Mahabalipuram is 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
Mahabalipuram is located close to Chennai
(Madras) on the shores of the Bay of Bengal,along the Indian eastern coast.
Known for its rocks carvings and monolithic sculptures it has the famous shore
temple,the only one to have survived the ravages of nature. Also known as the
Seven Pagodas (temples),six now lie submerged in the sea. Mahabalipuram temples
whose architecture was inspired by the Pallava Art were built during the period
830 - 1100 AD.
Mahabalipuram 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,and even
today it attracts devotees and foreigners in large numbers.
There are two low hills in Mahabalipuram,about
400m from the sea whose both sides have 11 excavated temples,called Mandapas.
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 Five Rathas
The five Rathas include The Dharmaraja,The
Bhima,The Arjuna,The Draupadi and The Sahadeva. The Five Rathas,about 200 m
south of the main hill, were fashioned out of a smaller hill sloping down from
the south. From the largest part was made the biggest of the five rathas,the
Dharmaraja. Then followed onwards north,in the descending order of height,the
Bhima,the Arjuna and the Draupadi.
A little to the west of Draupadi there was a
comparatively large rock and out of it the Sahadeva Ratha was made. Immediately
in front of the Draupadi again two smaller rocks were sculptured into an
elephant and a lion. Behind the Draupadi and the Arjuna,which stand on a common
base,there is a Nandi.
The Shore Temple
The Shore Temple occupies a most extraordinary
site at the very margin of the Bay of Bengal so that at high tide the waves
sweep into it and the walls. For this reason their sculptures,have been eroded
by the winds and waves of thirteen centuries.
The Shrines In The Shore
There are 3 shrines in the Shore Temple. Two of
them are of Saiva and the third is of 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.
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
Temple Of Sthalasayana
To the north of the bigger hill there is the
temple of Sthalasayana Perumal. 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