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Pillared Temple Hall

c. 1560
Artist/maker unknown, Indian

Fifty-eight sixteenth-century granite architectural elements are presented within the museum gallery in an arrangement designed to resemble a South Indian temple hall (mandapam). In 1913 these pieces lay discarded at the small Madanagopalaswamy Temple in Madurai, where a Philadelphia couple purchased them while on their two-year-long honeymoon. But recent research supports that the majority were created for the large Kudal Alagar Temple nearby. There they had been part of a shrine to the goddess Lakshmi, wife of the Hindu deity Vishnu. This shrine had become dilapidated, and the temple authorities dismantled it by 1907, completing its replacement by 1923.

Stone slabs between the lion brackets depict several scenes from the Ramayana, the epic tale of one of Vishnu's earthly incarnations. They once formed parts of a carved frieze showing the entire story. The life-size figures projecting from pillars are deities and mythological characters, including from the Ramayana. The many small images on the pillars include gods and heroes as well as humans (like an architect with his measuring stick).

Object Details

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