Mamallapuram sculptures rank among the best due to their very humane quality, says art historian

The varied architecture of the Pancha Rathas of Mamallapuram form the basis of temples in the Chola, Nayaka and Vijayanagar periods, said filmmaker and art historian Benoy K. Behl while giving an online lecture on his documentary titled Enchanted Mamallapuram, which is part of the Spectacular India Series, produced by Doordarshan. The Delhi-based India Habitat Centre organised the talk and film screening on Saturday as part of its monthly series.

Mr. Behl, who has over 58,000 photographs and hundreds of documentaries to his credit, said he ranked Mamallapuram’s sculpture among the best in the State due to their very humane quality. Citing the example of the bas-relief of River Ganga’s descent, he said even in such a large relief, the teeming world of nature had not been forgotten. He also gave the example of how a cow is seen licking its calf while a cowherd was milking it in the scene depicting Lord Krishna lifting the Govardhan mountain.

“Can you imagine how 1,400 years ago, sailors who entered the town would have felt seeing the boulders transformed into beautiful sculptures!? What stories would they have had to tell when they went back home,” he said.

In the documentary, Senior archaeologist T. Sathyamurthy said there were many archaeological sites in and around Mamallapuram which had yielded Roman potteries and coins.

Art historian George Michell said Mamallapuram was really the beginning of art and architecture in Tamil Nadu. One can see the transition from rock art to structural architecture here, he added.

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