Trip to Mahabalipuram, Tamilnadu on December 5, 2007
Information and photos by Sumathi
Dr.Swaminathan, retired professor from IIT Delhi had organized a trip to Mahabalipuram to understand and appreciate better the great art treasures gifted to us by the Pallavas.

The team
Mr.Swaminathan, Mrs.Swaminathan, KR Sachidanandam-writer, Sa.Kandasamy-writer, Seetharaman-former bookshop owner, Ajithadoss-Former Head of Botony-Presidency College, Udhayakumar-a researcher in Botony, Bhamini-Entrepreneur, Ejji-adventure spirited retired entrepreneur, Umapathy-a Vishvakarma, Manivannan-IT exucutive, Asha Manivannan, Mahesh-culture tourism operator, Hari-colleague of Mahesh, Kannan-Bank executive, Karthikeyan-landscape designer, Lalitha Venkat-freelance editor, Sumathi-web designing and hosting

We have all made several trips to Mahabalipuram before, starting from school excursions to family picnics. But, that is what it has been, a jolly picnic – a visit to all the monolithic rathas, cave & shore temples and fun at the sea. True, we could and did appreciate the marvels excavated out of hard granite, the beauty of the sculptures. In this visit, Mr.Swaminathan shared with us the vast knowledge that he had collected from the books of great scholars – people who had devoted their lifetime to studying and researching these ancient monuments. He read out some of the inscriptions and translated them for us.

We visited only a few mandapams and caves, but at every spot Mr.Swaminathan shared with us details such as – the Pallava kings who had contributed, the structural variations / refinement that can be observed in the structures belonging to different periods. And sadly, also the vandalism – mostly broken noses, attempt to project a Siva temple as a Vishnu temple or vice versa and also an attempt by the kings to take credit without contributing. Since several Pallava rulers seem to have shared the same titles, that further adds to the confusion.

Mr.Swaminathan first gave a general introduction to the temple architecture and sculpture – the different styles of rock architecture seen at Mahabalipuram – the monoliths, cave mandapams, structural temple, bas relief.

We started our tour with a visit to the Tiger caves. I am putting down all the details pointed out to us by Mr.Swmainathan along with my own observations.
Saluvakuppam - Tigers cave, Atiranachanda Mandapam, Saptamatrika shrine
Mukunda Nayanar temple
Dharmaraja Mandapam
Arjuna’s Penance / Bhagiratha’s thavam (Unfinished 2nd piece)
Govardhana / Krishna Mandapam
Panchapandavar Mandapam
The Great penance - a bas-relief (Arjuna / Bhagiratha)
The butterball
Trimurti Mandapam
Kotikkal Mandpam
Ganesha Ratham
Varaha Mandpam
Mahishasuramardhini Mandpam
AdiVaraha Temple
Pidari Ratham
Valayankutai Ratham
Pancha Pandavar Rathams
Sketches of the monuments