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Impressions of history

IMAGINE MAMALLAPURAM without the rock-cut caves and Rathas! The 7th Century `cradle' of Dravidian architecture has been drawing people from all over the world, be they artists, archaeologists or tourists.

But in recent times, lack of proper maintenance has become a cause for concern. For instance, the area surrounding the Shore Temple, also known as the "Black Pagoda", is in a sad state. These are the type of issues that the Manasthala Foundation raises, even as it presents an exhibition of ink drawings of Mamallapuram by J. Prabhakar.

A self-taught artist, Prabhakar has been visiting many temple towns and putting down his impression in pen and ink. At the exhibition, which is on till March 27, 10 a.m. to 7.30 p.m., Prabhakar has captured some well known structures of Mamallapuram such as the Shore Temple, the five Rathas and Varaha Mandapa. He has also sketched some not-too-often frequented places like the Perumal temple near the bus stand, the Siva temple near the ancient open-air theatre and the Tiger Cave.

Many free standing sculptures like the Nandi, the fallen Kalasam, the elephant, the seated lion and the Yali with a square opening on its face too have been captured in pen and ink. He has tried to look at familiar sights from a different angle. Like in one drawing, he has placed the Five Rathas inside some kind of a bubble.

A lot of care has been taken to incorporate minute details. Fine lines and cross-hatchings offer light and shade, while little squiggles create foliage.

However, there are a couple of things that Prabhakar ought to pay attention to. One is perspective and the other is vertical symmetry; on the point of the transition from the square base of the structure to the tower, the superstructure often tends to lean to one side, or the octagonal cupola of the vimana leans slightly away from the centre.

Small stone replicas of some of the relief sculptures of animals seen on the large panel of `Arjuna's Penance' are some of the other highlights at the exhibition.

LAKSHMI VENKATRAMAN

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