It was a trek up Gandha Madana hill that led to T.M. Keshava, former Superintending Archaeologist, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), and his team discovering some rare rock sculptures at Hampi.
They found sculptures of Vishnu, in the form of ‘Dhanwantri’, sculpted on the cliff of a gigantic boulder. Adjacent to it was the sculpture of Rama, in a shooting pose, along with Lakshmana, all in royal attire, with Hanuman in the background.
Next to the sculptures was a sheltered rock cave, with a structural entrance bearing a huge multi-hooded snake, with a dagger vertically above the hood and the symbol of the sun and moon on either side.Date back to Vijayanagar period
These sculptures were found buried behind thick vegetation. “The findings might date back to the earlier Vijayanagar period,” says Mr. Keshava, who has done extensive studies on Hampi excavations..
“The face and crown of the Vishnu sculpture looks to be that of the ‘Amruta Kalasa’. The sculpture of Dhanwantri Vishnu, with Sridevi and Bhoodevi on either side, holding ‘Shankha’ and ‘chakra’ in his hands. This is the first time such sculptures have been found,” he says.
If you look south of the cave, you see an east-facing Nandi sculpted on a boulder.
The inner side of the mahamantap is filled with sand and debris, and one has to crawl in to gain access. In front of the rock-cut Shiva temple, is the remains of a ‘Garuda’ pillar. “It appears that the whole composition was an important complex during the Vijayanagar period. Further exploration of the area may unravel unknown stages of the Vijayanagar architectural history,” he says.Conservation
When contacted, N.C. Prakash Nayakanda, Deputy Superintending Archaeologist, ASI Hampi Mini Circle, said: “There are many things that are still unexplored in Hampi. We will visit the spot where the rock sculptures were found, carry out an inspection and take photographs to maintain a record, besides initiating suitable steps for its conservation.”