Home > FAM Trip, General, Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu, Tamil Nadu FAM, Tamil Nadu Heritage > Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram)

Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram)

Shore Temple

Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram)

Also see: FAM Trip of Tamil Nadu

55 km south of Chennai lies the ancient port town of Mahabalipuram (now Mamallapuram) known for its towering pagodas, gigantic rock cut caves, massive monolithic structures and intricate bass relief panels.

Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram), view from west side

Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram), view from west side

The structures date back to the 600 – 700 CE and were constructed by the Pallava dynasty. Mahabalipuram offers a interesting mix of history along with golden sand beaches washed by the thundering waves of the Bay of Bengal.

Panoramic view if Shore Temple complex, Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram)

Panoramic view if Shore Temple complex, Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram)

Today an UNESCO Heritage Site it attracts tourist from far and wide. The shore temple located right on the golden sea beach with waves of Bay of Bengal crushing on its protective barrier happens to be one of the prime attractions of Mahabalipuram.

Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram), view from west side

Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram), view from west side

Old maps of the region mentions the Shore Temple as Seven pagodas, it is quiet likely the remaining six has been washed away by the sea. Noted Dutch anthropologist Bauke van der Pol says:

Dutch East India Company in India by Bauke van der Pol
The term seven pagodas has its roots in the legend that here there were once seven pagodas in a row, now vanished under the waves. With once exception: the Shore Temple, dating back to the eighth century

Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram), view from east side

Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram), view from east side

Shore Temple (Google map location) is one of the few structural temples of Mahabalipuram. Most of the other temples are rock cut ie cut out of a rock face or an even an entire rock.

The Pandava Rathas of Mahabalipuram are structures cut out of solid rocks. (a detailed post on Pandava Rathas coming up soon in my blog)

The structural Shore Temple is not cut out of rock but built by placing blocks of rock one above the other, just as we use bricks to construct modern buildings today.

The Shore Temple constructed by Rajashima (Narashima II) (reign 700-728 CE) of Pallava dynasty happens to be the biggest and oldest structural temple of Mahabalipuram.

Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram), view from north side

Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram), view from north side

The temple with twin spire is not only unique in architecture but also unique as it enshrines both Shiva and Bishnu under the same roof, some thing not quiet common in the sub-continent.

Although a single structure the temple houses three shrines, two of which are dedicated to Shiva and the other to Bishnu.

The one on the east (facing the sea) is topped with a higher spire and one the west topper with shorter spire.

Both these shrines are dedicated to Shiva. The small space between the two Shiva shrine is dedicated to Bishnu and enshrines a reclining form of Bishnu.

Panoramic view of Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram) from north side

Panoramic view of Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram) from north side

The east facing shrine is topped with a five storied spire and is known as Kashatriyasimhesvaran, while the west facing one is known as Rajasimhesvaram is topped with a three storied spire.

Nandi Bull, Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram)

Nandi Bull, Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram)

The east facing shrine houses a shiva linga while the smaller shrine facing west houses a Somaskanda Panel with Shiva, Uma and their son Skanda.

Sadly during our visit entry inside the temple was restricted and the linga and the panel remained illusive.

The single structure, housing the three shrines, is enclosed in a lrage compound along with several other scattered structures.

A wall topped with statues of Nandi Bull runs all round the structure. According to local legends there were a total of 101 bulls out of which 80 survives to this day.

Lion Statue, Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram)

Lion Statue, Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram)

The complex also contains a interesting statue of a lion. The temple also has its share of relief work on its outer walls.

Most of the relief are of shallow depth and lack intricacy. Moreover they have been heavily eroded because of the effect of salt water and sea breeze.

Two pedestal like structure stands at the entry gate on the western side. Adjoining to the wall on the northern side is a stone tank. Stone steps lead to the bottom of the tank and the tank houses a Shiva Linga.

The interestingly the entire temples lies below the present ground level. The temple was actually buried by sand, which was removed after several archaeological excavations. The 2004 Tsunami also reveled a few other new structures which have been excavated and restored by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram), view from north side

Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram), view from north side

Today the Shore Temples along with the other monuments of Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram) are protected monuments under ASI and are also designated as UNESCO Heritage Site are attracts tourist from all over the world.

Note:

More on:

  1. October 27, 2021 at 6:11 AM

    Mahabalipuram is a very beautiful destination for its heritage and history. Thank you for such lovely descriptions and photographs.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: