /> square, like the Dharmaraja Ratha<br /> oblong, like the Bhima Ratha and<br /> apsidal, (the Sahadeva Ratha). <br />There is variety in superstructure too:<br /> pyramidal with octagonal crown <br /> like the Dhahramrja Ratha<br /> pyramidal with square crown <br /> like the Pidari Ratha<br /> wagon-roofed like the Bhima Ratha<br /> hut-roofed like the Draupati Ratha <br />
  6. 6. Single-stone rathas<br />On sculpting monoliths<br />Unlike building structural temples, <br /> causing monoliths is fundamentally sculpting.<br />The sculptor working in situ cannot afford <br /> to make ‘any’ mistake. <br />Should there be a mistake, like chipping of a nose, <br /> the work will have to be abandoned. <br />
  7. 7. Single-stone rathas<br />On sculpting monoliths<br />It was difficult to work in certain postures. <br />The sculptor may have to stand, squat or crawl <br /> precariously on a rickety scaffold. <br />This may explain why, in many cases, the foot portions <br /> are generally incomplete. <br />
  8. 8. Pancha-pandava rathas<br />Visiting the Pancha-pandava Ratha-s <br />would be an unforgettable experience. <br />
  9. 9. In this seemingly <br />disorderly conglomeration <br />of sculptural forms of <br />varied shapes and sizes, <br />is a part of a grand design. <br />These are carved out of <br />two hillocks,<br />which lie north-south. <br />
  10. 10. The tallest Dharmaraja Ratha and the Arjuna Ratha have eight-sided top, the Bhima Ratha is wagon-shaped, the Draupati Ratha is hut-like and the Sahadeva Ratha is apsidal. This variety is astounding and the over all effect is enchanting.<br />Three free-standing animals - an elephant, a lion and a bull - are the hallmark of the Pallava craftsmanship <br />
  11. 11. Each one of the ratha-s is of different form;<br />this enables us to study the development of temple architecture <br />These are all unfinished in various degrees;<br />this helps us following their sculpting techniques.<br />
  12. 12. ‘Sculpting’ of monoliths has to start from the top. <br />This can be seen in the Dharmaraja Ratha,<br />where the third level is almost finished,<br />the second level less finished, and<br />the ground the least. <br />
  13. 13. Let us see how the rathas looked in the last few centuries, <br />when they were lying neglected by us, <br />but attracted the attention of the Europeans. <br />
  14. 14. A photo by Alexander Rea 1880<br />
  15. 15. Drawing for the aquatint by the Daniells, 1799 <br />
  16. 16. Sculptured Rocks, At Mavalipuram, On The Coast Of Coromandel<br />Thomas & William Daniell, 1799 <br />
  17. 17. Mahavellipore.  The Five Raths; from James Fergusson’s book<br />'Illustrations of the Rock Cut Temples of India'. <br />
  18. 18. Water colour: 'North View of the 5 Pagodas about one mile south of Mahabilipoorum showing also a Lion and Elephant, the latter as large as life, the former larger, the whole cut sculptured from solid Granite stones – from a Sketch by Mr J. Braddock. J. Gantz'. <br />
  19. 19.
  20. 20. Dharmaraja ratha<br />Pinnacle of achievement of <br />the Pallava sthapati, stands tallest,<br />and has three levels. <br />Along with its Dravida shikhara <br />is a visual treat. <br />There are sculptures and <br />those on the higher levels are<br />iconographic delight. <br />This is the only ratha containing<br />inscriptions, of which some <br />are important. <br />
  21. 21. This ratha, dedicated to Siva, <br />is the pinnacle of achievement of the Pallava stapati-s, <br />of their controlled artistry. <br />Its shape is exquisite, and <br />it is a magnificent sight, <br />even though it is incomplete. <br />The shrine has quite <br />a few exclusive features. <br />The ratha has three floors, <br />the only ratha designed to have <br />a shrine in each level. <br />
  22. 22. The sanctum on the top floor contains <br />a Somaskanda relief sculpture <br />on the back wall.<br />It is the only ratha<br />that contains inscription, <br />mostly label inscriptions.<br />One of them calls the shrine as <br />Atyantakama-Pallavesvara-Griham. <br />This would mean that it is <br />caused by Atyantakama. <br />Who is this Atyantakama is <br />a subject of controversy. <br />
  23. 23. Its architectural embellishments, <br />including the crowning glory, <br />the crown, are a visual treat. <br />In the sculptures the sculptors have <br />some exquisite icons of <br />the Tamil country. <br />Both the architecture and <br />the sculptures <br />are perfectly balanced. <br />This perhaps provided a model for <br />all the shrines in the region, <br />which can boast of some of <br />the greatest shrines. <br />
  24. 24. Originally intended to have a shrine in each floor, the ground floor is<br />incomplete and the steps to reach the upper level has not been made.<br />But one can go from the second level to the higher.<br />
  25. 25. The basic plan is square <br />but the neck and the crown<br />are octagonal. <br />The basement is not finished. <br />At the ground floor level we<br />see the ardha-mandapam<br />and its two pillars and <br />two half-pillars, <br />all vyala-based in various<br />stages of incompletion. <br />On the two ends on each<br />face we see two life-size<br />relief statues. <br />
  26. 26. Let us go around the gallery at the ground level <br />
  27. 27. There are a number of similarities among these relief sculptures.<br />
