City: Mahabalipuram State: Tamil Nadu Location: South India Year of Construction: 830 - 1100 AD. Constructed By: Pallava Dynasty Type of Construction: Ancient Type of Building: Temple Dedicated To: Lord Shiva Other Deities: Vaishnava Religion: Hinduism Mahabalipuram Temples Tamil Nadu Mahabalipuram is a temple town situated along the shores of the Bay of Bengal in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. The sheer sculptural extravaganza of the rock-cut temples is not only reflective of the artistic tastes of the erstwhile Pallava rulers: the temples are also regarded as the birthplace of an entirely new style of architecture, which came to be known as the South Indian temple architecture. Mahabalipuram art can be divided into four categories : open air bas - relief, structured temples, man-made caves and rathas ('chariots' carved from single boulders, to resemble temples or chariots used in temple processions). The famous Arjuna's Penance and the Krishna Mandapa, adorn massive rocks near the centre of the village. The beautiful Shore Temple towers over the waves, behind a protective breakwater. Sixteen man-made caves in different stages of completion are also seen, scattered through the area. Mahabalipuram is about 60 Kms. south of the city of Madras, in Tamil Nadu. Mahabalipuram, or Mamallapuram, was the chief seaport of the Pallavas who ruled over much of South India from as early as the first century B.C to the eighth century A.D., and it is now recognized as the site of some of the greatest architectural and sculptural achievements in India. Temples of Mahabalipuram Cave Temples were excavated by scooping out the scarp of the hill. The scooping work starts from front to back. The cave temple is usually divided into inner & outer mandapas, distinguished by the difference in levels. The front mandapa will have pillars & plasters numbering 4,6,8,10. The inner mandapa contains single, triple or five cells. The cave temple with little modification is categorized as Mamalla style. The pillars under this style are slender & taller with squatting lion at their base. The pillar is divided into distinct parts known as kalasa, tadi, kumba, padma etc. Monolithic Temples are locally known as Rathas. They were executed by chiseling out the exterior face of the boulder. Work started from top to bottom. The pyramidal vimana with sikhara at the top is an important feature of this style. It can be rightly said that these monolithic temples must have paved the way for the structural temples with elaborate architectural & sculptural details in the subsequent stage. There a total number of 8 monolithic temples found in Mamallapuram. The five rathas in one place, Ganesha Ratha, Valayankuttai Ratha & Pidari Rathas. Five Rathas ? a small hill sloping from south to north has been segmented into five divisions & converted into monolithic temples. The heights of the segments have been cleverly used for temples with single tier to three-tiered vimana. Each monolithic temples shows different kind of sikhara. The five rathas are Dharmaraja Ratha, Bhima Ratha, Arjuna Ratha, Draupadi Ratha and Nakul Sahadev Ratha. Shore Temple The Shore Temple on the Bay of Bengal was constructed in the 7th century during the rule of King Narsimha-Varman II Rajasimha (c. 690-728).The Shore temples is a temple complex consisting of two Siva temples and a carving of Anantasayana Vishnu. The temple facing east is entered by a small gopura. On plan, it consists of a small sanctum & a front mandapa & is a two-tired vimana. The sanctum is housing a linga. The Somaskanda panel consisting of Siva & Parvati with baby Skanda is on the back wall of the sanctum. The dhara linga & Somaskanda panel on the back wall of the sanctum are the features of the Pallava temples only. The temple facing west is also dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple is large in plan comprising sanctum, mahamandapa, front mandapa, balipitha and dvajastamba. The temple?s vimana is four tiered with octagonal sikhara. It is important to note that stupis of both these temples are not covered by kalasa (copper finials). The carving on Lord Vishnu on a boulder in Anantasayana form is lying in between these two temples. It belongs to the period of Narasimhavarman I and thus earlier than the Siva temples.
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