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Elevation of Arjuna Ratha

Elevation of Arjuna Ratha

Artist: Anonymous

Medium: Pen and ink on paper

Date: 1816

Shelfmark: WD.1068

Item number: f.5

Length: 44.5

Width: 28

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Topographical Drawing

Pen and ink drawing with measurements of the elevation of the Arjuna Ratha at Mamallapuram in Tamil Nadu, by an anonymous artist, part of an Album of 37 drawings of the temples and sculptures at Mamallapuram, also plans of the site, dated 1816.

Mamallapuram, a tiny village south of Chennai (Madras), was a flourishing port of the Pallava dynasty from the 5th - 8th centuries. The site is famous for a group of temples, a series of rock-cut caves and some monolithic sculptures created in the 7th century reign of Narasimhavarman Mahamalla. Covering two huge boulders, 27 m long and 9 m high, is a remarkable carving in low relief where scholarly analysis has allowed for two interpretations of subject-matter. One theory views this as Arjuna, one of the Pandava brothers in the Hindu epic Mahabharata who underwent penances while praying to receive a magic weapon from the god Shiva. Another theory views this as the sage Bhagiratha who underwent penances while praying to Shiva to catch the river Ganga in his matted locks as she descended to earth, with all the animals and myriad beings watching the miracle.

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