Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Pidari Rathas are two incomplete rathas and similar in style with Pancha Pandava Ratha group, hence could be assigned to the same period. One of these DSC00052 faces east and another faces north. Both are two storeys design where the upper part of the ratha is complete but the lower portion is very little done. Both of them are carved in different profile, one has a square roof and another has an octagonal roof. On the ridges of the roofs is seen floral creepers, similar to Draupadi Ratha. Regular arrangement of mini shrines over the cornice is also found here. In one of the ratha we also see pilasters supporting the cornice, however the other one has not still reached to that state of completion.

The Atiranachanda Mandapa is located at Saluvankuppam, about 4 km from Mahabalipuram on Chennai route. This is an east facing mandapa measuring 28 feetDSC00079 long, 6 feet wide and 6.5 feet high. The fa├žade of the cave is supported on two pillars and two pilasters. Above the cornice we see incomplete horizontal frieze of mini shrines. Inside the are seen three cells, however only the central cell is excavated as a square of 3.5 feet, the rest of two cells are just the wall portions separated by the middle cell. Inside the middle cell is placed a black polished multi faceted lingam, which is seen as a characteristic style of Rajasimha. Another proof to support this cave excavation to Rajasimha is DSC00084 Somaskanda panel on the back wall inside the shrine. Shiva is shown seated with Uma and baby Skanda under a parasol. They are flanked by Vishnu and Brahma on either side. Outside this cell, in the sunk niches, are carved two dvarpalas. Two similar Somaskanda panels are seen carved on the back wall of the mandapa on either sides of the central cell. From the pillars and corbel, it looks that the cave might have been executed during Mahendra/Mamalla’s time however black polished fluted linga and Somaskanda panel inside the central cell suggests the creation to Rajasimha. It would be wrong to assume that the excavation was started during Mahendra/Mamalla’s time and completed by RDSC00086ajasimha as the cave is still incomplete and also to complete such a simple excavation would not require this much time such as between Mamalla and Rajasimha. We see a long stone Lings outside the Mandapa. Some historians suggest that the current granite was placed inside recently and the the Linga outside was the one that was originally inside the cell.

We have two inscriptions, one on northern wall and another on southern wall, in  this temple. Both are similar inscription, only difference is in their script, one written in Sanskrit and another in Pallava Grantha script. From the inscriptions, we found that this temple was called as Atiranachanda-Pallaveshvara-GrihamIshvara temple of Atiranachanda Pallava. It is clearly stated that this was excavated as an adobe for Shiva, Uma and Skanda with the ganas. Pallava Grantha inscription runs for seventeen lines while the Sanskrit inscription runs for sixteen lines. In the additional line of Pallava Grantha script talks about the musical talents of Kalakala, another title of Rajasimha. Few verses of the inscriptions are similar to Dharmaraja and Ganesha Ratha inscriptions of Parameshvaravarman I. From the inscription, it is clear that this cave can be assigned to Rajasimha.

Yali Mandapam (Tiger Cave) – This structure is quite different and unique from the other cave shrines of Mahabalipuram. This south-east facing structure is located DSC00077 near Atiranachanda Mandapam. This cave is refined, cut at a height of 6 feet from the ground level and the pavilion is closed on three sides and a 4 feet deep and 6 feet high cavity is excavated in the front. The staircase, to reach the high raised platform, is supported by lion parapets on either sides.

There are two rampant lion pilasters at the corners of this cavity. There is a female rider sitting over the rearing lion. This is the first instance of rearing lion pillar style in a Mahabalipuram cave which suggests that it DSC00076was excavated during Rajasimha’s time. Also the proximity of this mandapam to Atiranachanda Mandapa also supports Rajasimha as its creator. There are two small niches carved on the either side of  this central cavity, the niches are empty. Around this central cell and the two niches is a surrounding garland like arrangement of eleven vyalas (mythological lion-shaped animal). On the same rock, south of this pavilion, are carved two large elephants heads, above which is a horse-show cavity representing a howdah. If we compare the elephants of Arjuna’s PenancDSC00073e then these elephants heads are very inferior in craftsmanship, even if we take account of the damage done due to saline air. The ears of the elephants are  carved with  Inside these are carved four-armed seated figure carrying what seems like a vajra (thunderbolt) in one of their hands. One figure could be identified with Indra as elephant is his mount. There is a pillar (dhvaja-stambha) in between two elephants. On south of the elephants is a figure of horse, approaching towards the elephants. However that figure is not complete and quite worn out due to the saline air.

On northern face of the same rock is carved DSC00068a huge lion. In its stomach is carved out a cavity. Some figure was planned inside this cavity, as can be seen from what’s left behind,  however it was left unfinished. This lion is similar to the standing lion inside Shore Temple, in whose chest is carved a cavity and inside is a relief of  Mahishasuramardini.The lion head is quite identifiable however In whole it looks like a crude carving. From all above elements of this rock boulder, it can be inferred that this cave was thought to be dedicated to Durga. This surmise is totally dependent upon the presence of so many lions, who is the mount of Goddess Durga. As stated earlier, this creation is assigned to Rajasimha by most of the scholars.

Mukunda Nayanar Temple:

This temple was buried under 12 feet of sand and was excavated at the same time when Sulvankuppam excavations were carried out. This lies little far from town, on the way towards Sulvankuppam. This is a small temple which is very similar to DSC00065 Dharmaraja Ratha in its architecture and design. This east facing double storey temple, thought assigned to Rajasimha’s period, does not have rampant lion pillars, which are very characteristic features of his style and are found in all the temples attributed to him. The temple has a ardha-mandapa supported on two pillars and two pilasters. The pillars are circular in shape with diminishing diameter towards the upper end. Above the cornice is seen regular arrangement of mini shrines interconnected via cloisters. The corner shrines are with square roof however the middle one is with oblong roof. These mini shrines separates the first storey with the ground one. On the first storey are seen niches on all four sides, however all are empty. The ardha-mandapa leads into a square  garbha-griham. On the back wall of this DSC00066sanctum is a Somaskanda panel. Shiva is shown seated with Uma and baby Skanda, while Vishnu and Brahma are shown standing behind them. Skanda is shown seated in Parvati’s lap. The style is very similar to the other such panels of Rajasimha’s time. The presence of this panel supports the theory of its assignment to Rajasimha. There is a Shivalingam installed in front of this panel, however it seems to be a later addition.

We have come to the end of the wonderful journey of Mahabalipuram. This place would always have a special place in my trips as this is the first time i ventured into Tamil Nadu. I bid adieu to the land where stones speak history and move to my next destination, Thirukazhukundram.

-----------------------------------End of Mahabalipuram-------------------------------------------


Anonymous said...

I have found your posts on Mahabalipuram, Kanchipuram, and Mysore very valuable as I will be visiting them soon from England (Didcot). I have been studying temple architecture and find your descriptions invaluable.

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