arjuna's penance, mamallapuram

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  • Arjuna's Penance, Mamallapuram

  • A scene carved into rocks near Mmallapuram, India, depicts the descent of the sacred river Ganges from the Himalayas. Following a natural crack in the rock, the carving is 6 m (20 ft) high and depicts gods, celestial beings, and animals gathered along the rivers path. The carvings date from the 7th century AD.

  • The skillfully carved edifice is named after the Epic hero, Arjuna. Arjuna, performed severe austerities in order to obtain Shiva's weapon to destroy his enemies. It is also an illustration of King Bhagiratha's penance to bring the River Ganges down to earth to purify the souls of his ancestors. His prayers are answered and Lord Shiva sends the Ganges down to earth, but breaks her fall by allowing the water to trickle through his hair, so that the impact of its fall would not harm the earth. This strange sight is said to have aroused the curiosity of the world's animals, which gathered around the soaking God. The symbolism of the relief supports both these stories. Some of the popular fables from the Hindu Panchatantra books are also depicted.

  • Bhagiratha does penance Bhagiratha does penance outside his hermitage (smaller detail)

  • A Naga looks on admiringly Sages and lions also stand by

  • Two elephants watch him

  • The upper left of the relief depicts a mountain setting with grazing animals, lions, humans, and celestials. The mountain represents Shiva's abode in the Himalayas, where the worlds of gods, humans, and animals intermingle.

  • Arjuna's Penance, Mamallapuram The hero of the story is performing a difficult and painful yoga posture: standing one-legged, arms above his head. Such positions had to be held, without moving, for great lengths of time; even years, according to the legends. His protruding rib-cage indicates the austerity of self-starvation as well. To the left, four-armed Shiva looks on approvingly, his left hand extended in varada mudra, the gesture of granting a blessing. At lower left, an antelope bounds from ledge to ledge. The scene includes flying celestials, a gana below Shiva's hand, and a pair of birds near Arjuna's left elbow.

  • Vishnu Shrine

    Directly below Shiva is a Vishnu shrine with worshipers, ascetics, celestials, and animals. A few animals are denning in caves to the left, but the remainder of the lower left portion of the rock is unfinished.

  • "Ganges" cleft

    In the center of the relief, the life-giving and purifying river Ganges flows down the mountain, surrounded by ascetics, celestials, elephants, and other animals on the banks. Nagas sport in the water their natural habitat, as celestials fly from every direction towards the Ganges to witness the miracle. The relief abounds with exquisite details, such as the buck with his doe in the lower left corner. Beneath the elephant's tusk is a cat, performing austerities.

  • Cat Performing Yoga

    The cat's austerities have attracted the attention of several mice - they will soon regret it, since the cat is only pretending, in order to catch them unawares.

  • Elephants

    Beautifully carved elephants, approximately life-sized, shelter their babies while celestials fly above them.

  • Celestials

    Hosts of celestials and animals join the elephants on their pilgrimage to the Ganges. There aren't any humans on this side of the rock, which depicts the natural and celestial worlds.

  • Monkeys

    This marvelous sculpture group is located just beside the right end of the relief, but it is a separate carving. The mother is nursing her baby while being groomed by a subordinate. A little boy, sitting (unposed!) on the edge of the plinth, provides a sense of scale and a humorous imitation.

  • Gates of Paradise, Florence Baptistry East DoorsArtistLorenzo Ghiberti 1425-1452, gilded bronze individual reliefs: 31 inches square

  • Baptistery of Florence and Gates of Paradise The Baptistery was built around 6th or 7th century. It was dedicated to St. John and covered with marble around 1059-1128. In 1328-1336 the south doors were cast in bonze by Andrea Pisano. In 1401 the city had a competition to choose an artist to complete the doors for the north entrance. The competition ended in a tie between Filippo Brunelleshi and Lorenzo Ghiberti. Brunelleshi was insulted by the idea the Ghiberti was as good as him. Ghiberti at the time was only 23 years old. So Brunelleshi refused the work and left for Rome. This left Ghiberti to complete the doors. He worked from 1403 to 1424 on the the doors, which had 28 bronze panels when completed. Later he completed a set of doors, each with five bronze panels, for the east entrance . He worked on those doors from 1424 to 1452 . These sets of doors became know and the "Gates of Paradise." Models of the doors hang on the Baptistery today, while the originals are either on display at a local museum or being restored.

  • Genesis: Creation of Adam (Temptation in the background); Creation of Eve

  • Cain and AbelIn the distance the brothers offer their sacrifices and somewhat nearer, Cain slays Abel. In the middle ground Abel is seen with his dog watching his flocks. In the foreground Cain ploughs and on the right receives God's curse.

  • Noah; Animals leaving the Ark

  • Abraham; Angels announcing that Sarah will bear a son; the Sacrifice of Isaac

  • IsaacIn the foreground are Isaac sending Esau on the hunt and on the right Jacob receiving Isaac's blessing, with a beautiful classical Rebecca, the conspirator, standing nearby. In the background Esau is seen in low relief hunting and on the roof Rebecca is hearing God's warning about the eventual conflict between her two unborn sons

  • Joseph

  • Moses: Daughters of Israel; Receiving the Law

  • Joshua; Joshua on chariot preceded by the ark of the covenant; the Carrying of the Stones; the background with the city of Jericho and the priests with trumpets

  • David; Fallen GoliathDavid is in the process of severing the head of Goliath with his own large sword.

  • Solomon: Solomon and Queen of Sheba

  • Self-Portrait of Ghiberti