  28. 28. Posture<br />All are marked by a static pose, <br />the sthanaka pose in sama-bhanga and sama-pada,<br />the pose in which they would be depicted <br />if they are to be worshipped as in the icons in the sanctum.<br />Most of them have right hand in abhaya-mudra<br />and their lower left hand on the hip (katyavalambita hasta) <br />
  29. 29. Dress<br />The lower garments shown are of two types. <br />The other is a tight garment,<br />kaupina-like. <br />One is a skirt-like worn in <br />the kachcha<br />Mostly these are secured by waist-band (kati-bandha), <br />some times along with a loose waist-girdle (kati-srinkhala) <br />and also a flat cummerbund (udara-bandha). <br />
  30. 30. The sacred-thread would be seen <br />as a rolled piece of cloth (vastra yajnopavita) or <br />in strands (sutra yajnopavita), <br />worn in the normal (upavita) style or <br />with the lower end passing over the right hand, <br />called nivita fashion. <br />The vastra yajnopavita is very often found to be with clasps. <br />
  31. 31. Headdress<br />Siva would have jata-makuta and <br />all others may be portrayed with makuta-s, <br />mostly karanda-makuta or kirita-makuta. <br />
  32. 32. Ornaments<br />Unlike that became to be a fashion later, <br />most icons have very scanty ornaments over the body. <br />Kanthika is the common neck ornament. <br />Some of the icons are decorated <br />with bangles (kankana-s and valaya-s). <br />The ear ornaments are of two kinds; <br />one is a makara-kundala-s, mostly, <br />hanging from a distended ear-lobe, and <br />the other is patra-kundala-s. <br />It is interesting to note that we come across <br />with images with different kundala-s on the two ears, <br />which is seen all over Mamallapuram. <br />
  33. 33. West face-North<br />Siva, perhaps as, Bhairava<br />In kaupina-like lower garment,<br />holding a deer on his left hand<br />and rosary on the right hand,<br />with a snake coiling around his thighs <br />raising its hood on his left <br />Siva<br />Wearing jata-makuta,<br />holds a serpent in one hand and <br />a kamandalu on the other. <br />His lower garment in kaccha fashion is unusual;<br />so is both the upper hands that are hanging down. <br />West face-South<br />
  34. 34. North face-East<br />Harihara, <br />A composite figure,<br />a iconographic feat of depicting two dissimilar deities.<br />Siva’s with jata-makuta on the right, <br />cylindrical crown of Vishnu on the left.<br />Siva holds an axe in the upper right hand, <br />and the lower right is in abhaya mudra. <br />A snake coils out from the waist <br />on Siva's side. <br />The Vishnu part must have had <br />a conch shell, <br />and holds a discus on the upper hand.<br />Brahma<br />Four-headed, <br />upper right and left hands holding lotus buds. <br />North face-West<br />
  35. 35. East face-South<br />Subrahmanya<br />On this corner is a four-armed Subrahmanya. <br />It is a youthful figure with the upper right hand holding <br />an aksha-mala andthe upper left a lotus.<br />Ardhanari<br />This is an exquisite modeling of <br />a perfect balance of the feminine <br />and the masculine features and <br />a graceful poise. <br />The droop in the shoulder, <br />broad shoulder of the Siva half <br />are prominent features.<br />Its upper hand, of Parvati resembles <br />swaying trunk of an elephant. <br />The mukuta also is a combination of <br />jata-mukuta and karanda-mukuta<br />East face-North<br />
  36. 36. South face-East<br />Siva<br />Having jata-makuta, holding an axe <br />on his upper right hand and, perhaps, <br />aksha-mala on the upper left hand, <br />his dress similar to that of <br />Subrahmanya in the adjacent niche.<br />Narasimha Pallava<br />A majestic royal figure with <br />tapering crown and royal regalia;<br />heavy gold earrings, <br />a jewelled necklace, <br />garland of strands of pearls <br />worn like yajnopavita, <br />a jewelled stomach-band, and <br />three gold bracelets on each wrist,<br />familar garment, but not special. <br />East face-North<br />
  37. 37. A number of royal titles in the Pallava Grantha script <br />are inscribed above most of the figures. Here are a few samples. <br />Atyantakama Anekobhaya<br />Srinarasimha<br />Bhuvanabhajanaj<br />Srimegha Trailokyavardhana<br />Pridhivisara Sridhara<br />
  38. 38. The horizontal superstructure above <br />is complete. <br />The curved horizontal member is <br />decorated with <br />a number of kudu arches. <br />Below that is a frieze of bhuta-gana-s. <br />Above the cornice are human beings and <br />lions and monkeys, <br />in the pose of namaskaram.<br />
  39. 39. On the first storey, <br />on the outer side <br />is a series of mini-shrines, <br />which became <br />the standard ornamentation <br />in temples later. <br />Between these and the walls<br />is a circumbulatory corridor. <br />
  40. 40. On the niches of the wall inside are <br />some excellent figures, <br />some of which are <br />just visible. <br />
  41. 41. Some introduction is in order to appreciate the sculptures<br />in the upper two floors<br />Let us look at the very enterprise:<br />working on the most difficult material, <br />with rudimentary tools, cramped space and <br />with inconvenient working postures<br />what the sculptors have achieved <br />is truly astounding: <br />figures that are youthful, full of vigour, <br />devoid of contrived movement,<br />with emphasis on clear outlines and <br />with very few ornaments that don’t distract<br />a superlative spiritual art appear <br />for the first time in the Tamil country, <br />and . . . . the last time <br />
