Monday, December 13, 2010

Dharmaraja Mantapa is located behind the lighthouse and is triple celled and faces east. This mandapa shows striking resemblances with the earlier Pallava excavations of Mahendravarman I. Here the middle cell is projected forward in comparison to two side ones. All the cells are empty.

DSC00524 This Mantapa is fine made into a huge stone. And we wonder how much it takes to chisel a stone to that level. Here we find angled corbels suggesting that the use of the old architecture of construction. Curved corbels are supposedly taken as an advanced architectural style. The cells inside this cave are about 2 feet above the ground and staircases are provided in front of all, whereas the middle cell staircase is supported by parapets on both sides. This cell style suggests the advanced architectural style.

Here we have dvarpalas carved on the sides of the central cell, though there is ample space on the front fa├žade. Here we see chandra-silas (moon-shaped stair step) on all the three cells. This chandra-sila is also seen a characteristic style DSC00525of Mahendra as we see this feature in his later temples. In conclusion, this cave is excavated in advanced architectural style, except the corbels of the pillars. We do not see any carvings, like miniature shrines and horse-shoe (kudu) windows, above the cornice. This puts this as one of the earliest creation among the caves of Mahabalipuram. This cave was vandalized during the Vaishnava resurgence when the dvarpala figures were completely chiselled off and marks of Vishnu were carved on the front pillars. From the outline of the markings of dvarpala, it can be said that those were carved with front facing profiles with one hand on their waist and another hand resting on something which is not very clear. We are fortunate to find an inscription here, however it only adds to the confusion about the creator of this cave.

The Olakkaneshwara Temple located above the the hill in which the Mahishasura DSC00531 Mardhini Cave is carved out. The temple could be a creation of Rajasimha, as it is most accepted that structural temples have started being constructed during his time. The gopura of the temple has not survived. We need to climb some steps to reach the top. Its a bit tedious as each step is at a considerable height and one cannot climb easily.

Before the stone lighthouse was built in 1900 CE, this temple roof was used as the lighthouse and for that purpose a wooden shad had been constructed on its flat roof. This wooden shed would have been constructed when the tower of the temple would have fallen. The sikhara (tower) of the temple would have been on DSC00568 the same design as that of the Shore Temple, of Dravidian style. The dvarpalas of the main shrine are carved with half-profile, instead of regular posture of front facing style. Guardians on the back wall of the temple are carved with full frontal profile. This east facing temple was under worship till nineteenth century. There is a small ardha-mandapa which leads into a rectangular shrine.

On one external wall of the ardha-mandapa, within a niche with pilasters on each side, DSC00561is carved Shiva slaying Yama. The execution of the sculptures does not suggest any comparison with other Pallava sculptures, such that it seems that this has not been done by those artists. There are three devkoshtas (niches) on external walls of the main shrine, on south we have a nice sculpture of Shiva as Dakshinamurti sitting under a tree, on west is shown Ravana trying to shake up Kailasa with Shiva and Parvati seated over the mountain and on north we see Shiva as Nataraja.

The sculptures are much ruined, and were plastered and painted over hence the originality is much less visible. The temple would have been dedicated to Shiva, as supported by his various postures on external walls. Interestingly we do not find any Somaskanda panel here, which is very characteristic feature of Rajasimha. Also no Shiva-linga found inside.

In absence of any inscriptions, it is hard to assign the temple to any king, however as rampant lion pilasters are present hence this could be assigned to Rajasimha, still the mystery persists that why other characteristic features are missing.

We can see the sea out there from the shrine. I spent around 15 minutes checking each of the sculpture that is carved out on  this amazing temple, and then move on to visit one of the important landmarks of Mahabalipuram, the Mahishasura Mardhini Cave.

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