MAMALLAPURAM ...a virtual serialized walk through
This hillock of hard charnokite of Mamallapuram was the canvas on which the Pallava sculptor exhibited his highest skill. Perhaps many hundreds of them were working simultaneously chiselling the cave temples and the sculptures in them. Few master sculptors-architects perhaps were moving up and down the hillock to provide the deft touch to works being created by their juniors. Just imagine yourself among that army of artisans about 1300 years ago. Can you not hear the sounds of hammers hitting the heads of the steel chisels? If you still transcend a bit more, they were ringing in unison. So perfect were they like their creations.
Where from they got the inspiration? No doubt from this delicately balanced rock. Nature had inspired them. This rock is locally known as “Krishna’s Butter Ball”. Krishna, an incarnation of Vishnu was naughty child of a pastoral hamlet. He was very fond of milk products, particularly butter. He used all means to get it from requesting to begging, if necessary stealing which he most often adopted. Since this huge boulder, like a lump of butter, delicately balanced and about to melt down at any moment like a lump of butter in your hand, is called “Krishna’s Butter Ball”, in typical Indian English. May we move further to left?
As you move into the hillock, on either side you will come across several monuments – cave temples, monolithic temple, structural temples and other smaller creations like rock-cut troughs, stone recliners and the rest. There are few works at their initial stages of creation. They indicate how they planned these
You are standing in front of the most complete monolithic temple called Ganesa Ratha. The Pallava architect carved this rectangular temple out of a freestanding boulder. It was originally intended for Siva. However, few decades back, someone installed an image of Ganesa from the hillock and the image is being worshiped. Hence, it is named Ganesa Ratha.
Here was a free standing boulder carved into a monolithic temple. It faces west. The sanctum is at the back with a porch in front. There two pillars has typical squatting lion bases, indicating that they belong to the style of Narasimhavarman I Mamalla. Further, in the extreme, the images in the niches are more like royal figures than the regular dvarapalas, the door-attendant deities, one usually finds in the temples.
The elevation is simple. The side elevation of the roof, fashioned like the roof of a wagon, is very interesting. At the top are the finials. At the extremes are two human head bearing tridents. If you strain your eyes on the walls to the left of the entrance to the shrine, you may be able to see a long epigraph. The script is Pallava Grantham and the language is Sanskrit. It was deciphered. It is an eleven line inscription. The verses are composed in double entendre, explicitly extolling the greatness of Siva and implicitly attributing the same to the king who bore the same titles as Srinidhi, Sribhara, Ranajaya etc. The inscription mentions the name of the temple as Antyantakama Pallevesvara griham, meaning the abode of Siva built by Atyantakama. There is an imprecatory verse, which curses six times -“those whose heart does not dwell Rudra”. The same verses were engraved on two more monuments.
Who is this Atyantakama? Atyantakama was the most cherished title of both Paramesvaravarman and Rajasimha. However, many scholars are of the firm opinion that this monolithic temple was carved by Paramesvaravarman, who took active interest in completing the projects of his grandfather Narasimhavarman.
You are standing in front of a rock-cut cave temple called Varaha mandapam. Before entering the temple, shall we have a few words about the façade of the temple?
Is it not easy for you to visualise the temple was cut into the rock? Cave temples are indeed temples with a sanctum and a hall for offering prayers. But these are excavated into the rock. The architect- sculptor had first to remove the unwanted rock mass from the parent rock. Once the unwanted rock mass was removed, the fine chiselling of the features were done. This is a long drawn process, consuming time and energy, which is made difficult by the sheer hardness of the rock. So imagine the difficulty! Nevertheless, two dozen and odd such temples were attempted. Only few were finished completely.
Each king of the dynasty had his own design. This was well reflected in the pillars. For example, the cave temples of Mahendravarman were designed invariably with simple pillars having a square base, intervening octagonal shaft and a square top carrying a heavy and plain corbel. On the other hand, the pillars of cave temples of Narasimhavarman invariable have a slender, fluted pillar. Like the one here. They may have a squatting lion or vyala, literally leonine base. The capital is fashioned like rollicking waves called “taranga potika”. Elsewhere, Rajasimha discarded the squatting lion for rampant lion or vyala. This pillar order is a good indicator to judge the style and period of the monument in the absence of any foundation inscription.
Shall we enter into the temple?
As you enter hall, you notice four panels of gods carved on the walls. The porch of the sanctum projects into the hall and there is no sculpture inside. On the ceiling, there are several extraordinary geometrical and floral patterns, which may be of later date. Fragments of pigments can be seen at many places indicating that the walls were decorated with colourful pigments. All have now gone, leaving only traces.
