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Mahabalipuram Monuments - Part 2 (Cave temples)

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There are more than ten cave temples, and these range from very simple to most sophisticated. Some of them contain exquisite large relief compositions of which the Mahishasuramardini composition is the best.
A presentation by Prof.Subramanian Swaminathan

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Mahabalipuram Monuments - Part 2 (Cave temples)

  1. 1. Pallava Mallai<br />Unfinished poetry in stone - 2 Cave temples<br />S. Swaminathan<br />(sswami99@gmail.com)<br />
  2. 2. Let us now visit the Mallai monuments<br />
  3. 3. Cave Temples<br />An overview<br />
  4. 4. Worshipping places scooped out of the rock faces <br />are found all over the country. <br />They are called, cave temples, technically, rock-cut temples. <br />They are also called mandapam-s. <br />The cave temples of Mamallapuram, <br />like elsewhere in the south, <br />consist of a pillared hall and <br />one or more sanctums at the rear of the hall. <br />The hall may be divided sometimes into two parts, <br />the front one called maha-mandapam and <br />the rear, ardha-mandapam. <br />Number of shrines varied from one to <br />as many as five in Mamallapuram, <br />with the presiding deity occupying the central one. <br />
  5. 5. The early temples were simple and the sculptural decoration <br />restricted to dvarapala-s only. <br />They were characterised by heavy square pillars with octagonal section in the middle, known as the Mahendra-style. <br />The pillars support the roof through plain brackets. <br />The Dharmaraja Mandapam is in this early style. <br />
  6. 6. In course of time pillars <br />became ornate. <br />From the simple, massive Mahendra-style pillars, <br />they became almost round. <br />A base, a bulbous top and embellished bracket that support the beam <br />came into vogue. <br />
  7. 7. The pillar shaft resting on the head of a sitting lion or vyala is the next stage, along with greater details on the bracket above. <br />It was shafts on standing lions, <br />the last stage. <br />This type is found <br />in the Shore Temples. <br />
  8. 8. The plain façade of the early period was<br />also modified to resemble in relief <br />the superstructure of <br />contemporary vimana-type temples. <br />
  9. 9. Continuing with such increasing complexities, <br />the walls of the hall came to be decorated with <br />relief sculptures of themes from purana-s.<br />
  10. 10. In the early stages the deities <br />in the sanctum in the Pallava temples were <br />either paintings made or <br />images in relief made of wood fixed <br />on the rear wall of the sanctum. <br />With these images gone due to decay, most Mamallapuram sanctums are empty. <br />But in the three sanctums of the Trimurti Mandapam and in the Draupati Ratha<br />deities have been sculpted in relief. <br />
  11. 11. It was in the later stage that lingam came to be installed in the sanctum, as in the Shore Temples. <br />But we may find lingam in many sanctums in Mamallapuram, and these are later additions. <br />
  12. 12. The sanctums would normally be guarded <br />by gate-keepers. <br />They would be women, if the presiding deity was a goddess, <br />like Durga. <br />It would be possible to identify the deity <br />they are guarding, <br />from the dress, <br />the ornaments and <br />the arms they carry. <br />
  13. 13. As time progressed greater details were incorporated to the base of the shrine and elsewhere and also developed stylisation leading to systemisation. <br />This is the beginning of Vastu and Agama practices.<br />All the sculptures were plastered and painted, which are lost due to centuries of exposure to natural elements.<br />In Mamallapuram, we have more than ten cave shrines, <br />in various stages of incompletion, and <br />of varying degrees of sophistication. <br />Thus the Kotikkal Mandapam is the simplest and the Adivaraha shrine is the ultimate in Mamallapuram. <br />
