Mahavellipore, near Madras. Basso-relievo in continuation of No 423
Photographer: Lyon, Edmund David
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of the relief sculpture of the Arjuna's Penance at Mamallapuram, taken by Edmund David Lyon around 1868, from an album of Photographs to Illustrate the Ancient Architecture of Southern India (vol. V).
Mamallapuram, a tiny village south of Madras, was a flourishing port of the Pallava dynasty during the 7th-8th centuries. The site, which covers several square miles, is famous for a series of monuments which date from the reign of Mamalla (c.630-68) and Rajasimha (c.700-728). Most of the monuments are rock-cut and were carved out of boulders and cliffs. This remarkable relief carving on two large boulders in the village dates from mid-7th century AD during the Pallava period. The scene has been interpreted as the Penance of Arjuna who is standing on one foot while Shiva is holding the magic weapon he hopes to obtain. The scene also represents the descent of the river Ganga to the earth, flowing through the matted hair of Shiva while animals and other beings watch the miracle. Originally water flowed along the cleft with the Naga figures.