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MAHABALIPURAM

Location:
51 km south of Chennai
Ruling Dynasty:
Pallava
Periods:
Man-made caves - Mahendra Varman
c.580-630 A.D
Monolithic temples – Narasimha Varman I Mamalla
c.630-690 A.D
Masonry construction – Narasimha Varman II
Rajasimha
c.690-728
The rock-cut architecture of Mahabalipuram shows 4 broad categories:

Open air bas relief Man made caves

Monolithic temples Structural temples


OPEN AIR BAS RELIEF
ARJUNA’S PENANCE
The section demonstrates that arjuna’s penance could be
the initial stage of the exploration of the rock cut
architecture.
About 20 feet high and 80 feet long, it contains over 100
figures of gods, men and beasts. A cistern was provided
at the top which released water on special occasions to
add a touch of reality to the tableau.
With Arjuna’s penance as the central theme the
sculpturers have attempted to explore the malleability of a
rock surface to various degrees. The final touch of life is
the deep fissure abstraction of flowing GANGA which thus
transforms the pristine rock to a dynamic .

The gently swaying almost real


elephants though planar
extrapolates ones imagination to
another world. The meditating cat,
the sculpted saint preaching the
disciplines ,the hermit carved to its
last rib, the laughing monkeys-
everything has been interwoven
into one coherent moment that
even after 10 centuries stands
robust to bring to us the vibrant
spirit of life existent then.
SECTIO
N
MAN MADE CAVES
The next stage in
evolution of rock
cut architecture is
the man made
cave. Cave temples
are carved in
accordance with
age old timber
structural tradition
whose forms are
reproduced in
increasing detail.
The rock is scooped
out and carved
within creating,
over time, caves of
increasing
complexity.

Sixteen man made caves are seen , in different levels of completion and different stages of
evolution, scattered through the area. The caves are cut into the back or sides according to
the configuration of the rock on the site. With pillars of square and octagonal blocks and
elementary bracket capitals . These are plain and unadomed , except where the shrine
chambers have simple architectonic base, mouldings , pilasters and dwara palas.
TIRUMURTI CAVE TEMPLE
KONERI MANDAPAM

VARAHA MANDAPAM MAHISAMARDHINI


CAVE

DRAWING INDEX
From Indian Architecture,
Christopher Tadgell

ADI VARAHA MANDAPAM


MAHISAMARDHINI ADI VARAHA MANDAPAM
CAVE

DRAWING INDEX
From Indian Architecture,
Christopher Tadgell
TIRUMURTI CAVE TEMPLE
Probably the first attempt at giving
depth to the surface, the Tirumurthi cave
temple has only the façade of the
vimana. Each of its three shrines
dedicated to Siva, Visnu and Brahma-
sasta, is a finished unit, consisting of the
adisthana with a flight of steps in front,
an excavated shrine, and a prastara
(architrave) on top.
The carved niche enclosing the deity and
the ascending ground plane that
transforms from the plinth to the
descending steps establish a very basic
hierarchy of spaces.

ELEVATION

PLAN
SECTION
The kapota is decorated with kudu arch motifs ,with a
row of haras over it. dvarapalas flank each of the
shrine entrances.
dwarapala
Kudu arch hara
kapota

ELEVATION
VARAHA MANDAPAM
The Varaha Mandapa sees greater
depth in the cave, giving rise to a
pillared mandapa before reaching
the shrine. A small ablution tank is
also carved into the ground just
before stepping into the mandapa.
Niches created on the walls of the
mandapa serve as surfaces for relief
carving-telling the story of the
Varaha avatar
The shrine rests on a well moulded
adisthana, with a flight of steps cut
into the middle whose curved
parapets seem to emerge from the
mouth of vyalas.
ELEVATION
The Varaha mandapam has
Six kudu arches with human
heads adorning the kapota above
the shrine, while below these the
geese turn their heads in
various directions. The façade
has two padma kumbha type
pillars.The potikas have taranga
ornamentations.
PLAN SECTION
ADIVARAHA CAVE TEMPLE
The Adivaraha cave temple, or the
Paramesvara-maha-varaha-vishnugriha, the
plan consists of an oblong mandapa and shrine
facing west. Two rows of pillars demarcate the
mandapa in front and Artha mandapa before
the shrine. The oblong projecting shrines
stands on a well moulded adisthana.
The pillars of the vyalas look straight a head,
Pilasters facing the north-south. the capital
consists of a kalasa (vase), tadi (saucer
shaped member), kandha (necking), kumbha
(bulbous member). the potika decorated with
ten kudu arch motifs, upholds five salas
connected by harantara (length of the cloister)
ELEVATION