  14. 14. Most of the cave temples in Mamallapuram<br />are excavated on a large hillock that is oriented along north south.<br />Two are located in Saluvakkuppam, the neighboring village<br />
  15. 15. Cave Temples<br />An overview<br />Kotikkal Mandapam<br />
  16. 16. Koti-k-kal Mandapam, must be an early temple <br />as can be seen from the plain features.<br />There is no clue as to the meaning of Kotikkal, <br />nor how it got the name. <br />It must have been dedicated Durga, <br />as can be inferred by the presence of female door-keepers. <br />These very elegant figures are the only sculptures here, <br />but their dress and ornaments are worth studying. <br />It can boast of a short inscription. <br />Cave Temples<br />An overview<br />
  17. 17. Cave Temples<br />An overview<br />The two pillars and the two half-pillars in the front <br />and the roof part are all plain.<br />There is a short inscription on one of its pillars <br />in the Grantha script, Shri vamankusha, <br />but its significance is not known. <br />
  18. 18. The hall has no sculptures<br />and the sanctum is empty.<br />The only sculptural decoration <br />in this shrine is <br />the pair of female gate-keepers <br />guarding the sanctum.<br />Both of them are slim, graceful <br />and stand in elegant poses. <br />Their poses are similar, <br />but not same, avoiding monotony. <br />One rests on a club <br />and the other holds a bow.<br />Cave Temples<br />An overview<br />
  19. 19. Their dress consists of <br />breast-bandand <br />waist-band. <br />There is also a loose girdle <br />of pleated cloth. <br />Their hair-do is jata-makuta, <br />a Siva standard, <br />laced with ornaments.<br />
  20. 20. This could be <br />another shrine <br />belonging to <br />the early phase<br />judging from <br />its simple features, <br />massive <br />square pillars and <br />lack of any <br />embellishments.<br />Dharmaraja Mandapam<br />There are three cells, and <br />it is likely that <br />the central one was dedicated to Siva.<br />The mutilated gate-keepers and <br />the inscription on the wall make it <br />an important monument. <br />
  21. 21. It is an inscription of 11 stanzas written in 14 lines.<br />The language is Sanskrit, like most inscriptions <br /> of the Pallavas in Mallai period and <br /> the script is Pallava Grantha,<br /> a script created by the Pallavas to write Sanskrit.<br />The inscription is important for a variety of reasons.<br />
  22. 22. It is an elegant writing, Indian calligraphy at its peak.<br />The inscription says that the shrine was caused <br /> by a king whose title was Atyamtakama, <br /> but we are not certain which Pallava king it is,<br /> for many Pallavas assumed this title.<br />It is also intriguing as almost similar inscription is <br /> found in the Ganesa Ratha and <br /> the Atiranachanda Mandapam,<br /> which may belong to different periods, <br /> if one were to accept<br /> chronology based on stylistic variations.<br />
  23. 23. Here is the facsimile <br />of the inscription<br />
  24. 24. The 5th stanza says: <br />“King Atyantakama, <br />who has subdued the territories of his foes,<br />is famed (by the name of) Ranajaya:<br />he caused to be made<br />this house of Sambhu (Siva)”<br />अत्यन्तकामो नृपतिर्न्निर्जितारातिमण्डलः|<br />ख्यातो रणजयः शम्भोस्तेनेदं वेश्मकारितं||<br />அத்யந்தகாமோ ந்ருபதிர்ந்நிர்ஜிதாராதிமண்ட3ல: |<br />க்2யாதோ ரணஜய: ச0ம்போஸ்தேநேத3ம் வேச்0மகாரித3ம் ||<br />atyantakAmo nRpatirnnirjijitArAtimaNDala: |<br />khyAto taNajaya: Sambhostenedam veSmakAritam ||<br />
  25. 25. Koneri Mandapam<br />Koneri Mandapam is located opposite to a tank, <br />called Koneri Pallam, perhaps, <br />the reason for the name of the cave shrine. <br />Its isolation and it being in the midst of an undisturbed <br />Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest are its two interesting features. <br />The other is that it is a five-celled cave, <br />the only one of its kind in Mamallapuram.<br />