  42. 42. Full of feeling (bhava) <br />from benign (saumya) to malevolent (ugra), <br />in variety of postures, <br />ranging from samabhanga, dvibhanga, <br />tribhanga to atibhanga,<br />and covering the whole gamut from frontal to profile<br />looking as if emerging out of the walls with gusto,<br />make these animated figures <br />some of the best this culture produced. <br />Their varied iconography, forms and poses <br />make them important <br />in the study of Indian sculptures. <br />These compare well with those in the Arjuna Ratha <br />in the same complex and <br />those in the Great Penance panel. <br />
  43. 43. There are more than forty reliefs:<br />Fourteen forms of Siva, <br />as slayer of evil, a benefactor of devotees, <br />as player and teacher of music and dance,<br />and composites, like Harihara and Srdhanari.<br />Other deities are Vishnu, Subrahmanya, Brahma, <br />Surya and Chandra.<br />Human beings are well represented,<br />which includes, interestingly<br />members of temple establishment: <br />priest, his assistant, temple-cook and temple singer. <br />
  44. 44. Now let us go around the gallery of the Pallava sculpture<br />in the second level. <br />
  45. 45. Dharmaraja Ratha<br />Sculptures – II Level<br />The level is a wonderful gallery of icons,<br />which became models for later icons.<br />Many of them carry titles of the builder.<br />Showing temple staff <br />(above) is unusual.<br />
  46. 46. West face<br />Kankala-murti<br />Siva as a divine beggar <br />is seen carrying <br />a human skull for a begging bowl, <br />a pasa, a trisula and a staff <br />on the right shoulder<br /> on which hangs the dead body Vishvaksena. <br />With the right foot kept slightly forward and alert, <br />this is a typical Pallava icon.<br />One can see a slight change <br />in the depiction of nose, <br />from a flat Pallava nose a sharper one, <br />a precursor to the later Chola bronzes.<br />
  47. 47. West face<br />Woman devotee<br />A graceful devotee walks towards the shrine carrying a holy water for puja. <br />Postured in tribhanga suggests her moving towards the sanctum with careful gait. <br />Her features, bust, hip, legs etc, her almost diaphanous skirt, and <br />unobtrusive, but significant, ornaments, <br />karanda-makuta, patra-kundala-s, anklets on both legs, <br />make her an important creation of the Pallava sculptors.<br />She is the only female in this shrine.<br />
  48. 48.
  49. 49. North face<br />Vinadhara Siva<br />One of the earliest Pallava depictions,<br />Siva stands graceful, <br />holding his rod-like vina<br />close to his chest and <br />is playing attentively, <br />as can be seen from his lowered head. <br />Elsewhere we may find <br />Vinadhara Siva in sitting posture<br />
  50. 50. North face<br />Siva as teacher of dance<br />Siva as Natarja is very common,<br />but Siva instructing his foremost<br />disciple, Tandu, who gave <br />the name Tandava to the art, is rare.<br />The student is a personification of <br />guru-bhakti and dedication,<br />who is attempting early steps <br />under guru’s watchful eye. <br />
  51. 51. North face<br />Chandesanugraha Siva<br />A separate shrine for oneself is <br />what one would earn for<br />unflinching devotion to the Lord, <br />and a pilgrimage to a Siva shrine<br />would not be complete <br />without paying respects <br />to Chandikesvara.<br />His rare devotion is rewarded <br />by a warm embrace of<br />Tenderness from the Lord. <br />Siva’s countenance is benign and <br />that of the devotee is of utmost<br />gratitude, devotion and<br />total submission to the lord.<br />
  52. 52.
  53. 53. North face<br />Siva as Gangadhara<br />Gangadhara is a favourite motif for the Pallava-s. <br />In this lovely portrayal<br />Siva is seen holding Ganga <br />while she descends. <br />Ganga on his upper, left hand, <br />aksha-mala in the upper right, <br />lower right in mushti-hasta posture and palms of lower left <br />suggesting anugraha, <br />is a stately Siva as Gangadhara <br />in tribhanga. <br />Ganga is seen adoring. <br />
  54. 54. North face<br />Vishnu with Garuda<br />Vishnu is resplendent in his royal attire. <br />His mount, identified by the beak-like nose, is as a youthful person. <br />The submissive Garuda<br />resting his left palm on his knee, <br />ready to bear the lord, <br />who is holding him with vatsalya.<br />The sculptor could create <br />a masterpiece in the narrow confine available to him. <br />
  55. 55.
  56. 56. North face<br />Siva as Kalarimurti<br />Dancing in chatura pose on <br />demon Kala, <br />deer in upper right hand, <br />trisula in upper left, <br />parasu in lower right and <br />lower left pointing at the demon, <br />the right leg firm on the ground and the left raised to attack<br />Siva’s action is palpable. <br />The vanquished Kala with two small tusk-like teeth <br />projecting on the corners of mouth is a pitiable picture. <br />
  57. 57. North face<br />Siva as Rishabhantika<br />Rishabhantika, in a relaxed<br />tribhanga pose is an exquisite<br />composition. <br />His matted hair is made into<br />a turban with a jewel on its top.<br />The lower left hand, <br />resting on his hip, <br />has the third and thumb folded; <br />his lower right hand kept elegantly<br />on the hump of the bull. <br />The lively bull is looks enjoying <br />the presence and caressing of his<br />master.<br />
  58. 58.
