Arjuna's Penance

The 7th-century Pallavan kingdom is perhaps best remembered today for its mastery of stone carving. In the beachside city of Mahabalapuram, the Pallavans would sculpt temples and shrines out of the living rock. Their most famous work is Arjuna's Penance, which at approximately 30 by 100 feet is the largest bas relief in the ancient world. Above you can see the righthand side of the granite panel. To put this into perspective, the elephants in the relief are about the size of living adult elephants. You can also see several monkeys frolicking just below the tusks of the largest elephant. There are also many images of people, from great epic heros like Arjuna, to lowly sadhus making offerings to the gods. And if you look to the far left of the picture, just at the top of the panel, you can just make out an emaciated sadhu, ribcage showing, reaching up to the sky.

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