Friday, January 9, 2009


A frontal view

The life size elephants

More details

Life size figures

View from the side

Arjuna's Penance
Mahabalipuram, Indië

The beautifully carved 27 metres long and 9 metres high rock, Arjun’s Penance, named after the Mahabharatha hero, Arjuna, is the largest bas relief sculpture in the world.
This bas relief, carved in the mid-seventh century, is an extensive panel of life size images.

Arjuna's Penance presents a deftly sculpted scene depicting man's view of the universe with over 100 figures of gods and semi divine creatures, birds and beasts, men and saints. All the figures are carved so that they either face the crevasse or seem to approach it while they have their hands folded in admiration. One of the notable, and perhaps most ironic figures in the bas-relief is the figure of a cat standing on one leg.

There are two beliefs as to the theme of the sculptures. Arjuna, one of the Pandava brothers is said to have done penance asking for a powerful weapon with which to destroy his enemies. The huge gathering of celestials and humans witness the great scene.
According to the second belief, it is Bhagiratha's penance to get river Ganges down to the earth. His prayers are answered and Lord Shiva sends the Ganges down to the earth, controlling its rapid flow by allowing it to trickle from his matted locks.

A natural crevasse separates the two halves of the relief. Water was poured down this cleft in order to simulate a natural waterfall (the Ganges descent). To the left, just above the shrine, Arjuna/Bhagiratha stands on one leg, his arms upraised, in a yoga posture. Behind him appears Shiva, holding a weapon and accomodated by ganas.

To the right of the cleft, life-sized elephants protect their young below a scene of numerous other animals and flying celestials, all carved with the greatest vivacity, skill, naturalism, and joyousness.
It is difficult to do justice to such a large and beautiful relief in photographs. person can barely reach the elephants' feet.

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