  59. 59. East face is unusual for a few temple staff are depicted here. <br />For once we get an idea how common people looked like fourteen centuries ago!<br />
  60. 60. West face<br />Temple singer<br />A temple staff, maintained <br />by temples even today,<br />is seen strumming a vina.<br />The right hand and his facial expression indicate <br />that he singing enraptured. <br />His simple dress and <br />his matter hair make that <br />he does not belong to well-to-do section of the society. <br />
  61. 61. West face<br />Cook (Svayampaki)<br />We now meet the cook of the temple in a demeanour <br />very similar to temple cooks <br />of present day.<br />He carries food on the right hand held aloft over his shoulder, <br />a large-size key on his left shoulder, top-knot on head, <br />lower garment in kaccha fashion<br />and sporting a yajnopavita. <br />A lively portrayal! <br />
  62. 62. West face<br />Temple Attendant<br />(Paricharaka)<br />This bearded attendant is <br />carrying a bell, <br />holding by its top handle, <br />on his right hand. <br />He wears a jata-bhara. <br />His expression is <br />one of utter devotion <br />to his service to the lord. <br />
  63. 63. West face<br />Priest (Archaka)<br />His top-knot of hair, yajnopavita, <br />lower garment in kaccha fashion <br />are all typical of a priest. <br />His kanthiki on the neck and <br />kundala-s as ear ornaments <br />adds to his importance.<br />He is holding a long basket <br />in his left hand and <br />performing archana. <br />Deep devotion to his duty can be felt in the composition. <br />
  64. 64. South face<br />Siva<br />A dynamic sculpture of Siva <br />in tribhanga pose,<br />carries rosary and, <br />interestingly, chamara and<br />sports patra-kundala <br />on the left ear, and <br />intriguingly, <br />none on the other ear.<br />
  65. 65. South face<br />Andhakari Siva<br />Siva vanquishing Andhaka <br />is another panel of great sensitivity. <br />The posture is vigorous, legs astride, <br />with the right one on of the asura. <br />His lower left hand holds a trisula. <br />In his triumphant posture Siva looks calm and composed. <br />Andhakasura, with curved side tusks <br />showing out of his mouth, <br />lies on the ground writhing, <br />fear and pain writ on his face. <br />
  66. 66. South face<br />Vinadhara Siva<br />Crossing legs, relaxed and graceful Siva is enjoying playing on the vina.<br />The upper left hand rests on a gana<br />and the other holds a damaru. <br />His has a very heavy jata-bhara. <br />A patra-kundala adorns the left ear.<br />That he has no yajnopavita is noteworthy. <br />The pot-bellied gana sports <br />an unusually large patra-kundala-s.<br />
  67. 67. South face<br />Vishnu<br />On the central niche on this face of this temple for Siva,<br />interestingly, <br />is a sculpture of Vishnu. <br />It is in sama-bhanga, <br />like those which are <br />in the sanctum and for worship.<br />The posture, dress, standards and ornaments are <br />those that are <br />normally found for Vishnu.<br />
  68. 68. South face<br />Siva with Nandi<br />Siva, in perfect beatitude, <br />rests his left hand on Nandi<br />in human form.<br />His benign smile and <br />deep inner contemplation <br />are the hall mark of <br />the Pallava sculptor. <br />The bhakta’s humble reverence <br />is also truthfully depicted. <br />
  69. 69.
  70. 70. South face<br />Kaliamardana Krishna<br />A grown up Krishna, adorned with peacock feathers, <br />heavy patra-kundala-s and <br />a vastra-yajnopavita, <br />stands on Kalia, <br />the serpant-demon in human form, holding its tail,<br />his left foot planted firmly and <br />the right one tramples <br />upon the writhing demon.<br />The fanciful and imaginative artist has used the restricted space to manage a dramatic moment of energy and power! <br />
  71. 71. South face<br />Siva<br />This is another beautifully <br />modelled Siva, <br />very similar to the one <br />we have seen before <br />on the extreme west on this face. <br />
  72. 72. The top level is similar to the second level, but smaller. <br />On the west side is cut a sanctum,<br />which is finished with <br />a relief sculpture of Somaskanda. <br />On the walls of the shrine also we have sculptures of great beauty.<br />
  73. 73. Dharmaraja Ratha<br />Sculptures – Top Level<br />It has Somaskanda in the sanctum and beautiful sculptures on the walls. <br />
  74. 74. Siva sits comfortably on a simple seat and lower right hand is <br />in an ‘exposition’ pose. <br />What he holds in the upper hands are indistinct.<br />Uma is seated facing Siva.<br />A playul Skanda sits cozy on her mother’s lap.<br />On either corner hover two gana-s with chamara.<br />Vishnu and Brahma are shown standing on the sides, and would be shown behind the pair in later compositions. <br />
  75. 75. The shrine is guarded by two gatekeepers with clubs.<br />They are lively, <br />attentive and, relaxed,<br />with a faint smile, <br />a tribute to the Pallava craftsmen. <br />They are attired in<br />loosely coiled cummerbund, <br />Vastra yajnopavita, <br />heavy patra-kundala and <br />jata-makuta, appropriate to their station. <br />
  76. 76. Two almost identical devotees, <br />one on either extreme niche of the west face, <br />are refined sculptures, <br />exuding great charm and in stylistic unison <br />with the rest on this floor. <br />
  77. 77. The walls of this floor are some excellent depiction of devotees too. <br />On the central niches on the three sides<br />are found divinities.<br />All others are sculptures of devotees.<br />
  78. 78. North face<br />Chandra<br />Chandra stands in sama-bhanga posture,<br />With a circular halo. <br />Two sacred threads from the two shoulders, <br />worn in the channavira fashion is a special feature.<br />He holds a lotus (nilotpala) on his right hand and <br />the left is on his hip (kati). <br />There are similarities with Chandra in the Great Penance panel. <br />
