Posts Tagged ‘Elephants’

A full grown tusker marching majestically is a sight that will always inspire you. No doubt it inspired the Pallava artist as well. But then the greatness in him that he breathed life into the hardest of stone and left us this superlative herd of elephants. They have been exposed to the elements for a 1000 years ( ok 1300 years), yet they still retain their essence inside this maze of characters in the great penance panel.

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the curl of the trunk, the ear flap.jpg

Inorder to truly appreciate this, we need a series of pictures. How much the pallava artist observed the elephant, to not just depict it in stone - meaning like a fixed sculpture, but to show it with grace, elegance, the majestic walk, the slight twist of the trunk, the fullness of the tusk, the delicate flap of the ear….the bump of the forehead.

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Well, a friend did me a favor by framing these goats, to give new viewers an idea of space and dimension of the panel.

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goats for scale.jpg

Compare this with a live elephant picture may assist in appreciating his craft more

a real elephant.JPG
majestic magnificient.jpg

Throw in the cute babies of the family happily sporting under the protective masses of their parents…not a full body, just a profile, a head here, a small cute trunk there. enough to bring you cheer. Its fills your heart with joy, love. truly a moving composition, a timeless beauty.

watch the cute little ones.jpg

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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.


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

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

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

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

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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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