Saturday Jun 22, 2024

Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram) Shore Temple, Chengalpattu

Address

Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram) Shore Temple,

Mahabalipuram,

Chengalpattu District,

Tamil Nadu 603104

Moolavar

Shiva, Vishnu

Introduction

The Shore Temple in Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu, India, is a magnificent structural temple complex dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is renowned for its architectural elegance and is one of the Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram, which has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984.

Location and Historical Significance: The Shore Temple was constructed between 700 and 728 AD during the reign of Narasimhavarman II of the Pallava dynasty. It stands on a promontory overlooking the Bay of Bengal in Mahabalipuram, a village situated south of Chennai in Tamil Nadu. At the time of its construction, Mahabalipuram was a bustling port city.

Puranic Significance: The Shore Temple complex is a combination of three temples: one large and two smaller ones. It is situated right on the shores of the Bay of Bengal in Mahabalipuram, which was earlier known as Mamallapuram. Sailors referred to it as the “Seven Pagodas” when they saw its tall structure on the seashore. This temple complex served as a prominent landmark for navigation, earning its name as the Seven Pagodas. The main credit for the architectural elegance of the Shore Temple complex is attributed to King Rajasimha, also known as Narasimhavarman II, of the Pallava Dynasty.

It is believed that the Shore Temple is part of a series of temples that existed along the submerged coastline, as seen during the Tsunami of 2004 when the outlines of sister temples emerged off the coast. The entire temple complex is referred to as “Jalashayana,” signifying its location in the water.

As for its puranic significance, the temple’s association with the legend of the Seven Pagodas is well-known. According to this myth, Prince Hiranyakasipu, who refused to worship Lord Vishnu, was ultimately defeated by Vishnu, who appeared from a pillar in the form of a man with a lion’s head. Later, the prince’s son, Prahlada, founded Mahabalipuram, and the Shore Temple was constructed there. Myths also claim that the gods were jealous of the architectural beauty of the monuments in Mahabalipuram, leading them to cause floods that submerged most parts of the city, leaving only a few structures intact.

Special Features: The Shore Temple complex comprises three temples: one main temple and two smaller ones. The main temple houses a Shivalinga in the garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum) and features a small mandapa. At the rear are two shrines facing in opposite directions. The inner shrine is dedicated to Ksatriyasimnesvara and is reached through a passage, while the other is dedicated to Vishnu and faces outward. The temple’s architecture showcases several sculptures, including depictions of Shiva, Durga, Brahma, and Vishnu. An interesting feature is the miniature shrine dedicated to Shiva that has a unique circular shikara and is believed to date back to the Pallava era.

The surrounding compound wall features numerous sculptures, including those of Nandi, the mount of Shiva, Yalis, and Varahas (boars). The temple is adorned with kudus and small square shrines that are part of the cornice design. You can also find depictions of Lord Krishna and Vishnu in various forms on the external walls.

The Shore Temple has a rich heritage and continues to be a testament to the artistic and architectural achievements of the Pallava dynasty.

Century/Period

Built in 700–728 AD

Managed By

Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowments Department (HR&CE)

Nearest Bus Station

Mahabalipuram

Nearest Railway Station

Chengalpattu Junction

Nearest Airport

Chennai

Location on Map

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