Mahabalipuram or Mamallapuram, the city of Mamalla, is after the title of great Pallava ruler Narasimhavarman-I (AD 630-68).temple in mahabalipuram, mahabalipuram temple tour, tamil nadu temples, tamilnadu temple, tamilnadu temple tour, temples in tamilnadu It was a seaport during the time of Ist century AD and AD 140, many Indian colonists sailed to South-East Asia through this port town.
While there is some evidence of architectural activity going back to the period of Mahendravarman-I (AD 600-30), the father of Mamalla, most of the monuments like rock-cut Rathas, sculptured scenes on open rocks like Arjuna's penance, the caves of Govardhanadhari and Ahishasuramardini, the Jala-Sayana Perumal temple are attributed to the period of Narasimhavarman-I Mamalla.
The monolithic Rathas, from single to triple-storeyed, display a variety of architectural forms, While the Dharmaraja, Arjuna and Draupadi Rathas are square on plan, the Bhima and Ganesha Rathas are rectangular Sahadeva Ratha apsidal. temple in mahabalipuram, mahabalipuram temple tour, tamil nadu temples, tamilnadu temple, tamilnadu temple tour, temples in tamilnadu Though monolithic sculpturing, both cut-in and cutout, continued even during later periods, the structural architecture was introduced on a grand scale by Pallava Rajasimha (AD 700-28), culminating in erection of the world famous Shore temple in Mahabalipuram.
After Rajasimha there is a lull in the architectural activity of the place, save a few additions during late-Pallava and Chola times. The grandiose Vijayanagara phase here is represented by the Raja Gopurams and the Sthala-Sayana temple, juxtaposed to the carved boulder of Arjuna's penance.
The history of Mahabalipuram dates back to two thousand years, it contains nearly forty monuments of different types including an "open air bas relief" which is the largest in the world, for centuries it has been a centre of pilgrimage, it figures in the early annals of the British search for the picturesque in India in the 18th century, today it attracts shoals of foreigners in search of relaxation and sea bathing, and most strange of all, it has an atomic power plant for neighbour.temple in mahabalipuram, mahabalipuram temple tour, tamil nadu temples, tamilnadu temple, tamilnadu temple tour, temples in tamilnadu A small library has been written on it. Over its history and that of its monuments a number of scholarly controversies rage.
Mahabalipuram was already a centre of pilgrimage when, in the 7th century Mamalla made it a seaport and began to make temples fashioned of rock. It was through Mahabalipuram that many Indian colonists, who included sages and artists, migrated to Southeast Asia. Sri Lanka's national chronicle, the "Mahavamsa" testifies to this fact.
Temple Town Of Tamil Nadu
Located at a distance of 58-km from Chennai, Mahabalipuram has everything that makes a site memorable; tradition, history, piety, western annals, and current importance as a centre of tourism.
The proper name of the site is "Mamallapuram", after Mamalla, an honorific of the Pallava king, Narasimha Varman I (630-668), who created the earliest of its monuments. But it is popularly called "Mahabalipuram", or "The city of Bali", whom Lord Vishnu chastised for his pride and of whom there is a relief in one of the excavated temples here.
Temples In Mahabalipuram
There are, or rather were, two low hills in Mahabalipuram, about 400m from the sea. In the larger one, on both sides, there are eleven excavated temples, called Mandapas, two "open air bas reliefs", one of which is unfinished, and a third enclosed one. Out of a big rock standing free nearby there is a "cut out" temple, called a "Ratha". This type is unique to Mahabalipuram.
Out of the other hill, much smaller and standing about 200m to the south, are fashioned five more rathas, and three big sculptures of a Nandi, a Loin and an Elephant. On the top of the bigger hill there is a structural temple, and a little distance the magnificent beginnings of a Vijayanagar Gopura and also survivals of what is believed to be a palace.
The Shore Temple
The Shore Temple occupies a most extraordinary site, by the very margin of the Bay of Bengal so that at high tide the waves sweep into it and the walls, with their sculptures, have been eroded by the winds and waves of thirteen centuries. The European name for Mahabalipuram, since the first western visitor wrote of it in the 16th century, is the "Seven Pagodas".
