Friday, December 24, 2010

The Ganesha Ratha is located on the backside hill of Arjuna’s Penance and is one of the most complete ratha at the site. As this is the most complete ratha hence it mightDSC00495 be that it was started earliest among all however there is no evidence to support this. Though the shrine is meant to be dedicated to Shiva, but a Ganesha image is housed inside. This image was placed by the villagers in about 1880s with  the permission of the then District Collector.The original Shivalinga however was installed later below a nearby tree. This west facing ratha has two upper storeys with a wagon roof and is 20 feet long, 11.5 feet wide and 28 feet high, in proportions. There is cell excavated in the centre, measuring about 7 feet by 4 feet and 7 feet high. The west frontal façade is supported on two lion-base pillars and two lion-base pilasters. The lions of the pillars faces front and those of pilasters faces each other, as per the regular arrangement seen in other similar monuments.

There is seen a human face peeping out of the cornice. Above the cornice is seen regular arrangement of oblong and square mini shrines, interconnected by a cloister. This horizontal frieze of shrines separated the first storey with the ground floor. The gabled ends are very interesting in design, east side end is fully survived. These horse shoe shaped windows have three DSC00494doors carved out, where the central one is shown containing a high Shivalinga like structure. Many scholars suggests that this design is taken from Buddhist style where a stupa is carved or placed under the  central door. The deign does show some affinity with Buddhist style however if such an influence is there then it would have come from Amaravati artists. On the west portico is a Sanskrit inscription, similar to that of Dharmaraja Mandapa. There are total of fourteen verses in this inscription and the twelfth verse  states that this temple is founded by a Pallava king named Atyantakama, Atyantakama-Pallaveshvara-Griham. The other verses eulogized Shiva.

The MahDSC00535ishasura Mardhini Cave is one of the important monuments in Mahabalipuram and a must visit for its beautiful architecture. This cave temple is below the Olakkaneshwara Temple. This is a three celled shrine, 32 feet long, 15 feet wide and 12.5 feet high hall, where the central one is projected forward compared to the two subsidiary cells. The front facade is supported in four pillars and two pilasters. The central cell has a small mukha-mandapa in front of it which is supported in two pillars with seated lion baDSC00541ses.

The middle sanctum is flanked by dvarapalas (guardians) on either side, and inside it has a panel on the back wall. In this panel Shiva is shown seated majestically on a platform with Parvati. Baby Skanda is shown seated on Parvati’s lap. Shiva’s mount Nandi is shown seated near Shiva’s feet on the ground. Shiva and Parvati are shown  wearing various ornaments such as necklaces, bracelets, ear-rings etc. There is a devotee shown on right side corner. Brahma and Vishnu are shown standing behind Shiva-Parvati. Brahma is shown standing on left side with four heads and four hands. He is shown holding a water vessel and akshamala in his upper hands. Vishnu is also shown with four hands, carrying chakra and sankha in his upper hands. Surya is seen on top, between Brahma and Vishnu.

This cave is with so much detail that once can take even an hour to completely explore each part of it. Let us see the other panels and the sculptures in this beautiful Mandapa.

The mDSC00548ost astonishing features of this cave are the two side panels, which are very exquisite in sculpture art. The north wall depicts Durga as Mahishasura Mardhini fighting with demon Mahishasura. This panel is simply put as one of the most elegant example of the Pallava art. Because of this panel, this shrine is named accordingly. If we can divide this panel in two parts with a vertical line, then left part shows the army with Goddess Durga while the right part shows the army of the  buffalo-demon Mahishasura. Durga is shown mounted on prancing lion and carrying weapons in her eight hands. She is shown holding khadga (sword), dhanush (bow), bana(arrows), ghanta (bell) in her right hands while pasa (rope), sankha (conch), dagger in her left hands. Durga is shown getting ready to fire an arrow towards the demon. One chatra(parasol) is held above her head by one of her companion. She is accompanied with her female warriors and ganas(dwarfs). On right is shown retreating army of the demon. Mahishasura is shown in retreating himself back and trying to save himself from falling. He is holding a gada (club) DSC00536whose heaviness can be felt in his posture. One of his companion is trying to hide himself behind another so to escape from death. One of his soldier is shown falling head down. Another is shown fell on the ground and looking above in fear. The panel depicts the victory of divine power over the evil forces, and sculptors were successful in taking this theme out in perfection.

On southern wall is a panel depiction Vishnu in anantasayana mudra. He iDSC00545s shown with two hands, stretched over the coil of serpent, Adi-sesha. Adi-sesha’s five-hooded head is spread as an umbrella over Vishnu’s head. Two demons are shown  approaching Vishnu near his feet to attack him. Both are shown carrying gada (club). Seeing them approaching near, Adi-Sesha hissed and flames came out of his hoods. Due to these flames, the demons retreated backwards, as shown in the scene. One hand of Vishnu is shown taping over the coil of Adi-Sesha. The rightmost female figure is Bhudevi.

I spent almost half an hour in this Mantapa. It was quite hot that day and i was really tired. I took a break for some quick lunch and moved on to visit the Pancha Pandava Rathas.


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