Narrative sculpture on the north side of the Amritesvara Temple at Amritpur, 1805. Beginning panel of the Mahabharata frieze
Medium: Pen and ink on paper
Pen-and-ink drawing of the beginning narrative sequence of the Mahabharata carved on the open hall of the Amriteshvara temple at Amritapura in Karnataka. This drawing is taken from an album of 156 drawings (185 folios) chiefly of architecture and sculpture in S. India, dated 1803-08. Some of the drawings are by MacKenzie himself, others by his assistant surveyors and draftsmen, including H. Hamilton and J. Newman.
The Amriteshvara Temple at Amritapura, located 110 km from Hassan, is a beautiful example of Hoysala architecture decorated with fine sculpture. An inscription records the building of the temple in 1196 AD. The Hoysalas were prolific temple builders and during their rule (circa 1006-1346) they built nearly 700 monuments in Karnataka. The Amriteshvara, which is dedicated to Shiva, consists of a sanctuary (garbhagriha), with its tower, a vestibule (shukanasa), a closed hall (navaranga), and a large open hall (mukhamandapa). The open hall is approached through entrance porches in the four cardinal directions. It has half-open walls with slanting seat-back remarkably carved with narrative panels from the Hindu epics. On the north face of the porch of the open hall 36 panels illustrate episodes from the first three books (Adi, Sabha and Vanaparvan) of the epic of the Mahabharata. This great epic is attributed to Vyasa and traditionally dated circa 400 BC-400 AD. The sequence of the scenes is from right to left. Each scene is framed and separated by pilasters and floral motifs. The scenes depicted in this drawing are from the north face of the porch and represent scenes from the Adiparvan. From right to left, the panels represent the opening scenes and the first figure possibly depicts Vyasa, the narrator. The figure is dressed like an ascetic, wearing a long coat and sandals. The next figure is indistinct. In next panel Kunti approaches king Bhisma with the Five Pandavas, seeking protection. The tree above Kunti’s head is a symbol of the forest from which Kunti is returning with the five princes.