  26. 26. The Pallava-s continue to tease us.<br />Which are the deities to be housed <br />in these five cells is a puzzle. <br />More than that having <br />square Mahendra-type pillars <br />on the front row and more rounded,<br />well-ornamented pillars <br />on the back row <br />dents the theory of chronology <br />based on stylistic development. <br />
  27. 27. Each of the five sanctums is guarded by a pair of dvara-pala-s.<br />There are similarities among them, but there is no monotony.<br />The postures and profiles are different. <br />All of them are Saivites, with jata-makuta, pair of horns forming<br />part of their head-dress or the massive clubs they carry, <br />all Saivite standards. <br />The gate-keeper on the extreme left is <br />fully chipped away and its companion partly. <br />
  28. 28. Typical flora of Mallai<br />Tropical Dry Evergreen forest<br />The shrine is located in wooded area, <br />a typical tropical ever green forest, <br />a unique endemic ecosystem <br />of the eastern coastal area. <br />Traditional healers use these plants <br />for curing more than 52 ailments.<br />Many of what we see in this patch is <br />200-300 years old. We may see <br />200-year vintage date palm trees and <br />creepers are substantial girth. <br />The only creeper belonging to the ficus family <br />is among the interesting species here.<br />
  29. 29. Mahishasuramardini Mandapam<br />Though unfinished, the three-celled shrine<br />contains two priceless panels,<br />Mahishasuramardini and Anatasayanam.<br />The sanctum contains an early relief of<br />Somaskanda.<br />The portico in front of the sanctum is <br />a unique feature.<br />
  30. 30. Mahishasuramardini Mandapam<br />
  31. 31. Design of front pillars is<br />definitely advancement<br />over the square<br />Mahendra pillars.<br />
  32. 32. The beautiful lion-based pillared portico in front of the central sanctum is found only in this mandapam. <br />Why are then the pilasters <br />on the rear are vyala-based? <br />
  33. 33. The rectangular pit on the floor, <br />may be to accommodate <br />a reclining Vishnu idol, <br />must be a later addition.<br />The removal of a pillar in the front, <br />engraving sanku-chakra on the front pilasters and <br />modification tried in the porch in front of the central shrine, <br />are tell-tales marks of the attempt to convert it into <br />a Vaishnava shrine, perhaps, <br />in the Vijayanagara times.<br />
  34. 34. The presence of a large Somaskanda panel in the central sanctum<br />covering almost the entire wall is a novel feature.<br />Its large size and the presence of bull-mount in the composition <br />differ from all the standard composition of Somaskanda.<br />
  35. 35. That the dvara-pala-s of the southern shrine are clearly Saivite and <br />that the sculptures of the two dvara-pala-s of the central shrine <br />seem to be modified, <br />make some to suggest that the original Vaishnavite temple <br />has been changed to a Saivite shrine.<br />
  36. 36. The two relief sculptures, <br /> Anatasayana and Mahishasuramardini<br /> are among the best representations <br /> of the Pallava art.<br />That these two scenes are described <br /> in the Devi-mahatmiya, <br /> an episode form Markandeya Purana. <br />Was this the reason for selection for panels here?<br />
  37. 37. Mahishasuramardini Mandapam and <br />the ruins of Olakkanesvara Temple above<br />Durga Temple (Mahishasuramardini Temple),<br />Photograph taken by Nicholas and Co in ca. 1880<br />
  38. 38. Mahishasuramardini Mandapam and <br />the ruins of Olakkanesvara Temple above<br />"Pagodas at Mahabalipuram, engraved by J. Landseer, <br />after a picture by H.Salt, with recent hand colour." 1811<br />
  39. 39. Mahishasuramardini Mandapam and <br />the ruins of Olakkanesvara Temple above<br />'South View of a Small Temple on the Southernmost eminence of <br />the Hill at Mahabalipoorum. J. Gantz'; 1825<br />
