Saturday, October 10, 2015

Atiranachanda Cave Temple, Saluvankuppam, Mamallapuram, Chengalpattu

Atiranachanda Cave Temple, Saluvankuppam, Mamallapuram, Chengalpattu
Atiranachanda Cave Temple is a rock-cut Hindu Temple complex located in the hamlet of Saluvankuppam near Mamallapuram in Chengalpattu District of Tamil Nadu. The temple is located below from the ground level. It is believed that this monument was built by Rajasimha Pallava. Atiranachanda Pallava is honorific title of Rajasimha Pallava. This Cave Temple is situated close to Tiger's Cave.

The Temple
This cave temple is very simple in its facade and resembles Pallava king Mahendravarman I Style. The Atiranachanda Cave Temple is east facing. The temple is located below from the ground level. Its layout is 28 feet (8.5 m)t in length and 6 feet (1.8 m) in width on plan, with a height of 6.5 feet (2.0 m). The façade carved on the rock face has two pillars and two pilasters, typical of Mahendravarman style, with an octagonal shaft with square base at the top and the bottom. The pilasters are tetragonal throughout.

The corbels of the pillars are curved and of roll-mouldings. Horizontal friezes in the form of mini shrines are also carved above the corbels, though incomplete. There are three chambers in the cavern with the central chamber being a square of 3.5 feet (1.1 m), whereas the other cells are integral to the wall. The cornice of the front facade has been left without usual decorations of dormer windows (kudu arches) and interconnected oblong shrines. Holes were made at the cornice to support a wooden mandapa in front at later point stage.

The central shrine is projected forward into the hall and provided with an entrance. On either side of the entrance, niches have been provided with help of pilasters. Dvarapalas are found in these niches. Both Dvarapalas rest one hand on a club while other hand is in Suchi mudra. There is bas relief of Somaskanda on its back wall inside the central cell. Shiva and Parvati are seated, while Skanda is in the lap of Parvati. There is a parasol above Parvati. Vishnu and Brahma are shown in upper corners. On either side of this central shrine, on the back wall, similar Somaskanda panels have been carved out, however these panels were left incomplete.

A granite multi-faceted, 16-sided, tantra-style Shiva Linga is placed in front of the Somaskanda panel in the central shrine. This type of black polished Linga is usually found during the reign of the Pallava King Rajasimha. However, it seems to be later addition in this cave, as the water outlet is provided after cutting off the lower part of the club of the right side dvarapala. There is another granite Linga installed in front of the temple. This is not part of the cave temple and is probably the only remnant of a free-standing temple. Nandi can be found facing the central shrine at the open courtyard.

Mahishasuramardhini Panel:
There is a magnificent panel depicting Durga as Mahishasuramardhini is carved out in front of the cave temple, on a separate boulder. Durga is shown with six arms, carrying bow, shankha (conch), chakra (discus), khadga (sword). She is shown alighting her mount, lion. Her army is already in process of annihilating the demon army, the chief of which, Mahishasura, is shown in anthropomorphic form with the head of a buffalo. Mahishasura is already in process of retreat where he and his army are being chased by the gana army of the goddess. This panel would certainly be among the best specimens of Mamallapuram for its aesthetic, dynamic and vivid portrayal of the fight scene.

There are four inscriptions found in this cave temple. The temple contains an identical, 16-line Sanskrit inscription in two scripts: the South Indian Grantha alphabet on the south wall and the North Indian Nagari script on the north wall. Two small label inscriptions are found at the entrance of the cave. On the floor, there is another inscription from Chola (Rajaraja I) times - it records the gift of 90 goats for a perpetual lamp in the temple - in this inscription the town is mentioned as Tiruvizhichchal.

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