As you turn around, your focus is on the large panel to your left. It depicts Vishnu in one of his incarnations as Varaha, literally a boar. Vishnu, the protector of the universe, took incarnations to save the universe from evil forces. He took ten incarnations, avatara in Sanskrit, to destroy certain asuras, demons, in order to save the universe. The ten incarnations are: Matsya, the fish, Kurma the tortoise, Varaha, the boar, Narasimha, the man-lion, Vamana the dwarf, including its other form Trivikrama, when he took a gigantic form, Parasurama, an incarnation to set right the ruling class, Raghurama, the supreme human who fought Ravana, a demon who abducted and imprisoned his wife and the story is immortalised in the great epic Ramayana, Krishna, the pastoral king who supported the right in the great war for kingdom and immortalised in the world’s longest epic Mahabharata, Buddha, the heretical saint who fought against superstitious practices, and the still to be taken incarnation of Kalki, which is likely to happen in future when the world reached an imbalance in favour of evil. Some add Balarama, the elder brother of Krishna in place of Buddha.
Strangely, in Mamallapuram, an inscription of the Pallavas includes Buddha while enumerating the incarnations. This sculpture depicts the Varaha form of Vishnu, the third incarnation. In one of the epochs, in a massive deluge, Mother Earth was submerged in the nether world. The fear of extinction of all life beings was looming large. Everyone was so concerned, that all prayed to Vishnu to protect Mother Earth from this
great tragedy. So pleased with the prayers, Vishnu took the form of Varaha and dived deep into the water to retrieve Mother Earth. The life was saved from extinction. The process of creation, protection and destruction, so fundamental to the existence of the Universe were made to go on.
This great act of Vishnu is beautifully depicted here. Dominating the panel at the centre is the figure of Varaha, shown with a boar face and human body. Keep looking . Again and again. Can you notice the change from the animal form to human one? It is impossible.
The sculptor was at his best in this rhythmic integration. The stance of Vishnu is ease, in spite of the massive weight of the earth he had to carry. To his valour, the weight was as slight as a damsel was, the
sculptor suggests here. His right leg is placed over a seven-hooded cobra with a human face. He is Sesha-Naga, the serpent-king and the ruler of netherworld. Look at the Mother earth! Isn’t she bit of shyness and joy? Is it due to Varaha, like a real boar, gently niffs at her bosom? So much so, her breast band was loosened and fallen on her thigh and she was not even aware of it. What a sensible way of depicting the contrasting sensibilities – the valour of Varaha and sensuous Mother Earth! Can you notice the slight flexion in the left leg? Why?
The stance over the head of the cobra had obviously created a slight imbalance. The sculptor was so sensitive to this ground reality and corrected it by slight flexing and planting firmly the left leg. The stance is to suggest that he is about to jump from nether regions.
To the left of Varaha is Brahma with his four faces. Only three faces are visible, fourth being embedded within. Further to his left is Narada, the divine sage, known for notorious mischief, which always ended in good winning over the evil.
Above, on either corner of the panel is the moon (Chandra) and Sun (Surya). They are shown, emerging from the clouds and given the halo. The sculptor was even more eager to convey to you and me that Sesha-Naga was indeed in the netherworld. Observe the marine vegetation with large foliage. Sesha-Naga, prays with folded hands having admitted his guilt of concealing the Mother Earth. Praying with folded hands and standing next to Seshsa-Naga is his consort.
At the end is a seer. What is it that curls between these two and the Varaha? Do not be surprised! It is the tail of cobra-king. The whole panel suggests the gigantic form of Varaha expanding from nether region to the heavenly regions!
Varaha protected the Mother Earth. And obviously the sculptor had carved the other consort of Vishnu who is Sri, or Lakshmi, Wealth. Here she is shown as Gajalakshmi. Lakshmi or Sri is seated on a full-blown lotus. She carries two lotus buds. On her sides are slender and beautiful damsels. Two of them carry pot with sacred waters. There are two brilliantly depicted elephants.
If you observe closely, you may see the elephant on the left was pouring the sacred contents from a pot. Ah! Ah! The elephant on the left is not far behind! It is about to pluck the pot from the damsel. Look at the easy poised posture of the damsels and their hair do. Each one has a different hairdo, with stunning and massive earlobes. They all wear very thin cloths shown by the thick tassel near the anklet. To ancient Indian
sculptors, it was customary to show all the married without any dress covering the breast.
