Arjuna's Penance is the name of a massive open air bas-relief monolith dating from the 7th century CE located in the town of Mahabalipuram in Southern India. Measuring 96 feet long by 43 feet high, the bas-relief is also known as The Descent of Ganga. The bas-relief has two names, because there is not full agreement regarding which stories the mural depicts.
Two Interpretations : one interpretation, a figure in the bas-relief who is standing on one leg is said to be Arjuna performing an austerity Tapas to receive a boon from Shiva as an aid in fighting the Mahabharata war. (The boon which Arjuna is said to have received was called Pasupata, Shiva's most powerful weapon).
The bas relief is situated on a rock with a cleft. Above the cleft was a collecting pool, and at one time, water may have flowed along the cleft. Figures within the cleft are said to represent Ganga or the River Ganges and Shiva. This provides the basis for an alternative interpretation of the mural. Rather than Arjuna, the figure performing austerities is said to be Bhagiratha. Bhagiratha is said to have performed austerities so that Ganga might descend to earth and wash over the ashes of his relatives, releasing them from their sins. To break Ganga's fall from heaven to earth, she falls onto Shiva's hair, and is divided into many streams by his tresses.
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