MAHABALIPURAM – STONE MONUMENTS OF AN ANCIENT INDIAN EPIC
The above is called “Krishna’s Butterball.” According to Hindu mythology, when the great god Krishna was just a baby, he was fond of stealing butter. Following this tradition, the big orange stone is believed to be a giant ball of stolen butter that the god dropped.
Now these schoolchildren were more impressed with the fun had by sliding down the trough made by others who had climbed up this steep incline to reach the the butterball.
It’s approximately 20 feet high and 16.5 feet meters wide, weighing 250 tons, and inclining at an angle of 45 degrees for the past 1300 years. Despite looking round in shape, the top-back part of the rock is actually sheared off, and that’s visible only from the rear. The reason for such a shape cut is unknown, as natural erosion wouldn’t have done this and this balancing act on such a steep slope is shocking. Here is a photo of the entire rock from the internet.
SHORE TEMPLE – Made from granite, the temple has three sanctums, two of which are dedicated to Lord Shiva and one to Lord Vishnu. I think the tall edifices look like the sand drop castles that I use to make at the beach when I was little.
KRISHNA TEMPLE – The walls of the temple depict the story of Krishna lifting the Govardhan Mountain to protect his people. It also shows him cavorting with some handmaidens – even the gods have their sport:
For me the highlight was the grouping known as the FIVE CHARIOTS. The chariots are carved out of single granite in the Dravidian architectural style. Each of the chariots is dedicated to a Pandavas of Mahabharata.
Let me pause a moment for a little personal background. After my first visit to India, I tore into an intensive study of the culture. Vishal recommended I read two works – the Bhagavad Gita and the Mahabharata. The Mahabharata is an ancient Indian epic where two branches of a family – the Pandavas and the Kauravas, fight each other for rights to the throne. Within the 100,000 verses, or 18 books of the Mahabharata is the Bhagavad Gita,, a 700 verse narrative between the Pandavas Prince Arjuna and his spiritual guide and charioteer Krishna. The Gita is considered to be one of the holy scriptures for Hinduism. Krishna is said to have dictated the verses and Lord Ganesha wrote them down. It is the longest epic poem ever written, generally thought to have been composed in the 4th century BCE or earlier.
The Mahabharata teaches the lesson that good is always victorious against evil. The moral of Mahabharata is to live in the right and truthful way. We should always fight for our rights as Pandavas fought for the rights and privileges that the Kauravs had taken from them by false means. It is a fascinating and intensive read and it touched me deeply and completely and is part of why I feel so connected to India.
chariot grouping structures are named after the Pandavas and their common wife Draupadi. In order of their size, they include the Dharmaraja Ratha, Bhima Ratha, Arjuna Ratha, Nakula Sahadeva Ratha, and Draupadi Ratha. Ratha means chariot.
This enormous monument is not a ratha but it is significant. Arjuna’s Penance stands at 43 feet high and 96 feet long. It was difficult to get a photo in its entirety. Here is one from the internet that is a good view.
There are two stories about this monolith – the story ofArjuna’s Penance and the Descent of the Ganges.
Arjuna’s Penance is from the Mahabharata – how Arjuna, one of the Pandavas, performed severe austerities in order to obtain Shiva’s deadly weapon. The Descent of Ganges is about the penance of Bhagirathi, a legendary king, who performed austerities in order to bring Goddess Ganges down to earth. Lord Shiva consented to break the force of the descent of the river with his hair, as otherwise the force would be too great for the earth to contain.
The composition of the relief includes scenes of the natural and celestial worlds. For the latter a natural cleft populated by Nagas (snakes) separates the two halves of the relief. Water pours down this fissure imitating a waterfall or the Ganges’ descent. Just above the shrine, Arjuna or Bhagiratha is carved standing on one leg, his arms upraised, in a yoga posture. Behind him appears Lord Shiva, holding a weapon and attended by celestial beings. For the depiction of the natural world elephants are shown protecting their babies.