This form of Sri is known as Gajalakshmi. Gaja means an elephant. Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth. She is seated a red lotus, which signifies wealth and prosperity. Elephants signify the black cloud mass. As the black cloud brings in rain, like these elephants, the earth becomes greener and prosperous and joy to all on the earth. This depiction symbolises the joy of all, which was brought in by prosperity.
The Durga Panel
As you move your eyes further is the Durga panel. She is the younger sister of Vishnu. She stands in poise over a lotus. The parasol above her indicates standing her supremacy. The rearing lion on the left top corner and the benign antelope, both are her vehicles. Across the panel are four ganas, all flying in joy. There are two devotees down below. One of them is offering his head. Among many such figures of Durga of Pallava School, this one is a bit below standard.
As you turn around, to your right you see the Trivikrama panel. This is another incarnation of Vishnu. It so happened, that Bali or Mahabali, the king of demons grew so powerful that Indra, the king of gods was driven away by him.
Aditi, mother of Indra prayed to Vishnu to save his son. Vishnu, accordingly, born to her as a boy. Because of his miniscule stature, he was called Vamana. When Bali was conducting a yaga, the sacrificial rite, Vamana entered there and asked Bali to fulfil his desire. Sukra, the guru of demons, tried to stop Bali from giving away any promise, as he knew Vamana was none other than Vishnu. Bali, though aware of Vamana’s identity, took it as a great pride to accede to his desire as he came as a Brahmana boy, a brahmachari, meaning a blemish less Brahmin boy. Vamana, asked for land equal to his three strides. Bali, being the most virtuous of demons, agreed to donate that land.
What a stupid mistake it was! Vamana took the form of Trivikrama, a gigantic from and measured the whole earth in one stride and the heaven in the other. With no space left for the third stride, Bali offered his own head to complete the third step and the vow to donate three steps of land. Trivikrama, crushed Bali to the nether region as its king. This last part of the story is depicted here. The central figure of Trivikrama raises his left leg seeking the place for it to be planted. His form is so gigantic, he has eight arms all empowered with weapons. All gods enjoyed this great and rare expansion of form, notably Siva, placed on the left top of the panel, Brahma, on the opposite corner. This level denotes the heaven too. Look at the curious figure with a human body and a bear’s head. It is Jambavan. He was a very popular character in the epic Ramayana. He was known for his leadership qualities and was a member of search party that went in search of Sita, wife of Rama. The mid level is the Sun (Surya) and Moon (Chandra). This indicates the sky region. At the bottom next to Vishna on his left are Mahabali and his guru Sukra. The figure falling upside down? Some say it is one of the demons, who tried to stop Vishnu from assuming the gigantic form. Others say it is Trisanku, who tried to create a heaven in the sky.
Whatever it may, the sculptor had portrayed the giganticness of the incarnation in forcible way. One may ask why these figures are carved. All the contemporary kingdoms of India – the Chalukyas and Guptas were very fond of these depictions as their temples and cave temples were beautified with such images. It is not without reasons. The concept of comprehensive conquest is imbued in the Trivikrama incarnation. Bhu Varaha symbolises the restoration of the kingdoms.
To add more meaning, Gajalakshmi, as Sridevi is symbolic of Rajya Sri, wealth and prosperity of the nation, thus complements the restoration of Mother Earth in the Varaha incarnation. Durga is Vijaya Sri, the wealth of victory is compatible with the Trivikrama concept. A scholar opines that this cave temple symbolises the great victory of Narasimhavarman over his staunch enemy Chalukyas of Badami (Vatapi).
Mamallapuram was an active centre of Vaishnavas during medieval period. It was also the period when massive gopura, the towering structures built on massive gateways of the temples were added. These towering structures dominates the skyline of any village in south India. They marked the entrances on the cardinal directions. In some temples, there will be two or several such circuits of walls, each with gateways with a gopura taller then the inner were built. So much so, they became visually significant and invited the devotees to the temples.
You are standing in front of the base of such towering structure. It was never finished. Why an attempt was made to build an isolated gopura is difficult to explain. Perhaps, the Stalasayana Perumal temple, a temple dedicated to Vishnu and a revered shrine is located at the foot of the hill. A devotee from Kanchipuram or other inner areas may miss this place. Perhaps, some patron must have begun the construction of this gopura at the summit of the rock so much, so the devotee may be in a position to identify the place.
