View of the Virupāxa Shiva Temple in Purudkul (Pattadakal)

View of the Virupāxa Shiva Temple in Purudkul (Pattadakal).

Karnataka, India

TA2023HR, 27 x 20 inch
Photographer: Colonel Thomas Biggs, Circa 1855

Pattadakal is believed to be the site for the coronation of the early Chalukya kings between the sixth and eighth centuries. There are a total of nine temples on the site and all are dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temples with their diverse styles represent fine examples of early Chalukyan architecture. The Virupāxa Temple (shown here) and the adjacent Mallikārjuna Temple are two of the most impressive temples on the site. They are thought to have been the inspiration for the outstanding Kailasa-natha rock temple built at Ellora, Maharashtra.

About the photographer: The son of a minister, Biggs was educated in classics and mathematics. In 1840, just at the dawn of photography, he entered Addiscombe Military Seminary, the training establishment of the East India Company. Two years later he was in the Bombay Artillery, but the following year he proved proficient in Hindustani and was made an interpreter. He passed his examination on the Canarese language of South India “in a very credible manner” in 1845. Like many military men in India, Biggs became fascinated with archaeology. As he recalled in the British Journal of Photography more than three decades later, he watched his brothers practicing photography and it struck him “that it would be a perfect method of copying the sculptures and inscriptions.” Biggs took lessons from Samuel Buckle and then presented his plan to the directors of the East India Company, who were so impressed that they traded him a complete new photographic outfit in exchange for his first album. He was appointed “Government Photographer, Bombay,” and was the first person to officially assume that position. But the outbreak of the Persian War forced his return to the Bombay Artillery, and in 1855 Biggs was replaced by another calotypist, William Harry Pigou. Biggs remained loyal to the original calotype process, observing that he had never achieved a good negative by the waxed-paper process, and, as far as he had seen, neither had anyone else. In 1866 Biggs was a major contributor to the exhibition of the Amateur Photographic Association in England. In 1866 he supervised the publication in England of three volumes of photographs of Ahmedabad, of which only forty copies were issued. 

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