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Stories in Stone - Sculptures in Mamallapuram, Tamilnadu, India.

Updated on September 8, 2007


Writing has been invented very late. Spoken language and the stories originated well before they were put in writing. Most of the stories of ancient origins were related to religion or about heros and heroic acts. As all these stories had some messages to be communicated to the public, these stories were transmitted orally through generations. Later, wall paintings and sculptures were also used for this purpose. Even after writing had become a standard form of communication and record keeping, paintings and sculptures continued to have been used for this purpose. As visual mediums are usually very effective in communication, and in addition thay also have aesthetic value. Therefore, In temples and other related buildings, sculptures were used, to communicate stories and other information.

Sculptures in Mamallapuram

Mamallapuram is one of the places where one can see several most ancent stone sculptures in Tamilnadu in India. Many of these sculptures depicting stories are bas releifs. These sculptures had been carved inside rock cut temples, free standing temples and even on exposed rock surfaces. Most of these were carved between 7th century to 10th century AD during Pallava rule. Stories carved are related to mostly Hindu relegion. This page shows sculptured panels depicting stories of 1. Killing of Mahishasuran by goddess Durga, 2. Baheerathan Thapas and 3. Krishna protecting the people.

Story No.1

In Hindu mythology one can find several stories based on the enmity between the inhabitants of the world of gods and the Demons known as Asuras in Sanskrit language. As a common theme, in many such stories kings of Demons become powerful enough to suppress the power of the king of the world of gods, by the boons they receive from one of the three supreme deities namely Siva, Vishnu and Brahma and take control of it. Then the gods complain about their plight to the Trinities. Trinities then take a special form or create some one in such a way to overcome the power of the boon given to the Demon.

1. Goddess Durga fights with Mahishasura
1. Goddess Durga fights with Mahishasura

In one of such stories, a king of Demons named Mahisha (means buffalo) received a boon from Brahma after a severe penance undertook by him. According to the boon only a female can kill him. Probably he may have thought that the females were generally weak and the boon he received was as good as immortality. He started his atrocities and defeated Indra the ruler of the world of gods. He banned worshipping of gods. Indra and his subjects went to Siva. As a female with such a power to overcome the strength of the Demon is needed kill him, they combined all their powers and created the goddess Durga. She went to the Demons place and challenged him. A fierce fight raged and continued for nine days. Durga killed all of Mahisha's lieutenants and engaged Mahisha. He decided to use deception tactics and changed his forms frequently while fighting. However Durga overcame all his tactics and killed Mahisha with her spear. As she killed Mahisha the goddess Durga got the name Mahishasura Mardhani, "the distroyer of Mahisha".

The sculptured panel seen here depicts this fight between Durga and Mahisha. Durga is seen seated on a lion, with several hands and the Demon is seen in a form of buffalo.

2. Story depicting Arjuna Thapas or Bhaheeratha Tapas
2. Story depicting Arjuna Thapas or Bhaheeratha Tapas
3. Krishna Protecting People from Indra's Anger
3. Krishna Protecting People from Indra's Anger


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      Jebin 7 years ago

      i m a vis com student.. I took documentary on tis... Thanks 4 d info...