1400-yr Grandeur Through His Lens

Chandini U

CHENNAI: Apart from the rushed darshans, do you take the time to observe the architecture and intricate details on sculptures that adorn our temples? This exhibition ‘Stones and Stories’ might persuade you to do it. Documented by photographer Amar Ramesh, the 1,400-year-old Kailasanathar Temple in Kancheepuram is grandeur frozen in time.

The towering vimanams, the prancing lions everywhere in the carvings, the inner entrance from where you need to crawl your way out, the stories behind each of the carvings, the dancing shivaganas at the pedestal of each sculpture, the slightly-tarnished vegetable dyed paintings, the nandi mandapa  with its four pillars…these are all architectural splendour that words cannot measure. “Anyone with a good camera and an eye for details can create awe-inspiring photos,” says historian Chitra Madhavan as she walks the audience through a presentation of Amar’s pictures, each of which had a story to tell. “This is one temple with very slight additions after its period. The Kailasanathar Temple is just as the Pallavas left it for us,” points out Chitra.

For photographer Amar, it was a different experience to capture a standing legacy. “A year ago, we did a team outing and the place we visited was the Kailasanathar temple, after a friend told me about it’s significance. Little did I know that I would end up being so obsessed with! Such grandeur and workmanship that stood for centuries simply stunned me,” he gushes.

The photographs did not fail to capture the little details that pilgrims would miss. Showing us a photograph of a carving of the multi-armed Goddess Durga who stood with her hips swayed, Chitra says, “Have you ever seen Durga like this? Pallavas were known to encourage the freedom of expression. From the dawn of the Chola period, you won’t find any Durga with a stance as this. The bow emerging from her hand, her fingers not clutching but resting on it, her hand on her thigh... this is one of the most amazing sculptures ever!” Amar has big plans. “I am going to document one temple every year and unveil an exhibition with stories of it. Kailasanathar temple is the beginning and there is a lot more to come certainly.”

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