Pandya rulers ruled further south in the vicinity of Madurai. The Pandayas also used the rock-cut medium in addition to building brick and wooden temples. These temples had several stone sculptures embellished in both the interiors and the exteriors of them. Later, these temples were completely covered with various stone sculptures. All these stone sculptures found in these temples had a specific iconographic meaning. These have an important role in identifying and celebrating the principal deity of the temple as well as, in signifying the Hindu cosmos.
In the medieval South India, the 7th century sculptures of Mahabalipuram were discovered. The tall, slender figures, with agile tubular limbs, remotely bring into mind the proportions of Amaravati, which are now changed. Again the various animals, including the elephant herd with its young represent the same intimate feeling for animal life that distinguishes all South Indian sculpture. But these were shown in a manner that has rarely been surpassed.
In the later centuries, the light, aerial forms gained stability and strength. During the late 9th century when the Chola dynasty was uniting its power, the wonderful sculptures adorned with small and elegant shrines were built. The temples at Tiruvalisvaram, Kodumbalur, Kilaiyur, Srinivasanallur, Kumbakonam, and lots of other places of this period had very few stone sculptures.
The South Indian stone sculptures of the 10th and 11th centuries were more indigenous in look and represented the fresh and blooming life. The example of this can be seen in the stone sculptures of the Chola dynasty depicting numerous temples of Tanjavur and Gangaikondacholapuram.
The 13th century South Indian stone sculptures represented mainly the works of Darasuram and Tribhuvanam. These stone sculptures became increasingly firm and often captured the outer movement with great skill. The creation of the stone sculptures continued in southern India even when artistic activity was disrupted in the north by the Islamic invasions. These stone sculptures of South India gradually became lifeless.
The artistic activity in the form of stone sculptures of South India continued into the 17th century. There are several elaborately sculptured halls at Madurai. These contained the collections of stucco sculptures embellished with the huge entrances or gopurams. These are the evidences of the extraordinary and the undistinguished quality of the stone sculptures of that period.
In the 7th and the 8th century, Karnataka had a flourishing school of sculpture as seen in the examples from Aihole, Pattadakal, and Alampur. These stone sculptures emphasised on harsh strength and power. This phase of sculptures can be seen in the cave temples at Ellora in Maharashtra. The tradition of carving big size sculptures and images continued here also with their primitive strength, which was contributed by the nature of the rock out of which they were carved. In the Ramesvara cave, a series of large, splendid panels of 6th century AD can be found which depicts incidents from Hindu mythology. One of them represents an awesome dancing form of Kali, the goddess of death. The Kailasa temple at Ellora shows a remarkable group of elephants struggling with lions all around the pedestal.
During the 13th and 14th centuries, the Hoysala dynasty was ruling in Karnataka. They developed a distinctive style of stone sculptures there, which became very popular then. At that time, they used varieties of stone that were soft when excavated but harden on exposure. These represent the extreme richness of the work. These stone sculptures were often undercut and literally covered with the most elaborate ornaments and jewellery from top to bottom.
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