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Notes on the Geography of Peninsular India: Mamallapuram 2: Five Rathas: Photo 10

world pictures Peninsular India: Mamallapuram 2: Five Rathas

Possibly a Vishnu Temple, this is the so-called Bhima Temple. Such temples were carved from the top down, and in this case, work was abandoned with the upper stories complete but the lower level unfinished, with its four corners still in place and the interior not yet hollowed out. A vertical crack had formed, and James Fergusson, still after all these years the most entertaining of writers of this subject, thinks that the crack explains why the lower level was never completed. He writes that the stoppage "arose from unskilfulness on the part of workmen employed in a first attempt. Having completed the exterior, they set to work to excavate the interior so as to make it resemble a structural building of the same class, leaving only such pillars and supports as were sufficient to support a wooden roof of the ordinary construction. In this instance it was a mass of solid granite which, had the excavation been completed, would certainly have crushed the lower storey to powder. As it was, the builders seem to have taken the hint of the crack and stopped the further progress of the works" (I,331).

The cracks were pointed with cement sometime before 1930. Longhurst writes that the roof "would seem to be the prototype of the ordinary wagon roof of all the great gopurams or gateways of the South Indian Temples" (pt. 2, p. 24).

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