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Archive for September 5th, 2008

I visited Chennai last June and immediately my good friend Mr. Chandra invited me for sunday trip to Uthiramerur. I jumped at this lucky chance little knowing what was in store.

We merrily got off early by 8 and reached this historic town by 10. After a hot breakfast of delicious pongal and dosas, we went to visit the Perumal temple ( with some lovely sculptures and edicts - will most later)

We then adjourned for the main event, visit to mark the opening ceremony for renovation of the Kailasanatha Temple. As i turned left into the road, i was hit by a thunderbolt. Nothing had prepared me or this sight, ok we have seen quite a few dilapidated temples, but something of this scale.

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The temple was obviously a pallava build, a brick structure on a granite foundation. The overgrowth gave it a kind of Angkorian look, complete with huge overhanging rooted plants. We went round inspecting the amazing struggle of this edifice - as we entered the main shrine - something remarkable happened. I couldnt take pictures ( as this was the Garba graha) but let me try n bring you the sight in words. We were expecting the worst, the panel behind the main shrine was empty ( could have held a wooden somaskanda panel in days of yore), the main ceiling slab had cracked, was expecting the worst seeing the collateral damage outside, but the ingenuity and engineering of the ancients was there for everyone to see - there stood the most perfect jet black shiva linga - shining in all his glory, not a scratch on him. With watery eyes and flesh tingling with goose pimples, we went around the gopuram ( tower) - the granite foundation has inscriptions all over, covered in dust, filth, dirt, name it.

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As we cleaned it, we had a trained epigraphist who read out the old tamil…the inscriptions were those of Rajendra Chola ruled 1014 AD ( the son of Raja Raja Chola who built the great temple in tanjore and who himself built the temple in Gangaikonda cholapuram)

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Some more and we fond inscriptions of Danti Varma Pallava ( 830 AD approx)

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But due to the sterling efforts of REACH foundation and a generous donation from this noble soul, ( who sold his land to fund the initial renovation ) work has started to restore this great temple to its former glory. We seek the support of like minded souls to contribute generously.

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http://www.conserveheritage.org/

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When we talked of the tiger caves in saluvankuppam, had mentioned that there are two more beauties in that cluster. They are the amazing bas relief sculpture of mahishasuramardhini and the Atiranachanda mandabam ( rock cut cave of Rajasimha having his lovely inscription) - we will visit the bas relief first.

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Even seasoned visitors to Mahabalipuram would mostly miss the attractions of saluvankuppam. Even those that do venture, would miss this seemingly innocuous looking stone. Just in front of the rock cut madabam is this piece of living rock.

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You got to go around to see the handiwork of the pallava sculpture, who has transformed this insignificant piece of rock outcrop into a work of art. These pictures would give you an idea to its location and ensure you don’t miss this pint size masterpiece on future visits.

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The large mahisha panel in mallai serves as a nice comparison for us to view this piece. Lets look at the main characters side by side in order to infer more. In the mallai panel the devi is in all her glory on her lion vehicle engaged in battle with her 8 hands.

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The demon too is standing up and giving fight with his massive mace. Whereas in the saluvankuppam panel - he is down on his knees, the devi too is in the process of dismounting from her vehicle, with one leg gracefully off the saddle. The demon looks wasted, with nostrils flayed and hands raised in a kind of let me go pose.

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Thus this is the sequel to the mallai panel.

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