Krishna Mandap @ Mamallāpuram

photos of Pallava Krishna Mandap in Mamallapuram by Arun ShanbhagPerspective of the interior of the Krishna Mandap, Mamallapuram; larger version

Earlier you saw the Varāha Gudi (Varāha Mandap) from early in the reign of Pallavā, Mahendravarman (571-630 ce). In addition to other fabulous caves, he commissioned carvings into the side of mountains, combining creativity and artistic excellence.

In this Krishna Mandap, devotionally carved reliefs pays tribute to Krishna lifting Mount Govardhan. The shallow cave-like slot cut in the mountain is infused with warm light, bringing to life the villagers of Gokul huddled under the mountain.

According to legend, the vedic Indra Dev feels offended by villagers of Gokul for stopping their offerings to him. He lets loose a torrential storm deluging the village and endangering life. To save his kinsmen, Krishna lifts mount Govardhan offering respite to human and animal life, under its canopy.

photos of Pallava Krishna Mandap in Mamallapuram by Arun Shanbhag Krishna easily lifts mount Govardhan and provides refuge to the villagers from the torrential storms unleashed by Indra

In this life-sized panel, Krishna is depicted easily supporting Govardhan on his left palm while offering grace with this right hand. He is joined by herdsmen, women and animals, predominantly cows under this mountain. You notice a father casually holding a child on this shoulders; gopis (cowmaids) bringing along their children and balancing pots, apparently filled with milk and butter on their heads and in rapt adoration of their hero Krishna. A huddled woodcutter is consoled by Krishna’s brother Balarama; a beautiful mother cow licking its calf, as a herdsman milks it. A woman carries stacked pots in a sling while supporting a load on her head. In the background are a host of cows carved in shallow relief; a mother and infant are mesmerized by a flutist. It is a crowded panel, and so beautifully executed.

Krishna’s raised hand lifting the mountain, touches the top of the cave and gives us the feeling that we too are standing alongside him, one with the herdsmen, under this mountain, in his grace.

Posts from Tamil Nādu Tirth Yatra:

My other Tirth Yātrās:

Additional References: (see Varaha Mandap for remaining)

  • Mahabalipuram, Archaeological Survey of India, Government of India (2004).

26 thoughts on “Krishna Mandap @ Mamallāpuram

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  1. Kumudha –
    Thank you for your nice words. I have not been to Belur and Halebid, but I hear they are truly very fine works. I must see them soon.

    If you get a chance, do visit Mamallapuram.

  2. Thanks for sharing great carvings from India. I felt as if I was seeing carvings from Belur and Halebidu when I saw these amazing carvings.

  3. Btw…have you seen Belur, Halebidu? Its one of my all time favorite place.

    arunaH uvacha:
    Shilpa – I feel silly, I have NOT visited Belur and Halebid. I hear the workmanship is the pinnacle of Hindu Temple art! Must visit one of these days.

    Thanks for reminding me.

  4. Thanks Arun for the beautiful write up and pictures of Mamallapuram. Its a special treat for me as it brings back lots of fond memories.

    As you said, I need to find a way to start sharing some of my pictures, but given that I am “technologically challenged” and “not so good writer”, it may take a while 🙂

    My family was in Kanchi last weekend (attending a function in the mutt) and later visiting Kailasanathar temple. They have sent some beautiful pictures of the temple. Let me see whether I can email you few of them without blowing up your gmail box.


    arunaH uvacha:
    Viji – Good excuse about being technologically challenged and “not so good writer”; but I don’t buy it! Get to it! :-))

    your family visited the Kanchi kamakoti mutt? Nice!
    Kailasanatha Temple in Kanchi was beautiful. To give a sense of the evolution of temple architecture, I was going to post Kailasanatha pics, after the Mandapas and rathas in Mamallapuram. But please do send me some of your pics. I am sure we caught different. Further, when we got there, we could only see the outside, as the temple was itself closed.

    And send the pics soon, as we will be traveling next week. :-))
    And Thanks for your kind words, always.

  5. Nice pictures Arun! Thanks for bringing these little stories to us…. there are so many things to see in India !

    Btw, your blog is a stop-shop for street food, you’ve quite a collection of lovely pictures!!

    arunaH uvacha:
    Thank you Jyothsna for stopping by and your kind comment. Yes, after traveling so many places in the world, I have finally come to realize there is so much grandeur just lying at our feet. I am just loving it and I want to share it with all.

    Enjoy the articles.

  6. Hi Ganga:
    No, I have not been to Ankor Vat. I hear it is a beautiful place and it is definitely on my short list. The pb is, our trip to India is long enough and then making another trip to Cambodia is daunting.

    At the beginning of the first millennia, Mamallapuram was a major center for trade with SOuth east asia; apparently from here, Hindu traders carried the faith to Cambodia and the nearby regions. The artisans followed too and thus the temple architectures and the carvings have been strongly influenced by the Pallava kingdom’s works. Thus the similarity.

    I had heard about the 1,000 lingams (may gave seen a pic in HT). Oh, yes, so much to see and so little time!

    Are you going to post on the 1000 lingams or Ankor Vat?
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  7. Hi Arun, these carvings are so beautiful. Have you been to Ankor Watt? There are carvings very similar to this.

    When I was at Ankor Watt we climbed up into the mountains to the river of a thousand lingams. Can you imagine? 1,000 lingams in and around the river! Built by a king to bless the water as it flowed from its source down into the valleys. It was such an amazing experience. What reminded me of this is that in the rock faces surrounding the river are carvings of Siva that are very similar in style to the ones in your post!

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