  79. 79. East face<br />Surya<br />On this face is Surya, and <br />is very similar to Chandra on the other face.<br />
  80. 80. South face<br />Dakshinamurti<br />This Siva as the preceptor<br />is one of the finely modelled sculptures and is a rare icon. <br />The south-facing idol here is in the standing posture,<br />with left leg firmly on the ground, <br />the right leg bent at the knee and almost touching the shank, <br />is graceful, but uncommon and <br />reminds us of the ascetic in the Great Penance panel. <br />His head is tilted and is in a contemplative mood. <br />
  81. 81. Devotees<br />The Pallava dvara-pala-s are an interesting study.<br />In this face as well as on the eastern wing <br />on both sides of the central divinity are two pairs of devotees.<br />There are similarities among the inner-pairs and among the outer pairs,<br />but they are not mirror images, to avoid monotony,<br />a trait not found in later times.<br />
  82. 82. Devotees<br />The inner pair and outer pair are differentiated, <br />particularly, in terms of dress: <br />in the kachcha-fashion lower garment for the inner ones and <br />tight for the outer ones. <br />In both the cases, they are retained, in many cases, <br />by a belt (kati-sutra) and a ribbon-like bad looping around loosely. <br />A faint smile on the faces speaks of the calibre of the Pallava craftsman. <br />
  83. 83. East face<br />Devotees<br />The sculptor has also differentiated the two pairs of the devotees<br />with the main figure, Surya. <br />Sama-bhanga of Surya against tri-bhanga, the chin-up posture of <br />the central god <br />opposed to the slight downward look of the rest. <br />Left<br />Right<br />Surya<br />
  84. 84. We have an important inscription on the top floors. <br />These inscriptions have a role to play in the debate on the authorship.<br />One among them on the east, above the sculpture of Surya<br />names the shrine as Sri Atyantakama Pallavesvara griham<br />In the Pallava Grantha characters. <br />
  85. 85. The finale, the octagonal shikhara, is<br />the crowning glory of the Pallava-s, and<br />became the model for all the temples <br />in the south then onwards. <br />Kudu arches embellish all the eight sides <br />With floral designs on all the corners <br />remind us of typical brass work <br />of later period. <br />On the top of the crown is a lotus base, <br />to which a stupi, <br />a symbolic final piece <br />would be inserted, <br />before the actual consecration ceremony. <br />A stupi was found at the bottom <br />of the east corner of the temple. <br />
  86. 86. We come out of the ratha, with a sense of fulfillment, <br />of having seen a gallery of exquisite icons <br />of the Tamil country and <br />with the pride that our ancestors attained such artistic heights.<br />
  87. 87. Here are a few vintage views<br />
  88. 88. Photo by Alexander Rea 1880<br />
  89. 89. ‘Figures sculptured on the North side of the Lower Story <br />of the Square Ruddam at Mahabalipooram. Copied by Nujeebulla. <br />
  90. 90. ‘Figures sculptured on the Lower Story of the Square Ruddams at Mahabalipooram. <br />Copied by Nujeebulla.’ 1816 <br />
  91. 91. ‘Sculptured Figures on the 2nd Story of the Square Ruddam at Mahabalipooram. <br />Copd. by J. Mustie,1819.’ <br />
  92. 92. ‘Sculptured Figures on the 2nd Story of the Square Ruddam at Mahabalipooram. <br />Copd. by J. Mustie, 1819.’ <br />
  93. 93. ‘Sculptured Figures on the 2nd Story of the Square Ruddam at Mahabalipooram. <br />Copied by J. Mustie 1819.’ <br />
  94. 94. ‘Sculptured Figures on the North side of the Second Story of the Square Ruddam at Mahabalipooram, Copied by J. Mustie, 1819’ <br />
  95. 95. ‘Sculptured Figures on the South side of the Second story of the Square Ruddam at Mahabalipooram. Copied by J. Mustie, 1819.’ <br />
  96. 96. Bheema Ratha<br />
  97. 97. The Bhima Ratha looks massive and virile. <br />This striking immensity fits in with <br />the popular name of the shrine <br />after the hefty Pandava brother. <br />Another striking feature is the shape of the superstructure. <br />This is shaped like a wagon-top. <br />
  98. 98. This one reminds of the wooden original <br />much more than the others, <br />particularly the end portions of the crown. <br />It is a two-storeyed ratha, <br />but the upper level is not functional,<br />though a narrow ambulatory passage is provided. <br />
  99. 99. The upper level is complete, <br />where some excellent architectural features can be seen.<br />This ratha also remains unfinished at the ground level. There are very few sculptures and no inscriptions in this ratha. <br />You can see a big crack running diagonally <br />which could also be the reason for the stoppage of the work. <br />
  100. 100. A long, shallow niche on the eastern wall must be the sanctum, <br />where vague outlines of Reclining Vishnu could be gleaned.<br />This, perhaps, dictated a rectangular shrine. <br />
  101. 101. The requirement of rectangular sanctum is accomplished by choosing a barrel roof, which resembles roof of a wagin, <br />hence called sala.<br />
  102. 102. A few features of the superstructure are <br />of architectural importance.<br />The cornice has well shaped <br />kudu-arches, one pair for each bay. <br />
  103. 103. Above that we see a string of <br />five beautiful sala-s <br />and two karnakuta-s at the ends, <br />all connected by harantara-s. <br />Beyond this we see the wagon-shaped roof. <br />Between the two is a narrow passage. <br />
  104. 104. On the roof we see five kudu-arches. <br />Each is supported by a pair of half-pillars.<br />These are sculpted on the griva (neck). <br />These provide niches, called nasika-s (nose).<br />These are most likely duplication of the ventilators <br />of the timber-brick temples of the period. <br />
  105. 105. There are beautiful royal figures, <br />sculpted upto the bust, in some of niches. <br />