SECTIO
PLAN N
RAMANUJA MANDAPAM
The Ramanuja mandapa plan adds to the
carved out pillared mandapa of the cave a
new dimension. The addition of a built up
unfinished mandapa in front of the cave
sees the combination of rock cut and
structural construction.
While the interior three celled shrine and
columns are much decorated, the outer
stone pillars remain unadorned.
ELEVATION

The plinth platform of the


mandapa is extended beyond
the cave and outwards on
either side providing a platform
for two carved decorated
niches in the wall.
The pillars at the edges rest on
a flight of steps carved into the
rock on either side, which lead
to the kapota and hara
carvings. SECTION PLAN
ELEVATION NICHE

COLUMNS OF UNFINISHED MANDAPA LION BASE COLUMNS


KONERI MANDAPAM
The exploration in carving out the
cave temple was pushed further with
the Koneri mandapam.
The temple houses five shrines
corresponding with the number of
bays of the mandapa, and the
mandapa increases in depth with two
rows of columns in front of the
shrines. The outer square pillars are
simple while the inner circular pillars
are carved intricately.
TWO ROWS OF ELEVATION
COLUMNS

PLAN SECTION
FAÇADE SHOWING TWO ROWS OF COLUMNS AND SHRINES

OUTER COLUMNS

INTERIOR
SHRINES
MAHISAMARDHINI CAVE
The Mahisamardhini cave goes a step further in the
exploration of rock cut architecture. The shrine,
dedicated to the mother goddess for killing
Mahishasura, brings a new element into the cave
temple.
In addition to the colonnaded mandapa, the next layer
introduces a seemingly freestanding pavilion before
the garba griha.
The façade has been left unadorned with only the basic
forms of the kapota and haras chiseled out. It is the
inner pavilion that sees heavy ornamentation
establishing it as the most important part of the
structure.

ELEVATION SECTIO
N
THE RATHAS

After having experimented in carving caves out of rock, the Pallavan sculptor architect,
under King Mahendra Varman in 7th C A.D , proceeded to chisel down the granite outcrop
into free-standing monolithic buildings - resulting in the creation of the “rathas” or chariots
in Mamallapuram. There are nine such rathas in Mamallapuram.

NORTH WEST :
Valayankuttai ratha
Northern pidari ratha

Southern pidari ratha

NORTH :
Ganesha ratha

SOUTH :
Draupadi ratha

Arjuna ratha
Bheema ratha
Dharmaraja ratha
Nakul- sahadev ratha
PANCHA PANDAVA RATHAS
At the southern end of Mamallapuram, the Pallavas created, in a single spot, a multitude of
shapes and forms that the ideal Hindu temple could take. This experiment, on a small
outcrop of granite about 75mx9m, resulted in a form of architecture that flourished into a
mature consummate art in India.
The eight structures that were
carved out were named after the
Pandavas, the heroes of the Hindu
epic the Mahabharatha-Draupadi
ratha, Arjuna ratha, Bhima ratha,
Dharmaraja ratha and Nakul-
Sahadev ratha. Animal figures
were also carved out of the rock
in accordance with the deity
enshrined-a lion, a bull and an
elephant.

