Pillared Temple Hall
Artist/maker unknown, Indian
The granite pillars, brackets, and slabs that form this temple hall (mandapa) come from the Madanagopalaswamy Temple, a sixteenth-century building complex in the south Indian city of Madurai. (The complex is dedicated to Krishna, an avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu, and is still used for worship today.) The architectural elements installed here were purchased in 1912 by Adeline Pepper Gibson of Philadelphia while on a visit to Madurai. They are believed to have come primarily from a freestanding hall that once stood in front of the main shrine and was probably dismantled in the mid-nineteenth century.
The eight stone slabs between the pillars' lion brackets depict scenes from the Ramayana, the epic tale of the hero Rama, another avatar of Vishnu. The slabs were originally part of a larger relief series that ran around the inside of the hall and narrated the entire Ramayana. The life-sized figures projecting from the central-aisle pillars are deities and characters from both the Ramayana and another major Hindu text, the Mahabharata. These include Garuda (the bird-man vehicle of Vishnu) and Hanuman (the monkey-general of the Ramayana). A variety of small relief images of divine and human figures also ornament the pillars, including Krishna as a baby, a couple making love, royal donors, and even the temple architect with his measuring stick.