Mahabalipuram Monuments - Part 1 (Introduction)

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Mamallapuram, a world heritage site, is important place in the art history of India. Its temples and sculptures are not only some of the earliest in this region, but also significant in variety and …

Mamallapuram, a world heritage site, is important place in the art history of India. Its temples and sculptures are not only some of the earliest in this region, but also significant in variety and elegance. This is the only place where you can find all the three styles of temples, namely, cave shrines, single-stone temples and structural temples. Open-air bas-relief is a product of creative Pallava mind cannot be seen anywhere else. There a number of architectural and sculptural objects which are seen in Mamallapuram and no where else. All these make this place a museum of temple architecture and sculpture.
Apresentation by Prof. Swaminathan

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  • 1. Pallava Mallai
    Unfinished poetry in stone - Introduction
    S. Swaminathan
  • 2. Mamallapuram holds an important place in the art history of the Tamil country and of India.
    Its temples and sculptures
    are not only some of the earliest in this region,
    but also significant in variety and elegance.
  • 3. Mandakappattu Cave Temple – the Pallava Overture
    Beginning of causing temples in stone in the Tamil country
    was made by Mahendra Pallava in early 7th century
  • 4. The famous Inscription
  • 5.
  • 6. ¦ºí¸ø, ÁÃõ, ¯§Ä¡¸õ ÁüÚõ Íñ½¡õÒ ÀÂýÀÎò¾¡Áø
    À¢ÃõÁ¡, º¢Åý ÁüÚõ Å¢‰ÏÅ¢üÌ
    Å¢º¢òú¢ò¾ý (Á§†ó¾¢Ã ÀøÄÅý) þó¾ (̨¸ì) §¸¡Â¢¨Ä ±Îò¾¡ý.
    The (cave) temple dedicated to Brahma, Siva and Vishnu
    was excavated by Vichitrachitta (Mahendra Pallava)
    without using brick, timber, metal and mortar.
  • 7. Then the Tamil landscape came to be studded
    with innumerable temples then on.
  • 8. The Mamallapuram story starts with
    Mahendra’s son, Narasimha Pallava (638-668 CE),
    who shifted the location for his creative efforts
    to his port town, Mamallapuram,
    which is named after Mamalla, a title of Narasimha.
  • 9. Temple building activity was carried on
    by his descendents till 728 CE
    Narasimha’s grand-son, Paramesvara and
    his great-grand son, Rajasimha continued
    developing the town.
    Later Rajasimha shifted out and concentrated
    in his capital, Kanchipuram and its environs.
  • 10. Mamallapuram became a museum of temple architecture
  • 11. Mamallai Museum – Cave Temples
    from the most rudimentary . . .
    . . . to the most sophisticated, . . .
    Dharmaraja Mandapam
    Varaha Mandapam
  • 12. . . . monoliths of great variety, . . .
    Mamallai Museum
    Draupati ratha
    Sahadeva ratha
    Wagon-roofed Bhima ratha
    Arjuna ratha
    Dharmaraja ratha
    Pidari ratha
  • 13. Mamallai Museum
    Mukundanayanar Temple
    Shore Temples, on the seashore
    Olakkanesvara Temple,
    on the top of a hill
    . . . structural temples of diverse styles . . .
  • 14. Mamallai Museum
    . . . unique art treasures, like the bas-relief of the Great Penance . . .
  • 15. Mamallai Museum
    . . unusual excavations the Tiger Cave in Saluvakkuppam, . . .
  • 16. Mamallai Museum
    . . . countless pieces of art strewn all over . . .
    Varaha sculpture &
    Single-cell Temple
    Lion Temple
    Mini-Tiger Cave
    and others
  • 17. Mamallai Museum
    . . . panels of great elegance . . .
  • 18. Mamallai Museum
    . . sculptures of extraordinary beauty . .
  • 19. Mamallai Museum
    . . calligraphic, but intriguing inscriptions etc . . .
  • 20. Mamallai Museum
    Similar inscriptions on three stylistically different monuments confusing the authorship issue
  • 21. Mamallai Museum
    Saivite curse in a Vaishnava shrine
  • 22. . . . all these make the Mamallai Museum an exciting place.
  • 23. Mamallapuram, a World Heritage
    UNESCO has declared Mamallapuram monuments as
    World Heritage monuments in 1984, for
    - Its Descent of the Ganges is a unique artistic achievement
    - Mamallapuram is the testimony
    to the Pallava’s civilization of southeast India
    - Its sculptures are characterised
    by the softness and suppleness of their modeling
    - The influence of its sculptures spread
    to the East, to Cambodia, Java etc
  • 24. Mamallapuram, a Unique Site
    The Pallava sculptures are in the classical style,
    right at the first attempt
    They are wrought on granite, the hardest material,
    a feat accomplished 700 years after Asoka
    Mamallapuram is a one-stop-shop
    for temple architecture of the South
  • 25. Mamallapuram, a Unique Site
    Mamallapuram in the only place in India
    where all the three stages of temple architecture,
    - cave temples
    - single-stone temples and