This cave temple was once completely finished like the Varaha, Mahishamardini mandapams. Judging from the stylistic grounds, it must be a Paramesvaravarman’s excavation. It was dedicated to Siva, as seen from the outline of the Somaskanda image in the main sanctum.
However, unfortunately, all the sculptural panels were chiselled off perhaps in 16th-18th centuries. Staunch Vaishnavites occupied Mamallapuram during the above period. They tried to convert some of these beautiful monuments into Vaishnavite places of worship by chiseling out the original Saivite images.
This cave temple met the same fate. The name was also derived from that time, Ramanuja being the greatest of Vaishnava gurus. The long inscription on the floor is an imprecatory verse. It states that those have no place in their heart for Siva will be cursed six times. We wonder whether those fanatics who chiselled off the sculptures were cursed at all!
As you climb up the hillock, just below the summit is the Mahishamardini mandapam. This is a cave temple, dedicated to Siva, began by Narasimhavarman I and completed with final additions by Paramesvaravarman.
The porch in front of the main sanctum is of some architectural interest. The panel on the back wall of the sanctum is identified as Somaskanda. The practice of carving this panel consisting of Siva, Parvati and the infant Skanda surrounded by Brahma, Vishnu and others began by Paramesvaravarman. Rajasimha continued this practice.
However, do the two great panels to your left and right not immediately attract you? These two sculptural panels of Vishnu as Anantasayi to your left and Mahishamardini to the right are the magnum opus of Pallava sculptors. Let us observe and appreciate them in detail.
Vishnu as Anantasayi
This boldly carved sculpture presents the sleeping form of Vishnu. He is in meditative sleep, yogasayana. Is he asleep, really? No not at all. Markandeya Purana, one of the collections of mythological hymns, narrates this incidet. At the end of an epoch, a deluge engulfed the entire universe. Vishnu went into an eternal sleep by an act of Maya, the numbing power. Taking advantage of this, two demons Madhu and Kaitabha began to torture the gods. Unable to bear their torture, Brahma appeals to Maya to leave Vishnu. Unaware of this fact, the demons try their hand at Vishnu himself. As they approach Vishnu, he just opens his eyes. His coterie – Adishesha, the serpant, his weapons – Chanka (conch), Chakra (spinning discuss), gada (the club) and sword, who were all were silent until that moment in obedience not to disturb their master’s sleep. Once aware that their master has woken up, they began to attack the demons. The demons unable to withstand this ferocious attack ran away.
Shall we try to identify these characters? Vishnu is shown sleeping on the cushion provided by the coils of five-hooded cobra, Adisesha. He is mythical. Therefore, he had massive body. Adisesha coils his long body in a vertical axis, so much so it acts as a cushion. Here lies the commonsense of the sculptor. If the cobra twists into a horizontal coil, there will be lot of space; the master may even slide into it. In fact, initially, serpent has such coiling but turns its direction to provide maximum comfort to his master. The poise of Vishnu is relaxed, with right hand hanging down the couch, the left is bent, the left leg is bit raised above the right as if he is about to rise up. This is the sign for his weapons to launch the attack. Look at his foot.
The damsel in praying posture is Bhu Devi, the mother earth. The two charming, handsome youth, in front of her, are Sudharsana (discuss) and Nandaka (sword), the personification of Vishnu’s weapons. Then where are the other two – the club and conch? Look up. The dwarf is Pancha janya, the Conch and the charming amazon is Kaumodaki, the club. Look again at their posture? Aren’t they asking for permission of their master to attack the mischievous demons?
Where are the demons? At the foot of Vishnu. They are in an animated conversation to attack Vishnu. One has already sensed the impending attack and its catastrophic magnitude. He is about to run away. This form of Vishnu became very popular in South India. Many temples including the great temple at Srirangam houses this type of image. In some, Adisesha is shown spitting fire at the demons. This image is carved with extraordinary sensibilities. Vishnu is embodiment of peace and calm. This is what makes this panel a masterpiece. It displays the skill of the sculptor in bringing out subtle sensibilities to life on stone.
Ah! Opposite this portrayal of calm and peace, is the virility of Durga. Shall we go there and observe yet another masterpiece?
If Vishnu was all peace and calm, Durga as Mahishamardini fighting Mahishasura, the buffalo demon, is remarkable for its beauty, grace and virility. Mahishasura was born to a demon Ramban and a she-buffalo. Mahisha in Sanskrit means buffalo. He had the head of a buffalo and a human body.
