March 28, 2012

Mamallapuram Mahisasuramardini Cave Temple

Site Name: Mahisasuramardini Cave Temple
Site Type: Pallava architecture, cave temple, bas relief, sculpture
Location:  1.5 kms from bus stand, Mamallapuram, near Chennai (55 kms from Chennai), Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: A fine example for Pallava style sculpture
Nearest Railway Station: Chennai
Nearest Airport: Chennai
How to reach: Well connected by road from Chennai
Hotel: A lot of options are available within Mamallapuram and East Coast Road outside the town
Restaurants: Many options and varieties across the town


Mahisasuramardini cave temple stands as a great example for Pallava style of architecture. It is one of the well known monuments in Mamallapuram, the city of monuments. The nearest landmark is light house.

The east facing cave shrine has three cells. The facade has ten incomplete horse shoe shaped windows on the cornice. Above the cornice, there is an outline of five incomplete mini shrines. The front facade is supported by four pillars two pilasters. The central cell has a small mandapa in front of it, which is supported by four pillars with lion base.

The central cell has the bas relief panel of Somaskanda - a form where Shiva, Parvati and Skanda are found together in the sitting posture, Shiva's mound Nandi is shown near Shiva's feet on the ground. Chandikeshwara (most probably), the devotee of Shiva, is seen on the right side of Shiva. Vishnu and Brahma are seen on the left side of Shiva. Surya is found between Brahma and Vishnu. The entrance has two dwarapalak images on either sides.

The left cell and right cell are empty. Both the cells have dwarapalaks images at their respective entrance.

Mahisasuramardini Panel

The most astonishing part of the entire monument is Mahisasuramardini bas relief panel. It stands as an excellent example of Pallava style of sculpture art. The north wall of the monument has this panel against which the entire monument is named after. In this panel, the Goddess Durga is depicted with eight arms holding various weapons and fighting with the Asura named Mahisasura. Durga is known as Mahisasuramardini as she killed Mahisasura. She is mounted on lion; she is accompanied by the female warriors and dwarf Ganas. The right side of the panel has the image of the buffalo faced Asura holding a heavy mace. His soldiers are also found behind him; one was falling with his head down and another who has fell down already depicting fear in his face.

Anata Panel

The southern wall of the monument has the bas relief panel of Ananta - Vishnu in the reclining posture. He is shown as stretched over the coil of Sesha, the divine serpent with five hooded head. Two Asuras, Madhu and Kaitabha are found near the feet of the Lord. Vishnu's conch Panchajanya and mace Kaumodaki are shown in the human forms (as male and female) above the image of Vishnu. Beneath Vishnu's image, his discus Sudarshana and his sword khadga are also depicted in human forms. The female image found is of Bhoo Devi, the earth.

This monument is one such monument in Mamallapuram, which you should not miss. When you get a chance to visit the city, ensure that spend enough effort and time to visit this little but beautiful monument.

Happy travelling.

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