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Shore Temple

The Shore Temple gets its name from its location on the Coromandel Coast facing the Bay of Bengal. It is located in Mahabalipuram near Chennai, Tamilnadu. Being the oldest structural, Dravidian architectural temple in the South India, the Shore Temple is built from granite, dating from the 8th century AD.  Initially known as the Seven Pagodas, it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984.

    King Narasimha Varma I, also known as Mammalla, giving Mahabalipuram its other name Mamallapuram, initiated the building of the architecturally complex temple in mid-7th century along with the Cave temples and the monolithic Rathas. The building of this beautiful temple continued over a period but the credit for design elegance to be categorised as a structural temple goes to King Rajasimha (700–28 AD), also known as Narasimhavarman II, of the Pallava Dynasty. The architecture of the Shore Temple can also be noticed in temples built by Cholas who ruled Tamil Nadu after defeating the Pallavas.

    The Tsunami of December 2004, exposed the old temples, sculptures of lions, elephants and peacocks giving worth to the speculation that the Shore Temple Mahabalipuram is part of the Seven Pagodas described by Europeans, of which six temples remain submerged in the sea. Though the Tsunami did not damage the temple much, restoration work is going on for the damaged foundation – bali peetam (sacrificial altar), steps to boat jetty and the Varaha (Boar) sculpture.

    Inscriptions found in the slab of the smaller Shiva temple, mentions the names of the three temples as –  Kshatriyasimha Pallaveshvara-griham, Rajasimha Pallaveshvara-griham and Pllikondaruliya-devar. The entire temple complex is called as Jalashayana (lying in water). This confirms that the Vishnu shrine was the first shrine to be excavated here as its inscription on the shrine also mentions this as Narapatisimha Pallava Vishnu Griha where Narapatisimha is a title of Rajasimha.

    The 1400 year old Shore Temple has withstood the ravages of time and is the only one still surviving from what is believed to be a cluster of temples. Much of the carvings have been eroded by the elements of nature but it only ends up adding a mystic charm to the monument. The sea is right there in the back of it and from there, one can get a panoramic view of the Mahabalipuram sea beach. There is a beautiful landscaped garden in the grounds surrounding the temple and the area has been fenced to keep away hawkers and stray animals.

    Just outside the temple is  a car park and on its right goes a path towards the beach, lined with shops selling souvenirs and sea food. The other places of interest other than the Shore Temple are Arjuna’s Penance, Pancha Rathas (Five Pagodas) and the lighthouse other than the minor monuments.


    One can reach Mahabalipuram from Chennai by bus or taxi. Buses are also available from Kanchipuram and Pondicherry. The nearest Airport is Chennai. The nearest major railway station is Chennai Central.

    Get Around

    Auto Rickshaws are available for going around the place. One can also hire bicycles which are available in the Mahabalipuram on rent. However, if the weather is good and crowds are less, the different monuments of Mahabalipuram are at a walkable distance from each other.

    Days Everyday
    Timing 6:00 AM to 5:30 PM
    Entrance Fee (includes Pancha Rathas)
    Indian Citizens Rs. 10
    Foreign Nationals Rs. 250

    Reference – Wikipedia

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