What was the contribution of pallavas to the art and architecture of Ancient India?
The long period of the Pallava rule represents both rock-cut architecture and early constructed stone temples. The brick, timber, metal and mortar part could hardly survive in the warm and humid climate of the region. But the lasting monolithic temples known as rathas and mandapas provide superb skill of sculptors of Pallava period narasimhavarman I, was a great a patron of art and architecture as he was the commander of the army. He called himself “Mamalla” (Kannada mahamalla—great wrestler) and named the town where he built temples as Mamallapuram, now known as Mahabalipuram.
It must have bee a big sea port at the mouth of the Palar River, thirty two miles south of Chennai. The large grantie hill 100 ft high and half a mile in length from north to south and quarter a mile wide, with smaller protrusions provided unique scope for the Pallava sculptors. Prof. K.A. Nilakanta Sastri writes that Mamallapuram was one of the chief entry port of South India and from it streamed forth strong cultural influences which shaped the art of Hindu colonies of Indonesia and Cambodia.
There are clear traces of carefully designed system of water supply from palar River to the ancient city. The huge sculpture of “Teh Descent of the Ganges” also known is Arjuna’s Penance was related to this system of water supply. The large cliff, thirty yards long and twenty three ft high, representsnaga and naginis which symbolize water, adoring both sides of deities along with animals.
For some it is a regular and vast fresco in stone. According to Grousset, “This relief is a master piece of classic art in the breadth of its composition, the sincerity of its impulse which draws all creatures together round the beneficent waters, and its deep, fresh love of nature” There is an emaciated figure of Bhagiratha practicing penance. Among the animals, right from elephants, to the ascetic cat with trustful mice at its feet deer and monkeys are depicted in artistic but natural poses. The mandapas, pilasters and mouldings are all intricately carved with Mythological themes. Krishna raising Govardhana hill, Vishnu relaxing on a serpent sofa, Durga with demon Mahisha, are all depicted.