Monuments of Mahabalipuram

The monuments at Mahabalipuram in Kanchipuram district, Tamil Nadu, date back to the 7th century when it was a thriving port of the Pallava Empire. The Pallavas were powerful rulers of South India, particularly Tamil Nadu. Mahabalipuram was then a thriving sea port and famous for its trade with distant states and civilizations of the world, both by sea and by land. The monolithic monuments of Mahabalipuram are unique and special as they were carved out of rock on the Coromandel Coast, sometime between the 7th and 8th centuries. Monuments of Mahabalipuram are renowned for their temples, cave sanctuaries, stone chariots and giant open air reliefs, depicting the glory of Lord Shiva. However these monuments remain a bit mystery, as no one knows their purpose or why the royal patronage to the place was abruptly withdrawn. Experts say that there were several pagodas or temples on the shores of Mahabalipuram. All but one were destroyed by the horrific sea waves. Most of the temples and rock carvings of Mahabalipuram were built during the reigns of Narsimha Varman-I and Narsimha Varman-II.


Mahabalipuram means the City of Bali. Mahabalipuram is also known as Mamallapuram after Mamalla, who was responsible of creating the earliest monument under the reign of the Pallava king Narsimha Varman-I. This temple town is said to be at least 2000 years old. Mahabalipuram includes eleven excavated temples or 'manadapams', two open air bas reliefs including 'Arjuna's Penance' and one enclosed bas-relief shrine. Beside these, there is a unique monolithic stone chariot called 'ratha' cut out of a rock. There are five more 'rathas' along with three big sculptures of a Nandi, a lion and an elephant. A palace in ruins can also be seen nearby along with a temple. The temple of Sthalashayan Perumal and the Shore Temple are perhaps the best known of all the temples.



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