Sunday, January 24, 2010

Historical Sites near Chennai - Sangam Age Temple

THE remains of an ancient brick temple, possibly 2,000 years old, have been discovered on the beach near Tiger Cave in Mamallapuram, 50 km from Chennai. According to archaeologists involved in the excavation, the temple; dedicated to Muruga, also known as Karthikeya, may date back to the late Tamil Sangam age, between 1st century B.C. and 2nd century A.D. An inscription in Tamil on a rock near the excavated site led to the discovery of the temple. The rock, lodged in sand, was exposed fully by the tsunami that struck Mammalapuram on December 26, 2004.
The original temple was damaged severely by what archaeologists think was a tsunami or a massive tidal wave action. Subsequently, the Pallava kings converted it into a granite temple in the 8th and 9th century A.D., which too fell to tidal waves . The Pallava rulers filled the sanctum sanctorum of the brick temple with sand, placed granite slabs over it and used it as a foundation to build a new temple. This temple had a vimana (tower) made of granite blocks with carvings. So the temple had two distinct phases: the late Sangam age and the Pallava period.
An important discovery was that of two carved, granite pillars of the Pallava period. Both the pillars have inscriptions in Tamil. While one pillar mentions the seventh regnal year (813 A.D.) of the Pallava king Dantivarman, the other has an inscription belonging to the 12th regnal year (858 A.D.) of another Pallava king, Nandivarman III. The inscriptions on the pillars speak about donations made to a Subrahmanya temple at a place called Thiruvizhchil, which is the present-day Salavankuppam, where the Tiger Cave monuments are located.
Other Pallava age artefacts unearthed include carved granite blocks from the collapsed temple vimana, a bronze lamp with a carving of a cock (the vehicle of Muruga or Subrahmanya), and roofing tiles. The granite blocks have carvings of Ganesa, elephants, mythical animals and floral motifs. A copper coin belonging to the Chola period was found on the surface of the site.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Historical Sites Near Chennai - Mamalla Quarries

Mahabalipuram was under control by Pallava kings from the Third Century to Ninth century AD. Mahabalipuram , a world heritage site, famous centre of Pallava art and architecture in South India, was also a seaport right from the beginning of the Christian era. The epigraphical sources confirm Pallava kings' active contacts with Ceylon, China and the Southeast Asian countries. A few Roman coins of Theodosius (4th century AD) found from the region suggest that Mababalipuram also had trade contact with the Roman world around Christian era. It came to the glory only after the Pallava started building the structural and monolithic temple architecture in this area.
Shown below are pictures taken during recent visit to the Valiankuttan and Pidari Rathams at Mamalla Quarry at Mahabalipuram.
1 & 2: Bas Relief of Hindu elephant god Ganesha.
3 & 4: Unfinished Valiankuttan rathas (chariots) carved from monolithic granite blocks
5,6 & 7 : Quarried blocks of granite - unsuitable because of cracks & fissures
8 & 9: Shows how the rocks are dressed
10-15: Unfinished Pidari rathas - not completed because of defects in rock
16: View of Light House Mahabalipuram from Quarry

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Historical Sites Near Chennai - Sadras Fort

Sadras (Saduranga pattinam) is an old Dutch fort that is located just past Mahabalipuram, near the Kalpakkam atomic power plant. A flourishing weaver settlement during the medieval period, Sadras became a Dutch settlement after they obtained it in 1612 from the rulers of Carnatic. The Dutch East India Company established a factory, essentially to produce and trade the famous muslin cloth till the settlement was razed to the ground in British bombardment. This fort had a small settlement of Dutch traders. The Dutch traders used this fort to export goods from India. In mid 17th century, the British attacked and took over this fort. The first battle between British East India Company and the Dutch started here as Battle of Sadras. It has a cemetery of Dutch East India Company or VOC (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie) soldiers and officers. It is now maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India in efforts to contain further dilapidation of this great monument.Fort walls
Restored Granary - outside view
Partially restored warehouse/granary
Ruins of the fort
The Ponniyin Selvam group atop the walls
The group scaling the ruined fort walls
Within the fort is a cemetery with exquisitely engraved granite tombstones, the inscriptions on them giving the details of the Dutch buried there. One tombstone has a beautiful bas relief of a vessel with sails, another is chiselled with a coat of arms, a third has a rose, and so on. The inscriptions on the tombstones tell tragic tales of the dead
Insignias on the tombstone
The cemetry at the Dutch fort
Cannons at the fort entrance
A cannon at the entrance of the fort

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