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 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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Mahabalipuram Monuments - Part 1 (Introduction)

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