Grotesque fancy and patient skill of Hindu sculptors - pillars of the temple, Madura, India
Photographer: Ricalton, James
Medium: Photographic print
Stereoscopic photograph of the pillars of the Minakshi Sundareshvara Temple at Madurai in Tamil Nadu, taken by James Ricalton in c. 1903, from The Underwood Travel Library: Stereoscopic Views of India. This great temple complex, dating mostly from the 17th century and dedicated to an ancient local goddess, is one of the chief pilgrimage sites of South India. It is enclosed within a rectangular precinct which covers 6 hectares and has 11 huge gopuras or towers, the largest of which mark four entrances from the four cardinal points. Inside the complex there are columned mandapas or assembly halls, tanks, shrines and the two temples of Shiva and his consort Minakshi. This image is described by Ricalton in 'India Through the Stereoscope' (1907), "You have before you some of the pillars in the facade of that part of the temple called the Choultrie...Six of these wonderful pillars are Yali, which is the name of a conventionalized lion entering much into architectural structures in southern India. These lions alternate with figures of the Pandu brothers. The first figure is that of Arjuna, the great archer, with his famous bow, and beyond that first lion is Bhimha with his club; other brothers represented are not just now in view." This is one of a series of 100 photographs, designed to be viewed through a special binocular viewer, producing a 3D effect, which were sold together with a book of descriptions and a map. Stereoscopic cameras, those with two lenses and the ability to take two photographs at the same time, were introduced in the mid 19th century.