Thursday, October 31, 2019

A Memorable Trip to Mahabalipuram - Arjuna's Penance

Also known as The Descent of the Ganges. There are two legends associated with this relief which was created to celebrate the victory of Narasimhavarman I over Pulakesan II. This great victory also earned the king the epithet "Mamallan' or great warrior.The architectural creations at Mamallapuram adopted stone as the medium for sculpting in situ rock faces. The relief is created with great skill and imagination on two large boulders of pink granite in the open air. The natural cleft, a very large perpendicular fissure, is adroitly sculpted between the boulders and forms an integral part of the mythical narratives carved on the entire rock face. A water tank was once located at the top of the rock denoting the Ganges river. It cascaded over the cleft and the relief to give an impression that the water was descending from Shiva's head.The sculptures carved in the natural fissure that divides the cliff not only depicts the cosmic event of Ganga descending to earth, but also depicts scores of gods, goddesses and mythical figures of Kinnaras, Gandharvas, Apsaras, Ganas & Nagas as also many wild and domestic animals all admiringly watching the great cosmic event..
As per one legend the waters of the Ganga descended to earth due to penance of Bhagiratha. You can see an skinny ascetic doing penance. As per another legend the ascetic is none other than Arjuna doing austere tapasya to Lord Siva in order to receive Shiva's most powerful weapon the Pasupatastra.

Bas Reliefs at Arjuna's Penance
A Panoramic View of the Twin Boulders depicting Bas Reliefs

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