Shore Temple

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Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu, India; 700–28

The old temples of southern India were sculpted in situ from ‘living’ rock such as the walls of a cave or a rocky outcrop. They could be sculpted from a lump of basalt the size of a building that had been left exposed when the softer sandstone around it had been eroded away. It was the same process, on a much smaller scale, as that which left Uluru (pages 12–13) to preside over the Australian outback. But it was evident that these rocks were ‘placed’ as special things, and there was a cultural will to respond to them, or appropriate them, and to sacralize them.

Standing on a headland at Mamallapuram, ...

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