Many a tourist has taken a picture having it as their backdrop. The immaculate proportions of this sculpture defy imagination. On a moonlit night one would easily mistake its silhouette for a real elephant. But what is it doing inside the `so called’ five rathas complex.

Elephant in Ratha complex.jpg

To understand this you got to understand the evolution of the humble temple towers of south India…however to make it short, we are taking you on a pictorial tour….just keep in mind that the sculptor did not just try to exhibit his art here but also wanted to educate the viewer…only 1400 years ago ! such was the knowledge pool then, that these places of worship were not confined merely to awaken religious thoughts but also served as veritable treasure houses of art, literature, theater, community etc.

Ok, back to the question .. Whats the elephant doing amidst all the art work in Mahabalipuram.


another long shot.jpg

Seeing it as you walk towards the ratha complex you cant still make out the significance.

now can you visualise.jpg

A few careful pointers …and you are focusing on the elephant and then the building next to it.

Seen in isolation.jpg
front view.jpg

seeing them in isolation…no get them both into the same frame…not like that …not from the front…

seen in isolation from the back.jpg

move towards the side , the rear….now does it dawn on you. ….

compare the two.jpg
lets see the two together.jpg
ok we go nearer.jpg
rear view compare.jpg
the beauty.jpg

yes, the style of the mandabam is called gajapristam …( Gaja – elephant, pristam – back…in sanskirt)…the greatness of this composition is the positioning of the two. Keep in mind both are carved out of live rock…and done specifically in that fashion …so that generations to come understand.

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Category: Sculpture

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This entry was posted on Sunday, August 31st, 2008 at 11:01 and is filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

2 Comments so far


Wow Vijay,

Great one!! I have see this twice. And ofcourse, was one of those who took a photo with that elephant on my side. Now with your explanation, I will also point this out to all others when I go with them again, and………… “Lift My Collars Up, when they look upon me, awestruck” :-) :-)

Thanks Vijay!!!!

September 4th, 2008 at 11:01

அருமையான விளக்கம். தொடரட்டும் உம பணி.

May 6th, 2011 at 11:44

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