  40. 40. Atiranachanda Mandapam<br />Situated in Saluvakkuppam, <br />close to the Tiger Cave, this temple <br />has a few uncommon features. <br />In addition to a Somaskanda <br />in the sanctum, <br />there are two more in the front hall.<br />An improperly fixed lingam <br />in the sanctum, <br />and one in the front could be <br />later additions.<br />The presence of a beautiful bas-relief <br />of Mahishasuramardini, and <br />two important inscriptions <br />calligraphically rendered, <br />makes this cave worth a visit.<br />
  41. 41. Grantha inscription Devanagari inscription<br />Similar inscription is found in the Dhramaraja mandapam <br />and the Ganesa Ratha<br />
  42. 42. As excavated in 18 century<br />
  43. 43. Varaha Mandapam<br />This dainty shrine has <br />a well-finished facade, and <br />vyali-based pillars of later style.<br />But its importance lies <br />in the four extraordinary <br />compositions:<br />Varaha, Lakshmi, <br />Durga and Trivikrma.<br />
  44. 44. A drawing of Varaha Mandapam<br />‘Elevation of the Varaha Avatar Cavern. Mahabalipooram.’<br />
  45. 45. Adivaraha Mandapam<br />Dedicated to Adivara, this is under worship. But the later constructions <br />mar the appearance. Like Varaha Temple, this has a number of <br />very beautiful sculptures; some being royal portraits is important.<br />There are two inscriptions of importance, one of which lists <br />all the ten avataras of Vishnu.<br />
  46. 46. Adivaraha Mandapam<br />Dedicated to Adivara is under worship, but the later constructions <br />mar the appearance. Like Varaha Temple, this has a number of <br />very beautiful sculptures; some being royal portraits is important.<br />There are two inscriptions of importance, one of which lists <br />all the ten avataras of Vishnu.<br />
  47. 47. Ramanuja Mandapam<br />What should have been the cynosure of Mamallai, <br />this cave is a pathetic sight <br />with all the sculptures fully mutilated.<br />Relief of single-storied temples on either side is <br />a tribute to the boundless desire of the Pallavas <br />to be ever inventive.<br />
  48. 48. Trimurti Mandapam<br />This sheer poetry in stone, is three-celled without front halls, <br /> and are dedicated to Subrahmanya, Siva and Vishnu. <br />There is also a niche for Durga<br />These cells contain the deities in the sanctums, an unusual feature. <br />The dvarapala-s also fine sculptures. <br />
  49. 49. A drawing of Trimurti Mandapam<br />‘Elevation of the cave to the North of the rock at Mahabalipooram, <br />facing the west with 3 porches well sculptured on the rock, 1816.’ <br />By an anonimous artist <br />
  50. 50. Sculptures of Trimurti Mandapam <br />- Brahmasasta<br />‘Sculptured figure within the Cave of Capul Iswar, at Mahabalipooram 1816. <br />Copied by A. Macpherson.’ <br />
  51. 51. Sculptures of Trimurti Mandapam <br />- Siva<br />‘Sculptured Figure within the Cave of <br />Capul Iswar at Mahabalipooram Central Compartment. <br />Copied by J. Gould.’ <br />
  52. 52. Sculptures of Trimurti Mandapam <br />- Vishnu<br />‘Sculpture in Cave of Capul Iswar <br />at Mahabalipooram. Left Compartment. <br />Copied by J. Gould, 1819.’ <br />
  53. 53. Sculptures of Trimurti Mandapam <br />- Mahishasuramardini<br />‘Figure of Cali at Mahabalipooram<br />Copied by Paralla.’<br />
  54. 54. Many Pallava kings called themselves as Atyantakama <br />(‘of-boundless-desires’), for which this monument is an example.<br />The façade is decorated with eleven excellently modelled vyalis.<br />There is no clue as to the purpose for which this has been excavated.<br />There are a number of unfinished reliefs: two elephants with <br />an unidentified deity on the howdah of each, a running horse and <br />a shrine within a lion, all add to the mystery.<br />Tiger Cave<br />

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