He grew very strong and soon subjugated everybody including the king of gods, Indra. Unable to bear the torture of Mahisha, they turned to Devi, the supreme energy. To protect all, Devi, took the form of Durga. She was accompanied by the war-hungry Bhuta-ganas, the dwarfs with great valour at the services of gods. The conflict was highly energised. Mahisha had to use all his powers to fight the personification Supreme energy. It was an easy task neither for Mahisha nor Devi. She too had to use a great amount of energy in subduing the greatest demon. The resultant was a gory fight between Devi and her accomplices and Mahisha and his army of demons. Finally, the good prevailed. Devi won. Mahisha was destroyed. The artist had shown a high degree of connoisseurship, by selecting to depict the final moments of resistance of Mahisha, and not the gory tussle as such.
Devi, being the embodiment of supreme energy, is astride a lion, holding the bow in her out-stretched left hand, the right hand is drawing the taut bowstring to the full. She also holds other weapons, indicating the intensity of the conflict and power of the enemy. Just look at her face. Devi is supremely calm. It is a fierce battle. Obviously, depicting the fighters in fierce mood would be more apt. However, the sculptor did not budge a little from the Indian tradition. Therefore, Devi, being the Supreme mother, is full of beauty and
charm, so characteristic of womanhood. Still she is the supreme, the parasol indicates it.
The violent battle was depicted through the attitude of accompaniment of Devi and the asuras. The dwarfish ganas are all aerobic in their assault. Each one is attacking from every possible angle. The face of the lion aptly portrays the ferociousness of the conflict. Below it, is Jaya, one her yoginis. Mahisha, wields a club. A massive one. Perhaps he wanted to demolish the Supreme force in a single blow.
The sculptor again scores here. The club looks proportionately small in his hand, suggesting both the massive frame of the demon. At the same time, he indicate, the club is too small to fight Supreme energy. He has a sword too struck to his belt, perhaps thought it would be less effective against Devi. His stance, the firmly placed right leg, and bent left leg are suggestive of his firmness and tough defiance in a futile conflict. He is still the king, so the parasol above his head. The fight is not yet over. His crown and horns are elegantly carved. Look at his face? Has he started to admire the greatness of Devi?
The members of his retinue are in various stages of fall. The one on the top holds the parasol, perhaps the most obedient of all, in spite of the sure end. Another is fighting a gana the dwarf at the top. A third is falling down headlong over the upraised sword of a yogini, the clones of Devi. A fourth is lying dead and the fifth is collapsing. A sixth is retracting and a seventh is kneeling in surrender. The panel needs your undivided attention. Here is a chance for the sculptor to bring out the gory of a great divine battle, between the good and evil. He could have glorified the gruesome conflict by depicting the victor in a dreadful manner. The loser might have shown slain, with everything lost. The retinue could be decimated. However, the sculptor chose to carve with restrained mind and a deft hand. By bringing out the positive aspect of the main characters to the fore and pushing the unwanted brutality to the back. Indeed a great masterpiece!
We would appreciate if you could spend few more moments in appreciating this marvelous panel! The unfinished rocks in front of Mahishamardhini mandapam. Just look at the rock in front of the Mahishamardini mandapam, this is how the rocks are excavated. In this case, an attempt has been made even to carve a monolithic temple. The final member was given a shape. The body being began with removing the excess rock mass.
If you walk down to the rock below the modern Light House, you can see an outline of a cave temple was drawn and the work was just initiated. Just visualise how difficult, it would have been for the Pallava sculptors in those days. In fact, a traditional stonemason requires about 50 to 60 chisels everyday. These have to be sharpened at the end of the day so that the next work will progress. Therefore, an equally strong contingent of iron smith must be present at the site.
This is yet another example of a structural temple built by Narasimhavarman II Rajasimha. The choice of location is again interesting. It is the highest point of Mamallapuram. The vast expanse of deep blue sea, the waves breaking and foaming on the rocks in the far distance provided wonderful background. Perhaps, Rajasimha must have spent many hours here enjoying the cool breeze and watching the construction of the Shore temple near the sea. It is likely that he must have decided to build a temple here too. The rock is not wide enough for a big structure and uneven. The unknown architect of Rajasimha had to level the space by constructing a platform with out any decoration.
