Shore Temple

Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram)

Standing like a magnificent fist of rock-cut elegance overlooking the sea, surrounded by gardens and ruined courts, the two-towered Shore Temple symbolises the heights of Pallava architecture and the maritime ambitions of the Pallava kings. Its small size belies its excellent proportion and the supreme quality of the carvings, many now eroded into vaguely Impressionist embellishments. Built under Narasimhavarman II in the 8th century, it's the earliest significant free-standing stone temple in Tamil Nadu.

The two towers rise above shrines to Shiva, and their original linga captured the sunrise and sunset. Between the Shiva shrines is one to Vishnu, shown sleeping. Rows of Nandi (Shiva's vehicle) statues frame the temple courtyard. A boulder-carved Durga sits on her lion-vehicle's knee on the temple's south side.

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2. Arjuna’s Penance

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The crowning masterpiece of Mamallapuram’s stonework, this giant relief carving is one of India's greatest ancient artworks. Inscribed on two huge,…

3. Krishna Mandapa

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Just south of the Arjuna's Penance relief carving, the Krisha Mandapa has a fine 16th-century colonnade and contains a famous carving of Krishna…

5. Ganesh Ratha

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Decorated with lion-shaped pillar bases, the Ganesh Ratha is carved from a single rock and was originally a Shiva shrine.

6. Raya Gopura

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Generally thought to be an unfinished gopuram dating from the 16th century.

7. Varaha Mandapa

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Home to some of Mamallapuram's most brilliant carvings, the Varaha Mandapa depicts Vishnu's boar avatar, Varaha, lifting the earth out of the oceans (left…

8. Unfinished Relief Carving

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Similarly sized to Mamallapuram's famous Arjuna's Penance, this unfinished relief carving is just south along West Raja St.