Arjuna's Penance is a magnificent open air bas-relief statue attracting tourists from far and wide. Bas- Relief is a kind of carving or sculpture in which the figures are raised a few inches from a flat background to give a three-dimensional effect. Erected in the town of Mahabalipuram which is known for its ancient architecture, it was built in the 7th century. Towering to the height of 43 feet, the bas-relief is popularly known as 'The Descent of Ganga'. The bas-relief is perched on a rock with a cleft. Two beliefs surround the Arjuna's Penance. According to one belief , the statue shows him doing Tapas (austerity) to obtain a weapon from Lord Shiva to fight against his foes in the war of Mahabharata. ?Pasupata was the weapon which he received from Shiva and is considered to be the most powerful weapon of the Lord. Whereas the other belief is that the statue depicts the King Bhagiratha performing Tapas to bring the River Ganga down to the earth so that it can wash away all the sins of his relatives.
The statue derived its name from Arjun, the Mahabharata hero. This meticulously carved statue clearly shows the craftsmanship of the Indian sculptors. The? Arjuna's Penance is a home to around hundred figures of Hindu deities, birds, beasts, saints and man.