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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.

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.

General information pertaining to all the monuments

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