Mahavallipore. Cave with a structural Vimana
Lithographer: Dibdin, Thomas Colman (1810-1893)
Medium: Lithograph, coloured
This is plate 20 from James Fergusson's 'Illustrations of the Rock Cut Temples of India'.
Mamallapuram is today a tiny village near Madras, but between the fourth and ninth centuries it was a flourishing port of the Pallava dynasty. Being great patrons of art and architecture, the Pallavas' rule resulted in many fine temples with stone carvings.
Besides free-standing monoliths and rock sculptures, Mamallapuram is known for its nine cave temples, of which this is one. Most of the caves are ascribed to the mid-seventh century reign of Narasimhavarman Mahamalla, though two are thought to have been built earlier. They are all fronted with fine columns resting on seated lions, perhaps as a tribute to their patron, whose name derives from the lion avatar of the god Vishnu, 'Narasimha', which emerged from a pillar. The term vimana refers to a temple tower.