Monday, May 06, 2013

Carved Temples of Mamallapuram

India is full of surprises! Driving south from Chennai for a day roadtrip, we explored the temples of Mamallapuram. Carving is what these little known structures are famous for, and with virtually no one else there looking at them, we got to be up close to 7th Century masterpieces.

The first such temple was the Shore Temple, which we walked up to from the carpark, as it stands on the shore, funnily enough. On a well manicured parkland, a jut of land on the coast, this temple is thought to be the last one standing of a series along this stretch of land.

The detail in the stonework is impressive - and worn. It's small overall, and supposedly in the shape of the perfect cosmic body. There is a reclining Vishnu, and there are terraces of cow statues around the outside.

Our next visit in this small town was to see the Five Rathas - made from a single piece of rock. This 5 temple complex was impressive, each so different and each dedicated to a Hindu god, and named after a family of four brothers and their common wife.

The shrines within the Five Rathas resemble chariots, with animal mounts of the gods at the entrances - lion, elephant, cow. We managed to take the details of each one...just before a huge group of school children arrived with their teachers!

The rest of Mamallapuram is a host of relief carvings - like the Arjuna's Penance here. Elaborate scenes of Hindu mythology are being played out on this stonework, as well as pictures of South Indian life.

The Trimurti Cave Temple, with it's columns and intricate carvings, was equally impressive - and the Krishna's Butter Ball is just along from both of these.

These temples were certainly not anything I expected to see in India, nor did I even have them on my radar to see. But they were certainly worth the stop, to gaze and wonder at the stories behind them, the skills required to carve them, and the cultural and religious value they hold to the area.


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