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‘Plan of the Varaha Avatar Cavern.’

‘Plan of the Varaha Avatar Cavern.’

Artist: Anonymous

Medium: Watercolour with pen and ink

Date: 1816

Shelfmark: WD.1068

Item number: f.23

Length: 28

Width: 48.2

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Plan

Plan of the Varaha rock-cut cave temple at Mamallapuram, by an anonymous artist, part of the MacKenzie Collection and from and Album of 37 drawings and plans of the temples and sculptures at Mamallapuram, c. 1816.

Colin MacKenzie (1754-1821) joined the East India Company as an engineer at the age of 28 and spent the majority of his career in India. He used the salary he earned from his military career as a captain, major and finally a colonel to finance his research into the history and religion of Indian culture. During his surveys he collected and recorded details concerning every aspect of Indian architecture, language and religion, resulting in thousands of drawings and copies of inscriptions.

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 monolithic sculptures that were most likely created in the 7th century reign of Narasimhavarman Mahamalla. The caves are all fronted with fine columns resting on seated lions, typical of the Pallava style. This drawing shows the entrance to the shrine in the Varaha rock-cut cave temple. The cave is preceded by a tank and consists of a rectangular hall and a shrine. Inside there are large sculpture panels representing Vishnu Trivikrama and Vishnu as Varaha the boar, lifting Bhudevi the earth goddess from the depths of the cosmic ocean where she was imprisoned.

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