Mamallapuram (Tamil Nadu)

  • Mamallapuram, situated on the shores of the Bay of Bengal, was a thriving ancient port of the Pallavas. This port town had flourishing trade with many distant nations in past. During Pallava regime, this port town emerged to unparalleled glory which is self evident from the many marvellous monuments with sculptural panels, caves, monolithic Rathas and temples. These temples are Mahabalipuram's signature symbol. The name Mamallapuram is derived from the title Mahamalla (meaning a great warrior) Narsimha Varman. The port was constructed by king Mahendra Varman in the 7th century. The glorious zenith of Dravidian art and architecture can be seen in the monuments of Mamallapuram. Though sculpted in stones, the idols seem lively.

  • The richness of monumental splendour and charming beaches make Mamallapuram a distinguished tourist place in India.

    THE SHORE TEMPLE: This is the oldest temple in South India. It belongs to the early part of the 8th century and is a good example of Dravidian art. Originally, there were seven such temples called as PAGODAS and only one has been spared. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva, Goddess Parvati, Lord Ganesha and Lord Karthikeya. Lord Vishnu is seen here reclining on floor and hence called Sthala Shayana Perumal. The pillars of the temple bear "roaring lions'' engraved as an emblem of Pallava rulers.

    ARJUNA'S PENANCE: This monument is the largest bas-relief sculpture in the world which portrays Arjuna, the epic hero of Mahabharata, as a sage doing penance to procure divine weapons from Lord Shiva. All the carvings are made out of a huge single boulder. Various divine figures have been carved on all the sides. There is natural cleft in the centre of the huge rock which conceived as the sacred river Ganga descending onto earth. This piece of work is a masterpiece of creation in expression, particularly the figures relating to the popular Panchatantra stories. This gargantuan rock has more than hundred carved figures.

    KRISHNA TEMPLE: A stunningly beautiful bas-relief showing Krishna lifting the Govardhan mountain in order to protect the cows and the cowherds from the wrath of Lord Indra, the king of gods and god of rains, is the highlight of this cave temple.

    MAHISHASURMARDINI CAVE: This is another beautiful bas-relief depicting Lord Vishnu sleeping on the coils of serpent king Adishesha Nag and Goddess Durga fighting with demon king Mahishasura.

    VARAHA TEMPLE: Lord Vishnu is shown in this cave temple in the incarnations of Varaha (boar) and Vamana (the dwarf). This is an exquisitely carved bas-relief.

    RATHAS: These rock- cut temples, a cluster of six unfinished monolithic structures, named after the five Pandava brothers and Draupadi are the excellent examples of the Pallava art. These Rathas remained uncompleted after the death of Narsimha Varman in 668 CE. All the five monuments are called Rathas as they are full sized models and look like the chariots of the temple. The chariots are in axial alignment. However, they recall the earlier architecture of the Buddhist chapels and monasteries. In addition, the Ganesha Rath in the north side is also a beautiful piece of art. The architecture resembles Dravidian temples with their imposing towers and multi-pillared halls and sculptured walls.

    MANDAPAMS: Shallow halls resembling porticoes in various parts of the area, some of them left in an unfinished condition. These are remarkable for their sculpture combined with simple architectural treatment. There is a cave temple complex Aluvan Kuppam. The Tiger Cave is an excavated cave shrine with aureole of Lion heads. A 7th century shrine dedicated to Goddess Durga, the Tiger Cave is framed within a large boulder. It was an open theatre where cultural programs were held in the past.

    MAHABALIPURAM DANCE FESTIVAL: The temples of south India used to be centre of art, culture and knowledge. The annual dance festival from December25 to January31 is held against the enchanting backdrop of the Mahablipuram monuments. This festival showcases various renowned dance forms like Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathakali, Mohiniattam and various folk dances, performed by famous artistes from all over India.

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