  106. 106. The sides have some interesting features, perhaps, <br />these duplicate the contemporary wooden design. <br />On both ends of the arch are seen makara-s in low relief.<br />From their mouth emanate floral decoration reaching to the top.<br />There are six dainty brackets form another decorative element.<br />
  107. 107. In the middle is a relief of a model of a single-storey temple,<br />That gives an idea of contemporary temples in timbre.<br />Similar replicas would be seen <br />in Ganesa Ratha and Sahadeva Ratha too. <br />An actual one can be found in the Shore Temples complex.<br />
  108. 108. Arjuna Ratha<br />
  109. 109. Arjuna Ratha<br />
  110. 110. Arjuna ratha is <br />an irresistible sight. <br />It is similar to Dharmaraja Ratha, square and pyramidal, <br />and with an octagonal crown, <br />but smaller in size. <br />
  111. 111. Its two storeys are <br />not functional. <br />For those who feel sorry to have missed <br />the exquisite sculptures on the upper floors<br />of the Dharmaraja Ratha they have <br />some consolation here. <br />
  112. 112. The niches on <br />the outer wall <br />can boast of <br />some of the best <br />that the Pallava sculptors produced <br />in the classical style.<br />
  113. 113. Its outer walls, <br />both at the ground level and upper level, <br />are veritable gallery of relief sculptures. <br />
  114. 114. It is unfortunate that there is no approach to the upper tala and <br />the sculptures there <br />will have to be savoured only from distance. <br />
  115. 115. The facade<br />Basement is supported by elephants and vyala-s and <br />is common <br />with the Draupati Ratha. <br />Till a few years ago this was covered with sand.<br />
  116. 116. The facade<br />The adhishtana is of <br />the pada-bandha type.<br />
  117. 117. The facade<br />The cornice is similar to <br />that of the Dharmaraja ratha, <br />carries three pairs of kudu-s. <br />
  118. 118. The facade<br />Above the cornice are <br />a sala, two karnakuta-s <br />all connected by harantara-s. <br />This is repeated <br />on the roof of the first storey.<br />
  119. 119. The facade<br />The ratha is topped by a beautiful sikhara (crown). <br />
  120. 120. The facade<br />Unlike the Dharmaraja Ratha there is no circumbulatory passage in the first floor <br />nor there an approach <br />to the upper floor.<br />
  121. 121. The facade<br />There are a few <br />beautiful divine couples <br />carved upto the waist <br />on the niches in the first floor.<br />When these are not even fully visible from the ground, <br />what would have been the purpose of making <br />these figures there? <br />
  122. 122. Sanctum<br />Before savouring the sculptures on the outer wall, <br /> let us a quick look at the sanctum. <br />The sanctum has a narrow ardha-mandapam in front. <br />It is empty except for a pedestal carved on the back-wall, <br /> for fixing the image of Somaskanda. <br />A socket for taking a linga, <br /> which looks too large for the shrine, <br /> must be a later addition, <br /> as also the crude outlet for <br />abhishekam water to go out.<br />
  123. 123. Around the sculptural gallery<br />Now we are ready to go around the Ratha gallery. <br />The outer walls on all the three sides contain some beautiful sculptures. <br />All the central niches contain divine figures. <br />On both the sides we have human figures, mostly royal couples. <br />And in the corner niches are princely youths, <br />perhaps doorkeepers in pensive and devotional mood.<br />
  124. 124. On the right<br />Vishnu is shown resting <br />on the shoulder of Garuda, <br />his eagle mount, <br />who is here depicted in man-like form, <br />identified by the beak-like nose, <br />kneeling next to his Lord, <br />with his finger to his lips, <br />requesting the spectator's silence. <br />Garuda in human form <br />was depicted on the 2nd level of the Dharmaraja Ratha too.<br />Northern wall<br />
  125. 125. Eastern Wall<br />Indra<br />Indra on Iravatham or Subrahmanya, <br />on his mount elephant. <br />The expression on the face of the god is benign and the animal figure is a result of careful observation.<br />
  126. 126. The one on the right is <br />exceptionally modeled: <br />round shoulders, narrow waist, tapering thighs, <br />supple but strong legs and arms <br />like proverbial creepers; <br />blushful smile on her face like ‘a half-blown lotus’. <br />What would have been <br />impossible in the hardest stone <br />has been attempted.<br />A senior lady is on the left, <br />her stand contrasting <br />with the other one <br />to enhance <br />her voluptuousness. <br />Eastern Wall<br />Royal ladies <br />
  127. 127. Eastern Wall<br />Teacher & disciple <br />A staff-carrying rishi<br />with his dutiful sishya. <br />Who are the two and<br />why are they depicted <br />are not known.<br />
  128. 128. Eastern Wall<br />Two youthful dvara-pala-s, strong and alert, <br />they stand majestically, <br />with outer hands on the hips. <br />These are ideal figures <br />with round and robust shoulders, narrow waist, <br />wearing kirita and patra-kundala-s,<br />with smile on their full and tight lips <br />And are all characteristics of the period.<br />The one of the left, sports <br />a yajnopavita made of skulls and holds a bow. <br />
  129. 129. Southern Wall<br />Four-armed Siva, cross legged, <br />is leaning on Nandi. <br />He wears simple jewellery,<br />a necklace, a patra-kundala on the left ear, jatamukuta and one uttariya around his waist. <br />Easy, graceful an relaxed pose, tranquil smile and <br />a spiritual expression, <br />all within a narrow niche, <br />are a pinnacle of the Pallava art.<br />Probably this is <br />the first representation of Siva <br />as Rishabhantika.<br />There are two excellent depictions of Rishabhantika<br />in the Dharmaraja Ratha.<br />Rishabhantika Siva<br />
  130. 130. Southern Wall<br />Royal couples, <br />majestic kings and <br />demure queens, <br />are another example <br />of delicate modeling. <br />The kings with broad chest and prominent and round shoulders and firm limbs are juxtaposed with curvaceous torso and soft and supple limbs of the queens. <br />But who are they and are they portraits, we may never know.<br />