The first four, in axial alignment,


have been carved out of a section
of a single whale-back rock
facing south west, while the
Nakula Sahadeva was formed out
of a smaller rock near the Bhima
ratha. The Draupadi and Arjuna
rathas stand on a common
platform.
DRAUPADI RATHA
The small Draupadi ratha facing west
and dedicated to Durga is the simplest
and most elegant of the group. Shape like
a kutaghara(hut), it is a very much a
stone model of the wooden original. In its
elevation it shows only four of its six
angas (parts) namely the adisthana ,
the pada and bhitti, the sikhara and
the stupi. It lacks an ardha mandapa in
front.

FRONT VIEW SIDE VIEW


On its four lower corners the domical sikhara
has carved scroll ornamentations very similar to
embossed metal designs.
Dvarapalikas (female counter parts of
dvarapalas) stand in niches on either side of the
entrance which is surmounted by a makara
torana.
While having it own adhisthana, the draupadi
ratha stands on the same uapapitha(platform)
as the arjuna ratha.
PLAN
WITH ARJUN RATHA

dwarapalika

stupi

common
plinth

FRONT VIEW SIDE VIEW


ARJUNA RATHA
The Arjuna ratha dedicated to Siva, stands
next to Draupadi ratha. It also faces west. It
has Dvitala (two storeyed) Vimana of
Dravida order. The two pillars of ardha
mandapa in front are modern additions
replacing the lost originals. Cushion shaped
capitals surmounted the two Octoganal
Pilasters at the corners. Ganas (goblings)
adorned the underside of the kapota.

While its curved outer surface as three


pairs of kudu arches with human
heads. Over the Prastara (entablature)
is the Hara of small shrines, namely
Karna kutas at the corner and Salas
inbetween connected by Harantara(
lengths of cloister). The sikhara crown
the upper storey is octagonal, and its
wooden origin is very clear. The cross
beams supporting the base of sikhara
PLAN ELEVATION resemble the spokes of a wheel.Front view
BULL

BACK ELEVATION FRONT ELEVATION WITH


BULL
NAKULA SAHADEV RATHA
The Nakul-sahadeva
ratha carved out an
independent boulder,
stands near the Arjuna
ratha and faces south. It
has the Dvitala (two
storeyed) Vimana with an
apsidal end in both its
storeys, crowned by an
Side view wagon – vaulted roof
also with an apsidal
end. The base remains
incomplete.
SIDE ELEVATION
The apsidal base and
barrel vaulted chaitya
form at the apex is seen
as an interpretation of
FRONT the Buddhist chaitya hall.
ELEVATION
An Artha mandapa projects in front. Its roof supported by a
pair of lion based pillars. The shrine cut out behind
remains incomplete. The pilasters flanking it have
elephant bases . Nine pairs of square pilasters, with
capitals corresponding in position to the kutas and salas of
first storey, adorned the apsidal walls. PLAN
Side view
BACK ELEVATION SHOWING APSE FRONT ELEVATION WITH SIDE ELEVATION
ELEPHANT
BHIMA RATHA
The central section of the original
whale-back rock formed an ideal
situation for the rectangular Bhima
ratha. An ekatala(one storeyed).
Vimana with a sala type wagon
roof . A row of stupis (finials)
crowned its ridge.

The Ratha remains unfinished


and its basal part uncarved, still
attached to the parent rock on north
and south.

FRONT ELEVATION Though incomplete the


Aditala(ground floor) indicates that
the original design included a
rectangular mandapa going all
around it. It has four Vyala- based
pillars and two pilasters on each
of the four cardinal faces.

