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Krishna Mandapam

Main characteristics

Coordinates: 12.6173 N 80.1926 E
No:46        (list of all attractions)
Categories:Hindu shrines, Rock cut architecture
Values:Art, Architecture, History, Archaeology
Rank:8
Address:Asia, India, Tamil Nadu, south of Chennai, Kanchipuram district, Mahabalipuram town, "hillock" near the centre, south from Arjuna's Penance;
Age:the late 7th century AD
Religion:Hindi
UNESCO World Heritage status:Part of "Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram", 1984, No.249
Krishna Mandapam in Mahabalipuram, relief
Relief at the rear wall of Krishna Mandapam / McKay Savage, / CC BY 2.0

The largest cave-cut Hindu temple in Mahabalipuram is Krishna Mandapam - it is also one of the oldest structures in Mahabalipuram. This structure is cut in diorite, above the temple there are located enormous boulders. Close next to it is located one of the most amazing ancient artworks of world - Arjuna's Penance.

Entrance of the temple has six columns, five columns are adorned with horned lions. Further inside there are more columns.

Temple is closely linked to the local legend about Lord Indra - god of rain and Lord Krishna.

Legend tells that earlier once per year local shepherd community - Gokulas - thanked God Indra for the blessing of rain. Lord Krishna asked people to discontinue this - after all it was the hard work of people themselves bringing them blessing and not Indra. Indra became angry and ordered heavy, constant rain to drown the cattle.

Krishna Mandapam in Mahabalipuram, columns
Columns, Krishna Mandapam / Andy Hay, / CC BY 2.0

Krishna - then a small boy - was asked for help and he saved people and animals - he lifted the mythical Govardhana hill thus providing a shelter. Even more - he did this with his single little finger. Rain continued for several days until Lord Indra felt embarrassed and withdrew the clouds.

This legend is depicted on the rear wall of temple. These well preserved carvings show Krishna holding the Govardhana hill - with village people around him and cattle in the background. Sculptural groups show a shepherd milking a cow which in turn licks her calf, a farmer walking with his child on shoulder, a shepherdess carrying a pot of curd on her head, a young couple and many more scenes. These depictions belong to the highest achievements of realistic art in Southern India.

Left wall of verandah contains sculptures of wild animals - lions, monkeys. On the right, high on the wall is depiction of Nandi.

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