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Pallavas Art

Arjuna's penance.Mahabalipuram. Pallava, 7th century AD.(click on pic. to see larger image)

Mahishamardini attacking the buffalo demon on a lion with his retinue. Mahabalipuram.Pallava,7th century AD.(click on pic. to see larger image)

The Shore Temple. Mahabalipuram. Pallava 8th century AD.(click on pic. to see larger image)

In the south-east of India, after the collapse of the Andhra dynasty as early as the first century BC, the Pallavas came to power.The Pallavas were Buddhists to start with, but in the fifth century they converted to Brahmanism. Also, they were great sea-faring traders and their chief seaport at Mamallapuram (now Mahabalipuram) later also blossomed into a great artistic centre during the reign of Narsimha Varman I. This town 37 miles South of the city of Madras, is famous for it's marvellous cave temples and massive monolithic open air reliefs carved into the out-croppings of black granite which run through the town, forming a backbone of sorts. One of these, strangely called "Arjuna's penance" is a famous relief depicting the descent of the sacred river Ganga from the heavens wherein Lord Shiva consents to leash its strong torrents in his labyrinthine hair and various naga kings along with humans and animals are shown paying homage to the subdued flow which results. Another famous relief depicts the goddess Durga astride her mount the Lion in the process of triumphing over the evil forces of Mahishasur. But the most famous Pallava structures are a group of five temples carved into the shape of raths (charriots) of the Pandavas, running from north to south one after the other. All these massively carved monoliths have on their sides, splendid examples of the elongated elegance which is a mark of Pallava art. Opinion is that the tough nature of the granite contributed to some extent for the elongated forms chararacteristic to the Pallavas. After the death of Narsimha Varman I too, some construction was carried out at Mamallapuram and famous amongst these is the Shore Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. The design of the Shore Temple closely resembles the great Kailashnath temple at Ellora and also strongly influenced the future Chola architectures. It has a soaring tower and the inner cell is designed to permit the first eastern sunlight and the passing sailors to pay homage to the deity. Local legend claims that there were once four other temples alongside of this, but they were washed away by the sea, In fact this existing temple also gives signs of melting away, from the constant onslaught of the sun and water erosion.





Temple and rathas of Arjuna & Darapadi . Mahabalipuram Pallava 7th century AD.(click on pic. to see larger image)

Siva as Vrishabhantika. Detail of a carving  on the Arjuna ratha, Mahabalipuram,7th century AD.(click on pic. to see larger image)

Temple 5 at Mahabalipuram,in the shape of processional chariot without wheels. Sahadeva. 7thcentury AD. Elephant Sculpture & lion guardians at entrance pillars.(click on pic. to see larger image)


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