The solid walls appears only at the


corners , while pillars and pilasters
stands on the middle of each side.
Kapota over the potika, seven pairs
of the kudu arches, or Alpa
PLAN Nasikas with human heads. The
PLAN Hara consist of Salas between the
VIEW OF CHAITYA VIMANA FRONT ELEVATION

The Griva sikhara are


five well projected
nasikas in three sizes.
The one in the center is
the biggest is the Maha
nasika, those on the
either side of it is the
smallest is the ksudra
nasikas and the ones
at the extreme ends of
the middling size is
COLUMNS
Alpa nasika.The
SIDE VIEW OF RATHA
sikhara is a two storied
DHARMARAJA RATHA
The Dharmaraja
ratha, atritala
(three storied)
Vimana square in its
talas (storeys) but
octagonal in the
griva sikhara region,
faces west. In style
it resembles Arjuna
ratha,its ground
storeyed like those
of the other rathas, SECTION
remains incomplete.
An Artha mandapa
stand in front

SIDE ELEVATION

The solid walls of its peripheral mandapa appear


only at the corners. Rectangular niches cut into the
walls. Sanskrit titles of the king are inscribed on the
top of each niches. Kapota has kudu arches.Human
and animal head between arches serve as gargoyles,
but these have not finished on all sides.
PLAN
SIDE ELEVATION VIEW
ANIMALS OF THE FIVE RATHAS
The animals carved out at the site of
the five rathas are the lion, elephant
and bull.
The lion and the bull appear as the
animal consorts of Durga and Shiva,
who are the deities of the Draupadi
and Arjuna rathas respectively. The
lion is in front of Durga while the
Nandi(bull) is placed behind the Shiva
temple, which is unusual. This may be
due to absence of suitable rock in the
front axis of the shrine.
PLAN OF FIVE RATHAS The elephant, while not an animal
consort, may signify the God Indra.

LION ELEPHANT NANDI (BULL)


GANESHA RATHA
The monolithic Ganesha ratha is the most finished and ornate of all the rathas. This
Dvitala( two storeyed) Vimana was hewn from a free standing boulder near the northern
end of the main hill at Mamallapuram.
It resembles the Bhima ratha with its wagon-vaulted chaitya roof, and three nasikas.
Vyala based pillars define the entrance of the mandapa and pilasters adorn the façade.

VIEW SIDE ELEVATION FRONT ELEVATION


RATHAS OF THE NORTH WEST
The two Northern and southern Pidari rathas, both
Dvitala ( two storey) are carved from free standing
boulders. The northern Pidari ratha which faces north
belongs to the nagara order. It remains incomplete. It
serves as a good example of a bhitti torana. Ratha has
a Ardha mandapa in front . A well finished kapota with
Hara of kutas and salas interconnected by harantaras.
The smaller Southern Pidari ratha also incomplete,
faces east. It too has an Ardha mandapa in front but
hara element appears on its second tala as well.

VALAYANKUTTAI RATHA

The valaiyankuttai ratha situated


further south and carved out of
another free standing boulder,
it’s a dvitala Vimana facing
east. A pair of bay niches,
projecting from each exterior
wall of shrine, gives its
distinction. Infront stands an
Ardha mandapa.
SOUTHERN PIDARI RATHA NORTHERN PIDARI RATHA
MASONRY TEMPLES
The triumph of the Pallava sculptors with the rathas led successor Rajasimha in the 8th
century to begin the next phase in rock architecture-structural masonry temples. Rajasimha
thus proceeded to dot the eastern coastline with these “structive” temples, all variations of
the Dharmaraja ratha theme.
The most exquisite of these temples is the Shore temple at Mamallapuram, poised on the
rocky shoreline, half in the sea and half on land.
The main sanctuary
of the temple faces
the sea while a
subsidiary shrine
faces the shore. This
strange arrangement
of the entrances was
a result of the
flooding of the main
shrine at high tide
making it
unapproachable.
The quality of
construction of the
shore temple marks
the success of the
South Indian mason
in the experiment
that was
Mamallapuram.
THE SHORE
TEMPLE
The shore temple at mamallapuram constructed
out of the hard , blackish leptinite , comprises
three shrines as well as the Prakara on the
Gopuram. The ksatriyasimhesvara, the large
vimana in front on the seawards side faces east
while the smaller Rajasimhesvara at the rear
faces westward . Both of these are dedicated to
Siva. The Narapatisimhapallava Visnugraha,
a mandapa shrine with the reclining Vishnu,
stands between the two vimanas. It has no super
structure. All the names of the shrines represent
the Rajasimha’s various titles.
SECTION