  131. 131. Southern Wall<br />The two, <br />shown on the ends <br />in three-fourth profiles, <br />are another examples of youthful royal guards. <br />They wear <br />ribbon-like kati-sutra-s <br />and carry long swords. <br />The one on the left wears jata-makuta with <br />all the Saivite symbols, <br />a skull and the crescent moon.<br />
  132. 132. To stand back and savour the site, serenity is palpable. Isn’t it a miracle that the sculptors could manage all these in hard, unyielding granite? Thank god they have chosen this hardest material for us to enjoy their creations after millennia! All these look that the work was completed only yesterday!<br />
  133. 133. “The two queens, guard and elephant with rider’ <br />is an "example of this peaceful, <br />tranquil and harmoniously balanced classic art", characteristic of classical art… ‘ <br />so perfect, so peaceful a composition’.<br />The central panel is a masterpiece of <br />exquisite feminine beauty. <br />From the Guest Book<br /><ul><li> By Charles Fabri, Former Director, National Museum, Delhi </li></li></ul><li>From the Guest Book<br /><ul><li> By Charles Fabri, Former Director, National Museum, Delhi (Year?) </li></ul>"The guard . . . . stands in an easy, nonchalant pose, legs crossed; <br />a variety of natural stances was no problem to the classical artist, <br />who chiselled these three reliefs. <br />He obviously was a thorough <br />master of drawing, <br />knew all about reality, <br />and used this knowledge <br />to create exquisite beauty.<br />
  134. 134. “The two lovely ladies, with slender, elegant bodies, <br />seem to rest contentedly . . . <br />Both stand in elegant, aristocratic poses of great beauty, attractive, gently curving shapes, <br />legs elongated and their lovely faces seen in two different inclinations. Their grace and dignified charm make them exquisite examples of feminine attractiveness; <br /> . . they certainly do not seem very spiritual or very religious in yeaning; they are just beautiful women, and that is what the artist wished to show.<br />From the Guest Book<br /><ul><li> By Charles Fabri,
  135. 135. Former Director, </li></ul>National Museum, Delhi<br />
  136. 136. “The amount of realism <br />he was capable of <br />is best seen <br />in the elephant . . . ; <br />a superbly truthful image <br />of the great, slow pachyderm, <br />a masterly depiction <br />of the animal. <br />From the Guest Book<br /><ul><li> By Charles Fabri, Former Director, National Museum, Delhi (Year?) </li></li></ul><li>"Finally, it should be observed how here, <br />in Mamallapuram, just as in Ajanta, <br />the framework is unadorned; <br />there is hardly a single decorative device <br />on either the plasters or on the panel frame. Classical simplicity prevails". <br />From the Guest Book<br /><ul><li> By Charles Fabri, Former Director, National Museum, Delhi</li></li></ul><li>Draupati Ratha<br />This hut-shaped shrine has a relief of <br />Durga in the sanctum. <br />This relief along with <br />the two elegant female-gate-keepers are <br />a proof of high calibre of the sculptors.<br />
  137. 137. The Draupati Ratha is <br />a shrine for Durga, and <br />it is the smallest <br />in the complex.<br />Its superstructure is <br />unique and exquisite. <br />The roof is in the form of <br />a thatched hut. <br />The sanctum contains <br />a relief image of Durga, <br />which is again a novel feature <br />for a Mamallapuram ratha. <br />
  138. 138. The shrine, <br />of very beautiful shape, <br />sits on the same platform <br />that is common with <br />the Arjuna Ratha, <br />supported <br />by elephants and vyala-s/lions.<br />The thatch-like roof with <br />its corners ornamented with <br />beautiful scroll work is <br />an excellent sight. <br />The final element stupi,<br />which would have been inserted <br />at the time of consecration, <br />can be seen on the floor. <br />
  139. 139. Inside the sanctum is Durga, standing on lotus, though frontal and symmetrical, captivating.<br />The upper right hand holds a discus. The right hand is in the gesture of protection and the left hand rests on her hip. The upper left hand is broken and missing.<br />Four gana-s carrying swords are shown on the upper corners. <br />The devotee sitting on the right is doing archana, while the one on the left is in shown in the gruesome act of self-sacrifice, cutting his own head.<br />
  140. 140. Sahadeva Ratha<br />This last of the five temples<br />and has been sculpted out of a freestanding boulder.<br />The plan is unique, <br />a semi-circle over a rectangle, <br />and resembles <br />the hind part of an elephant, <br />and hence called gaja-prishtha.<br />This is the only shrine of this plan. <br />
  141. 141. The three-storeyed shrine <br />faces the south. <br />This was evidently dictated <br />by the orientation <br />of the boulder<br />out of which it is caused.<br />According to canons <br />Hindu temples <br />don’t face the south. <br />
  142. 142. The ardha-mandapam is supported <br />by two vyala-based pillars and, <br />but the pilasters are elephant-based, <br />which is a novel feature. <br />
  143. 143. There are no gate-keepers and we have no clue <br />as to the identification <br />of the presiding deity. <br />The rectangular sanctum <br />is empty. <br />
  144. 144. The upper floors are not approachable.<br />They are similar to the Dharmaraja, <br />the Bhima and the Arjuna Ratha-s. <br />The kudu-arches contain faces of gandharva-s.<br />The sikharam is apsidal. <br />
  145. 145. The decorative elements <br />on the south-facing front <br />resemble the side faces <br />of the Bhima Ratha. <br />A miniature <br />single-storeyed shrine<br />is also found here in relief, <br />but it is hexagonal <br />from bottom to top. <br />
  146. 146. Right next to this monolith <br />stands a large elephant, <br />carved out of stone. <br />Is it carved next the shrine <br />to emphasis its apsidal nature? <br />
