Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram

After spending a couple of weeks in Sri Lanka, I flew to Chennai (formerly Madras) the capital of Tamil Nadu in south India. Having neatly sidestepped the insistent and extortionate taxis at the airport and stumbled upon the bus into town I took another bus down the coast to the hippyfied small town of Mamallapuram, the present name of Mahabalipuram.

Mahabalipuram - the five rathas

Mahabalipuram – the five rathas

The monuments here are a group of seventh and eighth century temples, cave sanctuaries and rock carvings,  created by the late Pallava empire, which ruled a large area of south India for seven centuries.

Mahabalipuram - shore temple

Mahabalipuram – shore temple

Most of the monuments are cut out of the bedrock and the group show the transition here from rock-cut to built structures. The most prominent of the latter is the Shore Temple, although centuries of sea wind and sand have eroded the details of the decorative carving.

Mahabalipuram - two of the five rathas

Mahabalipuram – two of the five rathas

One specific style of rock-cut temple here is the ratha, intended to represent a ceremonial chariot. A group of five of these (plus some animals) all carved from one outcrop of rock,  was the most impressive part of this site for me, as I pictured the huge amount of rock that must have been removed to create them.

Mahabalipuram - elephant with the five rathas

Mahabalipuram – elephant with the five rathas

Then there are the pillared sanctuaries hollowed out of the side of cliffs, with decorative carved panels on the walls inside, some of them still in great condition, although the tendency of most visitors to fondle them (or sit their kids on them for photographs) does not bode will for their ongoing survival.

Mahabalipuram

Mahabalipuram

Mahabalipuram

Mahabalipuram

At least the huge open-air reliefs are fenced off and not fondleable. This one, the biggest, shows the god Shiva sending the river Ganges to earth at the request of King Baghirata.

Mahabalipuram - Descent of the Ganges relief

Mahabalipuram – Descent of the Ganges relief

It includes vast amount of detail, including this cat, mimicking the posture of a holy man, higher up on the panel.

Mahabalipuram - detail of Descent of the Ganges relief

Mahabalipuram – detail of Descent of the Ganges relief

Many of the monuments are dotted around one area of rocks, trees and grassy parkland, a popular local picnic location. A couple of constructed (rather than rock-cut) structures are perched right at the top of the outcrop, with great views over the surrounding landscape.

Mahabalipuram

Mahabalipuram

For the Lego model, I picked this small temple:

Mahabalipuram

Mahabalipuram

and built this:

Lego Mahabalipuram

Lego Mahabalipuram

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