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Art of Elephanta 

Interior view of the cave temple at Elephanta Western India. Vakataka 5-6th century AD.(click on pic. to see larger image)


Another collection of rock cut shrines is located on an island off the shoreline of  Bombay, called the Elephanta Caves, the authorship (tentatively Rashtrakutas) and date of which is debated. This is again a complex dedicated to Lord Shiva, and the walls of the hall and porch of the most important of these caves are carved with the numerous manifestations of Shiva. These include the Nataraja (Lord of Dancers), Yogishwar (Lord of the Yogis), Ardhanarishwar (half male and female aspect of the Lord), Gangadhara(the Lord who contained the torrents of the descending river Ganga) etc. Also cut into the rock are various episodes from the myth of the Lord. The most splendid amongst these, almost as famous as the Taj Mahal now, is the Mahesamurti which depicts the three aspects of Shiva. On the left is the Bhairon, the wrathful Destroyer with a cruel hooked nose and moustaches. And on the right is the soft, feminine Vamadev, the Creator. In the middle is the eternally peaceful and detatched Tatpurusha aspect as the Maintainer of the Cosmos. A most sensitive and fabulous portrayal of the same visage in three entirely different forms, this beauty attracts a steady stream of entranced tourists.

Siva as Gangadhara receiving the triple stream in his locks . Panel adjacent to the famous Maheshamurti. Elephanta. Vakataka 5-6th AD.(click on pic. to see larger image)


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Arts Indian Atelier 1999-2000