    - structural temples
    can be seen.
    Open-air bas-reliefs
    are not found anywhere else in the country,
    excepting Mamallpuram.
  • 26. Unanswered questions
    What is the history of the site before the Pallavas chose it?
    Is there a city under the sea?
    Why it is named Mahabalipuram?
    How did the name Seven Pagodas come into use?
  • 27. Unanswered questions
    Who were the authors of the monuments?
    What do we understand of
    the enigmatic inscriptions found in a number of places?
    Why most monuments are unfinished?
    Who are the royal figures in the Adivaraha Mandapam?
  • 28. Unanswered questions
    Is the Great Penance of Arjuna or of Bhagiratha?
    How did the Shore Temple complex develop?
    Why are the Shore Temples located at the very edge of sea?
  • 29. Unanswered questions
    Why many monuments are named after
    the Mahabharata heroes?
    Why are the immovable monoliths called ratha-s?
    What is the full story of wanton vandalism:
    during Narasimha period, and
    later, during the Vijayanagara times?
  • 30. Unanswered questions
    Why these monuments, of international fame now,
    did not attract the attention
    of the contemporary religious savants
    at the height of bhakti movement?
    Kanchi was the intellectual capital of the south during the period,
    but why there is hardly any literary reference
    to Mamallapuram?
  • 31. Unanswered questions
    There are more …..
  • 32. Before going to Mamallapuran,
    can we look for possible inspiration
    in the vicinity?
  • 33. Southern predecessors
    Satavahana Dynasty (2nd Century BCE - 4th Century, CE)
    Buddhist Monuments of Amaravathi in Andhra Pradesh
  • 34. Southern predecessors
    Ikshvaku Dynasty (3rd-4th Centuries, CE)
    Nagarjunakonda Buddhist monuments in Andhra Pradesh
  • 35. The Pallava contemporaries too
    imbibed the spirit of artistic creativity,
    like the Pallavas,
    and their contribution to
    southern temple architecture is no less.
    The period was truly momentous.
  • 36. Southern Contemporaries
    Chalukyas (6th – 7th Centuries CE)
    Badami Cave Temples in Karnataka
  • 37. Southern Contemporaries
    Pandyas (7th – 9th Centuries CE)
    Tirumayam Cave Temple
  • 38. We seem to enjoy and celebrate royal splendour.
    Thus we attribute the Mamallai marvels to the Pallava kings,
    little realising royal intentions and wealth
    alone would not have sufficed.
    But these were the work of the sculptor, whose names we don’t know.
  • 39. We may keep in mind what would make a good sculptor.
    A whole life of dedication
    starting with decades of apprenticeship under elders,
    study of scriptures and canons,
    ability to imbibe bhava and
    transfer the same to inanimate material,
    capacity to concentrate and many more.
    What would he get in return?
    No family or social lfe,
    living with anxiety all life,
    anxious of the outcome of his work and
    the reactions of the royal patron.
  • 40. We may also keep one more aspect in mind
    while visiting our religious sites.
    What we celebrate as wonderful art
    were not created as art objects.
    They were meant to be objects for
    contemplation, meditation
    and religious focus.
    We fail to understand and appreciate
    the metaphysical, spiritual and
    philosophical significance.
    May be we are seeing these monuments
    from the wrong side of telescope!
  • 41. Many of us may not know that,
    in Indian religious art,
    all sculptures were plastered and painted.
    What we see today, in most places,
    the base bereft of plaster and paint.
    One will have to use one’s own imagination
    how these would have looked
    in their glorious days.
    What astonishes us is that
    Even the base stone sculpture
    is alive and expressive, which tells us
    that for the sculptor every step
    important to be done with utmost
    spiritual concentration.
  • 42. Authorship and Chronology
    There is no complete unanimity among experts.
    But the following can be taken as the majority view.
  • 43. Narasimha Pallava (630-668) initiated
    excavating cave temples,
    Pandava Rathas,
    the single-stone temples and
    sculpted the Great Penance panel;
    His grandson, Paramesvara (672-700)
    not only completed some of the unfinished ones,
    but also sculpted Ganesa Ratha, a single-stone ratha;
    His son, Rajasimha (700-728), was responsible
    for building the structural Shore Temples,
    and also developing the Complex.
  • 44. Location
    The monuments are located
    within the village of Mamallapuram
    and in Saluvakkuppam, a neighbourhood
  • 45. Monuments are
    distributed over
    a large area, and
    the largest
    is around
    Main Hill Complex
  • 46. 1816
  • 47. Let us now visit the Mallai monuments