There are not seven temples here. The number has been made up fancifully and even whimsically. Some of the Europeans believed that the sea has overwhelmed a part of the town containing some temples. But, there is no sunken city in the waves off Mahabalipuram. The European name, "Seven Pagodas", is irrational and cannot be accounted for.
The Shrines In The Shore Temple
Shore TempleThere are three shrines in the Shore Temple. That facing the sea and another facing west into the township are Saiva. The one between is Vaishnava, with an image of Lord Anantasayi made of live rock. There are Vimanas over the Saiva (also spelt as Shaiv or Shaiva) shrines, but none over the third; it seems to have disappeared with time. There are Somaskanda reliefs on the walls of the Saiva shrine. In front of the eastern shrine there is a stone dhvajastambha, frequently under the waves. The light that shone on it at night must have been the last sight of home for thousands of Pallava citizens immigrating to South East Asia.
The Dhvajastambha and the Balipitha, which normally stand in front of the main shrine, are here located to the west of the shrine. There was a Prakara here, with small Nandis on its walls. Some of the Nandis still stand on the survivals of the walls.
Till some decades ago parts of the temple were under sand. The sea is an ever-present danger. A semi-circular groyne wall has been built to the east. But what is notable is the fact that the temple has survived all these centuries. Built by Narasimha Varman II Rajasimha, the maker of the Kailasanatha temple in Kanchipuram in the 8th century, this is one of the earliest structural temples in Tamil Nadu.
Temple Of Sthalasayana Perumal
Immediately to the north of the bigger hill there is the temple of Sthalasayana Perumal, much enlarged in Vijayanagar times. By the very margin of the sea, with the waves often flowing at its foot, there is a magnificent fane with three shrines in an axial line, called the "Shore Temple".
To the west of the five Rathas there are three more rathas, two side by side. About 600 m north of Mahabalipuram, along the coast, is Saluvankuppam, where there are magnificent excavated temples and, near it, a rock Mandapa with tiger heads along its periphery, called the "Tigers Cave". Between Saluvankuppam and Mahabalipuram, less than 200m from the sea, stands another structural temple, the Mukunda Nayanar.
Each and every one of these monuments of different types, structural temple, excavated temple "cut out" temple, "open air bas relief", not to mention sculptures and Mandapas to be found here and there, is important and interesting. The Shore temple, the celebrated "open air bas relief" called "Arjuna's Penance", the Mahishamardhani and the Adivaraha "Cave" temples and the Five Rathas are the especial rewards of the visitor. All the monuments are Pallava except that the original Sthalasayana Perumal temple was expanded in Vijayanagar times. To the Chola days belongs a Mandapa at the entrance to the township.
The Depictions Of Arjuna's Penance
There have been strong differences of opinion among eminent scholars on what this scene depicts. An old view was that it represents Bhagiratha's penance. But the opinion that currently holds the field is that it depicts Arjuna's Penance. This "Mahabharatha" incident, also represented in both mural and relief in Lepakshi and a number of other sites, relates to Arjuna's obtaining a weapon to use in the impending war against the Kauravas.
Bharavi, the Sanskrit dramatist, who, it is believed, was living in Kanchipuram in the seventh century, when this masterpiece was made, has made it his theme in his "Kiratarjuniyam". The Pallava court in that century was a nest of singing birds. It is highly probable that it is this scene, which is depicted here. The main scene of action is on the southern face. Here an ascetic is performing severe penance, standing on one leg. Near him is Lord Shiva, with His attendants. Immediately below them there is a small shrine with a relief of Lord Vishnu inside. By its side are many seated sages in meditation.
The fissure indicates a river. This is clear from a fact and a suggestion. The fact, also strengthened by the presence of water serpents, is the depiction at the edge of the southern surface of some persons performing the rite of "Sandhya vandhana" by the river. The suggestion is that, in Pallava days, actual water flowed down the cleavage from the hill behind, where there are survivals of what would be called a water tank. The notion is similar to what is found in the Isurumuniya in Anuradhapura, the ancient capital of Sri Lanka.
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