Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Adi Varaha Temple, Mamallapuram – The Temple

Adi Varaha Temple, Mamallapuram – The Temple
This temple is one of the best preserved and most complete specimens of the rock cut architecture at Mamallapuram. The temple has been modified with extra structures, most probably during the sixteenth century CE when the town witnessed resurgence during the Vijayanagara period. A modern structure, in front of the temple, restrict the view to its original shrine. The original edifice is a west facing cave temple, measuring 30 feet x 14 feet x 11.5 feet. The cave is excavated into a hall consisting of two bays. This is supported on four pillars and two pilasters. The pillars are of lion-base variety with octagonal shafts.

The sanctum is adorned with a mandapa in front, flanked with dvarapalas on either side. One of the dvarapala has shankha and one has chakra carved on his head, which suggests that the shrine was dedicated to Vishnu. The shrine cut in the centre at the back wall of cave is dedicated to Lord Varaha, the boar incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The original idol is completely plastered, painted and covered with stucco.

Varaha is shown with four arms and carrying Bhu Devi (the mother Earth). He is facing west and in standing posture. Presiding Deity is sculpted on the rock with his left leg placed on a Naga King and Queen and with his left hand on Thayar’s lap. Mother is called as Agilavalli Thayar and Utsavar is Gnana Piran. There are also stone idols of Rudra, Brahma, Goddess Lakshmi and Durga inside this cave temple.

Shiva is represented as Gangadhara in one of the panels. Gangadhara seems to be a famous and frequented icon during the Pallava period. He is shown with four hands, in one of his hand, he is holding his tresses to accommodate Ganga. Ganga, in her female form, is shown in one corner, descending towards the held tresses. There are no attendants, devotees, mounts or other figures in this panel such as the god and the lady are left alone to carry out their business.
There is a Panel for Brahma opposite to Gangadhara Panel. He is shown with four hands, carrying rosary in one hand, placed one hand on his waist and one hand in abhaya-mudra. He is standing alone, with no companion or devotes.
Gaja Lakshmi:
The north side wall also has another panel of Gajalakshmi. The panel of Gaja Lakshmi is similar to that in the other Varaha Cave. Lakshmi is found seated on a lotus flower and holds flower in her arms. She is accompanied with four attendants. Two attendants on either side of her carrying flowers and the other two attendants were with vessels carrying water. One elephant is pouring water on the Goddess whereas another elephant is trying to pick the vessel from one attendant.
There is a panel for Lord Vishnu in the south side of the wall to the left of the sanctum. Lord Vishnu is with four arms. Two devotees are shown kneeling near his feet. It is notable as Lord Vishnu is generally found lying on the serpent. Here, Adi Sesha is found in a separate panel standing next to Vishnu.
Adi Sesha:
There is a panel for Adi Sesha next to Lord Vishnu in the south side of the wall to the left of the sanctum. The idol of Adi Sesha, the divine serpent is found in the human form. He is shown with seven hooded in the panel.
Hari Haran:
There is a panel for Hari Haran (a form of Shiva and Vishnu) on the right side of the entrance of the sanctum. He is shown with four hands carrying Parasu (axe) and chakra (discus). He is shown standing below an umbrella or parasol. Two devotees, one on either side, are shown near his feet.
There is a majestic panel depicting Mahishamardini opposite to Gaja Lakshmi Panel. She is shown with eight hands, carrying shankha (conch), chakra (discus), bow, sword, shield and a bell. A parrot is perched on her lower left arm wrist and it seems to be looking at what she is holding in her lower right hand. She holds a blood-bowl as held by Chamunda or Kali. She stands in a tribhanga posture above a severed buffalo head. The buffalo would be representing the demon Mahishasura.
Behind Durga is a standard top of which is in form of a trishula (trident). A lion and a deer, both are mounts of Durga, are shown in the upper corners. Near these animals are ganas, one on either side of Durga. She is accompanied with two female guardians, one bearing a bow and one sword and shield. There are two devotees near her feet. One of the devotees is in the process of cutting flesh from his arm.
Portrait Sculptures:
There are the portraits sculptures of the Pallava kings and also bear inscriptions however the identity of these kings has not yet reached consensus among the scholar community. A King seated in sukhasana posture on a seat with two of his queens standing beside him can be seen in one of the panels. One of his hand shows Chin Mudra. He is shown with minimal jewellery. The inscription above this panel reads, “the glorious Athiraja Simhavinna-Potrra (Simhavishnu-Pota)”. This Pallava king has been identified with the Pallava king Simhavishnu.
There is another panel displaying another Pallava king opposite to the above panel. The king is shown standing with his two queens, and he has raised one hand pointing towards the Durga panel. He is holding hand of one of his queens, who might be the senior or chief queen. The inscription above the panel reads “the glorious Athiraja Mahendra-Pottra”. This king has been identified with the Pallava king Mahendravarman I. These label inscriptions were engraved above the two portraits panels more than century after the creation of the temple.
There are two other important sculptures found in this cave shrine. A king with two of his queens following him can be found in one of the sculptures. All are found in the standing posture. Another sculpture has the king in the sitting posture whereas his queens are standing on his either sides. As per the inscriptions, the kings are identified as Simhavishnu and Mahendravarman.

Secret Tunnel:
An interesting feature at the temple is the entrance to a secret 15 Kms long tunnel (now shut) that was once an underground route to the Nithya Kalyana Perumal temple in Thiru Vidanthai. One also finds such a secret passage at Parameswara Vinnagaram (Vaikunda Perumal) Divya Desam in Kanchipuram which once led to Mamallapuram almost 70 Kms east.

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