The temple had undergone much damage, now only the outer core is remaining. The sculptures on the niches are important. As you walk carefully around the temple, you come across the sculpture of Ravana shaking the Mount Kailasa. Ravana, the villain of the epic Ramayana, was an ardent Siva devotee. TO worship Siva in person, once he wanted to visit Mount Kailasa, the abode of Siva. The ganas, dwarfish attendants of Siva, did not allow him to enter. Being omni-powerful, with ten heads and twenty hands, he decided to uproot the mountain and take it away to his land, Lanka. Parvati, shaken by the sudden jerk, hugged Siva. Siva gently pressed his toes. The pressure was immense. Ravana could not bear it. He accepted his defeat. Being a great musician, he began to recite Sama Veda, the Veda that needs to be recited in a musical form only.
Siva was pleased.
The sculptor had clearly brought out the immense effort of Ravana by the twist of his body, his face exhibiting the anguish, as he could not bear the pressure exerted by the god. The other walls depict Siva in exciting dance posture and as Yoga Dakshinamurthy, the teacher par excellence.
At the northern end of this hillock, stands this excavation with extraordinary sculptures. You can easily see that this is not the other cave temples. The front hall is missing. The architect removed this unit because there is no sufficient rock for its excavation. Therefore, they had to excavate only three continuous shrines with the door attendants in narrow niches. In the Pallava cave temple scheme, whenever three shrines were excavated, they were dedicated to the trinity of Hindu gods, Siva, Vishnu and Brahma. Here, the northern shrine is dedicated to Subrahmanya in the form of Brahmasasta. Brahmasasta is a manifestation of Subrahmanya, wherein he taught a lesson to Brahma for his lack of knowledge of Vedas, the highest scripture of Hinduism.
The other shrines are dedicated to Siva and Vishnu. Further south, is a shrine for Durga. The interesting feature of this excavation is the placement of the dvarapala, door attendants, in narrow niches. These niches as you see are due to lack space in the rock itself. Therefore, the images are carved in three fourths view, rather than the bold relief seen all over Mamallapuram. On the other had, they attest to skill of the
sculptor in carving the same images even in short space. In all probability, this cave temple was excavated during the reign of Paramesvaravarman.
As you move around the boulder from Trimurthi cave, you arrive at a cave temple. This is known as Kotikal mandapam. This is a very simple cave temple employing the pillar order of Mahendravarman style. In all probability, it must have been excavated during the early reign of Narasimhavarman. Can you see those simple pillars? They have a square base, octagonal shaft and again a square top with heavy capital. This is the pillar order used in all the cave temples of Mahendravarman I, father of Narasimhavarman. This cave temple was dedicated to Durga, as seen from female lady attendants. Like all other sculptures of this place, they too are very graceful. On the left pillar, there is a one line inscription is engraved. It reads Sri Vamankusa. It is not a well-known title of either Narasimhavarman I Mamalla or Parmesvaravarman. In appears to the title of a chieftain who probably patronised the excavation.
Located on the western side of the hillock is this five celled cave temple possible dedicated for Siva. But the occupation of it by Vaishnavites at a later period is evident from the Vaishnavite symbols like conch and wheel. Judging from the stylistic features, this cave temple is dated to early years of Narasimhavarman. The sanctums are empty. But they have the pairs of dvarapala, the door attendants.
Located on the southern end of the hillock, you have to climb a few feet to reach this cave temple. The pillars are heavy resembling the pillars of cave temples of Mahendravarman style. There are three sanctums at the rear wall, perhaps for the trinity – Siva, Vishnu, and Brahma. Otherwise it is very simple cave temple, bereft any sculptures.
There is a long inscription; the text of it is more or less similar to the one found in Ganesa Ratha. From it, we understand that the name of the temple is “Atyantakama Pallavesva Griham”. As usual there are few titles in double entendre mentioned that of Siva is actually meant for the king who excavated this cave temple.
Atyantakama is a title borne by both Paramesvaravarman and Rajasimha. Judging from the stylistic ground, and the absence of Somaskanda image in the sanctum, it must be have been excavated by Paramesvaravarman in the early part of rule.
The Unfinished Arjuna’s Penance
As you drive down the road to five rathas, you will see yet another group of figures on the face of the rock. A close look will reveal that it is very similar to the world famous Arjuna’s penance. Again the sculptures were located a rocks having a natural fissure. But the notable difference is that the rock is very badly weathered.
Nevertheless, the main figures like Siva, now without the trident the poorlymade emancipated figure doing penance, the celestial nymphs, the hoard of animals were all carved. In fact, it has more number of animals than the other bas-relief. However, they are carved partly. In addition, haphazardly too, with out the harmony of the other bas-relief. It would be conjectural to label this as the prototype of the other. Nor it
could be the design board for the other. Perhaps, a poor artist tried to copy the original on his own.