Talk of abstract art, the sculptors of Mahabalipuram have for long captured my imagination. But despite breathing through all their works, i am still not able to comprehend their motives. For their class and perfection, why did they choose such subjects. Sculpting into the hardest stone and sculpting images of Gods is one thing – but take this little known Bas relief in Mahabalipuram – its right behind the Trimurthi cave, is purely a work of master art. The beauty of
this creation mimics the grace of nature.
From the bull elephant’s majestic grace, to its baby playing digging into the sand and its swirling trunk, the mother elephant’s head alone is shown above the Bull elephants body – Oh, such life. Sadly the bigger baby’s head is broken, but from the other three Elephants – look at the skill of the sculptor – the male elephant is shown with manly charm, majestic, the female with a loving almost motherly smile,while the baby is all mischief.
There is no parallel to Pallava sculptor when it comes to this – look at the graceful lines of the peacock. And to top it, the monkey – Oh, i am lost for words here. He seems to be alive and looking up at the viewer. Maybe the Pallava sculptors were alchemists or magicians who could turn living beings into stone by casting a spell or waving a wand. I cannot see these as hammered with chisel on stone, for they are breathed upon. A surreal experience.
The puzzle is as to why they toiled so hard on this panel – for it represents no God, no legend, no mythological scene. Almost like an elaborate florish of an artist on seeing a sunrise, an extempore speech by an orator on a hot debate, an outburst of poetry by a poet on seeing his lady love, the cheruby smile of an infant on seeing his mother – as if the sculpture wanted to capture a scene, just that this was not a mere brush stroke – but years of work! Why did he do it?
Images courtesy : Ponniyin Selvan egroup mallai trip – Mr. Shriram and Mr. Vinjamoor Venkatesh.