Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Pancha Pandava Cave is connected to the Arjuna’s penance and it is a raw and unfinished structure in the inside. DSC00468However, it is beautifully carved on the outside and lions are carved on the pillars. There is one interesting piece here. One of the pillars is not carved as you see in the picture.

This is the biggest excavation at the site measure 50 feet in length. A cell is cut in the centre but is attached to the back. Behind the front pillars, there is another row of pillars which divide the Cave in five sections but all the sections are unfinished. There is not much to see in this cave and i move ahead to see the Krishna’s Butterball.

This is a very interesting stone. Seen from a distance, it looks as if it is ready to roll down. However, it has a base which prevents from doiDSC00479ng so and that we know only when we go nearer it. Otherwise, it not of much interest in terms of art. The area near this stone is very rocky with huge boulders and vegetation. We need to walk on these rocks, pass through a narrow opening between two boulders and reach the Trimurthi Cave Temple.

This cave temple is a little different from the others as it does not have a pillared hall. The artists have excavated the cells directly into the cave face which is almost vertical. This is a triple celled shrine dedicated to the Trinity, Brahma, Vishnu and DSC00492 Shiva. The central prominent cell is projected little forward, housing a Shiva image, which suggests that the cave was dedicated to Shiva as the main deity among the trinity. All the cells are flanked with dwarpalas on either sides.DSC00486

The first cell i said to be that of Brahma. However, the sculpture inside has only one head and is wearing a cross-band on its chest, which cannot be Brahma. Some historians believe it to be of Subramanya. There is an old inscription on the floor of this cell mentioning the name Mamalla, suggesting the name of Narasimhavarman I,  in whose time this cave was commissioned.

There are two goblins on the top, on either side of Subramanya, one on left is holding a flag-post while having a pustaka in his arm-pit while that on right is shown holding a bowl of offerings. There are two devotees sitting on ground, with one hand raised in adoration and another placed on their chests.

TheDSC00487 central shrine is a little projected to the front compared to the others. Inside the cell is an image of Shiva in a standing posture. He is shown with four arms, in his upper hand he is holding a axe and rosary of beads and his one lower hand is in abhaya mudra and another resting on his thigh. Two goblins on top are shown with one hand raised in adoration and another on their bent knees. Two devotes are  shown below, one squatting on the ground and holding a flower in one hand and other hand on his knee, while the other one is shown holding flowers in both the hands in anjali mudra. There is a lingam inserted into the base, however this is a later addition.

The rightmost cell is dedicated to DSC00489Vishnu. The dvarpalas are shown in side-views, wearing kirita mukutas and yajnopavita. Inside the cell is an image of Vishnu, in standing posture. He is shown with four hands, in upper hands holding a sankha and chakra while one lower hand is in abhaya and another is resting on his thigh. Two goblins are shown on top with one hand raised in adoration. Below are shown two devotees, bent in similar fashion in adoration to the Lord.

There is a niche on southern most part of the rock where an image of Durga is carved. Durga is shown standing over a buffalo-head, representing demon Mahishasura. She is shown with eight hands, in her right hands she holds chakra (discus), khadga (sword) and ghanta (bell) while in her left hands she holds shankha (conch), dhanush(bow) and khetka (shield). Her remaining one left hand is in abhaya mudra and one right hand is on her thigh.

There is one more small temple near this Mantapa which is dedicated to Lord Ganesha. The architecture of this temple is good on its top it has a small sanctum with small pillars on its front end.  Lions are carved on the pillars. I then move on to the famous Varaha Mantapa.

Friday, November 12, 2010

I have visited many temples and had seen many pieces of art, but this stands apart of all. Considering the fact that it is carvMahabalipuram-1141ed on one side of massive stone and has so much detail within it, i say it is one of the most unique and beautiful bas reliefs in India.

This 90 feet by 30 feet bas relief showcases the best of the Pallava architecture and has never been implemented before and after ever in the history of Indian architecture. Lets see this masterpiece in detail.

This bas relief faces east and has an enclosing tank measuring 85 feet by 30.5 feet, in front of it. There are nearly 150 different figures on this panel. Various small themes are depicted in those figures, however the main theme seems to bDSC00460e on the centre of the panel where a life size figure of Shiva is shown standing and an ascetic is shown, standing on one feet,  next to him. This central theme of the panel is a point of controversy that what it represent. There are only two theories proposed, one that it represent Arjuna’s penance to acquire Pashupata from Shiva, another that it represents Bhagiratha’s penance to Shiva in order to bring Ganga from heaven to earth. Now we will talk about the notable parts.

There are DSC00464numerous figures on this bas relief which talk about the central theme. However, there are numerous others which are just spectator. For example, there are a couple of geese, right next to Arjuna which are moving away from him. Also there are other figures of interest like that of a Gana of Shiva shown in the above picture where a lion’s head is carved on his belly. Also there is a picture of a lion with its tail formed as numerical “8” as you can see in the picture here. Then you have the cat holding its hands up like Arjuna in the top. The cat is shown with erect ears and raised eye-brows, watching the hDSC00456appenings neaby very carefully. Near the cat, are the life size elephants which are a marvellous and beautiful creation on this monument.  The male is followed by the female elephant and there are three babies under the male and one on its side. This scene perhaps depicts an elephant herd who is going to drink water from the river. In the middle of the bas relief, there are Nagas which stand in a respectable posture.

As you see in the picture beside, we see a temple housing a small statue of Vishnu. Some scholars suggested that the small size of this image in comparisonDSC00458 with life-size image of Shivashows the subordinate status of Vishnu. However I think that this is not correct as during those times, 6th century AD, the separation between Vaishnava and Shiva was not very distinct. The temple is very simple in architectural style, consisting of a cell topped with square curvilinear dome like tower, which  looks similar to Draupadi Ratha roof style. However instead of having a pointed end like Draupadi Ratha, this tower is flat on top which is topped with stupid. On corners we see flower creeper arrangement while in middle of the edge is shown a kudu with a shrine inside.  Kudus with humans faces are seen on the cornice. Above the cornice we see another storey of the temple. The base of that storey has lion motifs onDSC00463 corners and middle of the side.

There is one very interesting piece of sculpture which does not belong to the bas relief but has been at the very same location for centuries. It is the picture that you see here, of two monkeys one cleaning the other’s head. Even though this piece of architecture is part of the Arjuna’s penance, it stands funnily noticeable.

The Un-finished Arjuna’s penance:

At a little distance from the Arjuna’s Penance, there is another bas relief which is of DSC00516 a similar theme as the Arjuna’s penance and somehow it is not completed. It cannot be proved whether this unfinished piece is a way to cover the one that is already there. The part of rock on which this scene is carved is detached from the other part of the rock and is protruding forward.

The Arjuna’s penance is undoubtedly one of the best works of the Pallava art and architecture. One can spend hours in exploring this sculpture. I spent for more than half an hour here and move on to the Pancha Pandava Cave.