PLAN VIEW OF TEMPLE


COMPLEX
The larger ksatriyasimhesvara Vimana
facing east, also square in plan with
octagonal Griva and Sikhara, and
crowned by a basalt finial, has four
storeys. Both these shrines contain a
relief panel of Somaskanda on the rear
wall of sanctuary. The
Kshatriyasimhesvra as a sixteen
sided lingam of polished basalt, inserted
directly on the floor without a pedestal.
The exterior walls of the Garbha Griha
have pilasters with rearing lions at the
base. Likewise the pilasters on the inside
of the closely built prakara. They have
Naga, Ram and the other bases.
The Pallavas, a sea-faring people, conducted A figure of
rituals of water worship in the temple. The Durga riding a
temple could therefore be partially flooded lion appears at
by a complex system of channels and sluices the northern
that could carry sea water into basins around side of the
the cult room. temple facing
west. The lion
To the Pallava mariner, the shore temple was
has little square
a shrine by day and a beacon by night. A
niche cut in the
lamp lit in the courtyard of the temple could
middle of its
be seen through an aperture in the wall,
chest, with a
transforming the temple into a virtual
miniature
lighthouse.
Durga relief
inside it.
MASSING TEMPLE ENCLOSURE CORRIDOR

APPROACH NANDIS ON ENCLOSURE ENTRANCE TORANA


THE
ELEMENTS
Having observed the various examples of Pallavan architecture in Mahabalipuram, we can trace
the elements used in the Mamalla style of building.
The evolution of the cave temples displays many changes in design of the interior, such as the
introduction of more profuse relief sculpture style and the development of the pillars, as well as
the fuller representation of the facades. The entablature on the façade of the mandapa reached
full developement in the Mamalla style.
Socles now generally consists of
a plinth, a recessed zone with a
semi octagonal kumuda and a
projecting slab,representing the
floor,rather than the eaves
moulting (kapota) encountered in
the north.

Kapota
with kudu
motifs
(horse
shoe)
arches

FLOOR SHRINE PLINTH RECESSED ZONE


LEVEL
THE ELEMENTS-COLUMN AND
A permutation of the padma
kumbha type of column
KAPOTA
kuta
derived from wooden
prototypes incorporating a harantara
tapering polygonal shaft
festooned and with faceted kapota
capital appears at first based sala
on a square block,later on a
kudu
seated lion (vyala)

Faceted capital

Padmabandha

Shaft

Above the kapota it runs a line of salas


Lion (vyala) (diminutive shrines),oblong in plan with a
barrel vaulted roof), In later temples this
row of salas terminates at either end wit
kutas(miniature shrines),square in plan with
a domical roof.The whole called hara,has
Square base harantaras (interconnecting cloisters).
THE ELEMENTS-VIMANA
The further step in rock cut architecture was the evolution of the ideal vimana to crown the
South Indian temple. Free standing monolithic vimanas were chiselled out of the hard granite
and gneiss boulders at mamallapuram.
The simplest form of monolithic vimana had six parts in its verticle direction from base to top
namely the adisthana (basement), pada (pillar) and bhitti (wall) ,prastara (entablature), griva
(clerestory), sikhara (ultimate roof covering over the griva) and the stupi (finial) crowning the
top of sikhara. This simple shadanga (six sided) structure, known as the alpavimana, is ekatala
(single storeyed)

EKTALA DVITALA JATI


TRITALA
In the southern architectural
canons, vimanas are classified
according to their shapes from
base to finial.
The Nagara order resembling the
rudimentary hut, the Vesara order
with the chaitya shape and apsidal
base, and the Dravida order seen
in the Dharmaraja ratha that was
NAGARA ORDER DRAVIDA ORDER VESARA ORDER accepted as the perfect vimana for
the South Indian Temple.