Title               Arjuna’s Penance or Gangavatarana
Medium   :      Stone
Date         :      Pallava Period (7th century AD)
Finding Site:  Mamallapuram (Chennai)
Size               :  91 ft X 152 ft (Approx)
Artist            :   Unknown

 Arjuna’s penance or GANGAVATARANA


  • The monuments of the Pallavas consist of cave temples and structural temples, plus a few monolithic structures.
  • One of the most important sculptural works of this period is from Mamallapuram.
  • The relief is on two huge boulders. Uneven sculpture is  very distinct and spontaneous in representation. There is a flow in the whole composition. There is a crowd of life-size human and animal figures.
  • They include gods, demi – gods, and sages, all in the flying position. There is a cleft in between the two boulders.
  • All the figures are shown facing the clef.
  • Though there are lots of movements and energy on the upper part of the relief, in the lower part of the composition the life shown almost calms down.
  • The ascetic figures in the crowd have been shown in meditating posture.
  • The name of the relief, according to some scholars, is Gangavatarana where Shiva has been shown receiving the flow of Ganges in his hair.
  • To the right of the cleft a four-armed figure larger than all the rest can be identified as Shiva by the trident over his shoulders and his group of followers.
  • Others think that it should be known as Arjuna’s Penance, because a male figure which they think is Arjuna has been shown at one end in the posture of meditation.
  • This is a distinctly Pallava Period work.
  • There is enormous speed and monumentality in the sculptures.
  • The animal figures and their characterization show the close observation of the artists.
  • For example, the sleeping baby elephant, the monkey figures, the deer scratching its nose, all show their acute study of the natural world. The figures have softness in the treatment and roundness. This has been regarded for ages as one of the masterpieces of the Indian sculptures from the southern part of the country.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.