  147. 147. Ganesa Ratha<br />This wagon-shaped ratha <br />is almost finished. <br />Its sculptural quality is<br />very good, <br />particularly of the architectural details<br />on the superstructure.<br />It contains <br />an enigmatic inscription, <br />most of which are reproduced <br />in a few other monuments <br />adds to its importance. <br />
  148. 148. This is the intriguing inscription <br />as similar ones are found in <br />the Dharmaraja the Atianachanda Mandapams.<br />
  149. 149. Ganesa Ratha<br />The Ganesa Ratha, craved out of <br />a free-standing boulder, <br />is very elegant shrine and <br />the ambience adds to it. <br />The name Ganesa Ratha is <br />a misnomer; <br />it was not built for Ganesa, <br />but for Siva, which is adduced<br />from the inscription found here. <br />But due to historical twists <br />the divine son came to occupy it. <br />
  150. 150. As usual first its uniqueness. <br />It is the only ratha<br />under worship, <br />though a different deity <br />than the original, <br />has been installed.<br />It is also the most <br />complete of all the ratha-s. <br />
  151. 151. It contains a very important inscription, <br />in Sanskrit verses in the Pallava Grantha script. <br />According to this, the shrine is known <br />as Atyantakama-Pallavesvara-Griham <br />(‘Sive-shrine-caused-by-Atyantakama-Pallava). <br />The fact that this is not the only shrine known by this name, and that very similar inscription <br />is found in other temples within Mamallapuram <br />have been a subject of research among the experts, <br />as to who were the authors of the Mamallapuram monuments. <br />
  152. 152. This is the intriguing inscription <br />as similar ones are found in <br />the Dharmaraja the Atianachanda Mandapams.<br />
  153. 153. This two-storeyed ratha exudes <br />quiet dignity and <br />is, like the Bhima ratha, <br />a shrine that is rectangular in plan. <br />The superstructure has <br />the familiar arrangement, <br />like the Bhima Ratha.<br />Nine stupi-s, the finial elements,<br />along with head bearing a trident <br />on each end of the roof, <br />are in position. <br />
  154. 154. The pillars and half-pillars are all vyala-based. <br />
  155. 155. Two typical Pallava dvara-pala-s, <br />smiling, shy and thoughtful, <br />from their cramped niche, <br />greet you. <br />
  156. 156. The ardha-mandapam, bereft of sculptures, <br />contains the celebrated inscription. <br />
  157. 157. There are no sculptures on the niches of the outer wall. <br />But there are a lot of details on the superstructure.<br />Because it is of rectangular plan, <br />the ends have specific design, <br />like we had in the Bhima and the Sahadeva Ratha-s. <br />
  158. 158. As had in these two temples, <br />we find a replica another contemporary style of temple.<br />In relief on each of the end of the shikhara is <br />a tall and column-like two-storeyed shrine,<br />circular in section from base to apex. <br />
  159. 159. Ganesh Temple, a photograph, 1870s <br />
  160. 160. Pidari Rathas & Valayankutta Ratha<br />Three rathas lie in desolate majesty <br />onthe outskirts of the town. <br />These least-visited shrines not only<br />offer scope for study <br />of Pallava architecture by themselves,<br />but the captivating natural<br />surrounding provide us quite <br />a few interesting clues to the now-lost <br />excavating shrines. <br />
  161. 161. Valayankutta & <br />Pidari Rathas<br />Three ratha-s lie in desolate majesty onthe outskirts of the town. <br />These least-visited shrines not only offer scope for <br />study of Pallava architecture by themselves, <br />but the captivating natural surrounding provide us <br />quite a few interesting clues to the now-lost excavating shrines. <br />
  162. 162. Pidari Ratha-s<br />The names they go by are <br />recent ones.<br />The twin temples get <br />their name<br />because of the presence of <br />a Pidari temple nearby,<br />so the other, because of <br />a small tank, <br />called Valaiyan-kuttai. <br />Valaiyan-kuttai Ratha<br />
  163. 163. These three monoliths <br />seem to be minor variations on the Arjuna Ratha theme. <br />They are smaller, and lack major sculptured figures. <br />All three shrines are unfinished and <br />there are no inscriptions.<br />The deities, they were <br />to house, are unknown <br />nor are their authors. <br />
  164. 164. Though there are no sculptures of importance,<br />its meticulous sculpturing is a tribute <br />to the Pallava sthapati.<br />Particularly, <br />the makara-torana-s,<br />with four makara-s<br />and two volutes <br />supported by <br />a central bracket stone,<br />attempted on the northern Pidari ratha and on<br />the Valaiyan-kuttai Ratha.<br />
  165. 165. We may go into some detail,<br />Two of them are <br />square-domed and <br />the other is octagonal.<br />The northern Pidari Ratha faces north,<br />a direction not permitted <br />in the later canons.<br />Perhaps this is because of <br />the fanciful nature <br />of the Atyantakama clan!<br />It must be the same reason <br />why two are square-crown, while the last is octagonal. <br />
  166. 166. The three temples, on their own, and their environs<br />offer study of steps in monothic sculpturing. <br />On all the three, the unfinished boulders at the ground level<br />tell give you an idea how the excavation was gone about.<br />
  167. 167. On the hill to the east of the Pidari Ratha-s <br />one can see typical makings of square patterns, <br />the traditional methods of removal of stone. <br />On the top of this low hill can be seen <br />markings for the excavation, <br />perhaps for a monolith, from the top.<br />As one walks towards the Valayankuttai Ratha <br />from the Pidari Ratha-s, <br />the picturesque path also takes you <br />through a few sites where various stages of <br />cutting boulders can be witnessed.<br />What a cleat-cut, a butter-cut! <br />