Inconceivable elaboration and splendour of Madura's Hindu temple - two of its nine pagodas
Photographer: Ricalton, James
Medium: Photographic print
Stereoscopic photograph of two gopuras in 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. These towers are extremely elaborate and completely covered with figures of divinities, celestial beings, monster masks and animals, all encrusted in plaster decoration painted in vivid colours. Inside the complex there are columned mandapas or assembly halls, tanks, shrines and the two temples of Shiva and his consort Minakshi. This is one of a series of 100 photographs, designed to be viewed through a special binocular viewer thus 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.