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Mamallapuram is a wonder show piece of marvel of Pallava art

and architecture.
This seashore village, Mamallapuram derived its name from Mah Mamallapuram meaning the city of the great warrior and MahMallan was a title of the king Narasimhavaraman I in the Pallava
In the early days, this place was also called as Mallai, Mallapuri,
Kadal Mallai and also Seven Pagodas.
Mamallapuram was once a flourishing seaport with a brisk
maintain trade with countries in South-East Asia and the
Mediterranean in the Pallava Dynasty.

Types of Temples
1. Rock-cut shrines In this style, a rock face is
excavated to make place for temple elements like
sanctum, mandapa etc
2. Monolith structures locally called as Rathas,
these are free-standing temples cut out of a solid
3. Bas-relief these kind of reliefs are only found in
Mahabalipuram, where a rock-face is carved
extensively with figures and other plastic art
elements usually depicting some mythological
4. Structural Temples these are built-up masonry

Pallavas were a prominent dynasty that ruledSouth Indiafor
nearly 500 years and have left a permanent mark in the field of
art and architecture.
Earlier it was believed that they were of foreign origin. (Pallava
being derived from the word Parthia or Pehlavi).
They were followers of Vedic religion and later kings were great
conquerors and builders.
The famousshore-templesandrathas(chariots)
ofMahabalipuramare their contribution.
The monuments in the Mamallapuram town were fashioned in the
Pallava dynasty by three different Monarchs viz.,
Mahendravarman I (600-630 AD), Narasimhavarman I
hailed asMamallan (630 to 688 AD) and Narasimhavarman
II called as Rajasimhan (700 to 628 AD).
They trace the Mahendra style, Mamalla style and the Rajasimha
style in these monuments
Simhavishnu (560 580 CE) was a strong ruler who defeated
Cholas, Pandyas and Kalabhras. They were all ancient dynasties

Pallava rule can be categorised as 'Early Pallava Rule' (up to
around AD 550 and the arrival on the scene of Simhavishnu, their
great king), and 'Later Pallava Rule' (from Simhavishnu onwards).
Early Pallavas - AD 3rd Century - c.550
The Pallavas at the zenith of their power ruled present day
Andhra Pradesh, the northern parts of Tamil Nadu, and parts of
southern Karnataka.
Their capital was at Kanchipuram (the region around Kanchi
known as Tondaimandalam).
They gained prominence after the decline of theSatvahanas
Pallavas -as
- 891a foothold in the territories of
former powers.
reigned around AD 550 (a reign of thirty-plus
years), beginning the Pallava revival.
He recreated a strong Pallava kingdom by subduing many kings
in the south (such as the Kalabhras,Pandyas,Cholas,Cheras,
and the king of Ceylon).
His kingdom soon extended beyond Kanchi (as far as the River
Kaveri). Through his naval expeditions he subdued Malaya
(Indo-China) and Ceylon (Sri Lanka).


300-Simhavarman-Father of Sivaskandavarman,Began the kingdom.

0 330-Sivaskandavarman--Son. Issued Prakrit grants.
At this time the Pallava realm includes the Andhra country
in the north and the Bellary district in the north-west.

Skandavarman I
Sivaskandhavarman who ruled in the first part of the
fourth century CE was an independent ruler.
He established his capital atKanchiwhich continued as
Pallava capital for centuries.
He performedAshwamedhasacrifice to establish as
suzerain. More than sixteen kings ruled between 350
575 CE. / Vishnugopa / Virakurcha
30 375 and
- Visnugopa
Vishnugopa comes in conflict with the greatGuptaking,
Samudragupta, and is defeated.
Despite this, it is around this period that the Pallavas
count theWestern Gangasas their vassals.


500 Nandivarman - Ruled from Kanchi. Issued the Udayendiram gra

0 500 - Vishnugopavarman - Joint ruler, but from Palakkada.
c.550 - Simhavarman II - Son.
The son of Simhavarman II is Simhavishnu, and it is he
who leads the revival of Pallava power, beginning what is
subsequently known as theLater Pallavaperiod.

The Kailasnatha temple at Kanchi was perhaps the last



Mahendravaraman I
Narasimhavarman I
Mahendravarman II
Paramesvaravarman I
Narasimhavarman II
Paramesvaravarman II
Nandivarman III

Simhavishnu (560 580 CE)
He was a strong ruler who defeated Cholas, Pandyas and
They were all ancient dynasties ruling the southern region.
Simhavishnu was a devotee ofVishnu.
His and his queen's portrait is seen in stone at the
Adivaraha temple of Mahabalipuram.
Mahendravaraman I(630 668 CE)
Mahendravarman wards off an attack on Kanchipuram by
Chalukyaking Pulakeshi II, though he has to cede areas of
his northern territories to the Chalukyas (Vengi province).

Narsimhavarman I(630 668) CE

Narsimhavarman I defeats theChalukyasunder Pulakeshi II

and wrests back the territories lost by his father.
He also attacks and plunders Vatapi (Badami), the capital of
the Chalukyas, killing Pulakeshi II in the process.
He later subdues theCholasand theCheras, and is said to
help the Ceylonese prince, Manavamma, in gaining his

ahendravarman II(668 670 CE)

During the reign of Mahendravarman II, King Manavarma
of Ceylon is deposed and driven into exile, going to the
Pallava court.
Mahendravarman himself is killed in a collective attack
by theChalukyas, theGangasand thePandyas.
rameshvaravarman / Paramesvaram I(670 695 CE)
As soon as he gains the throne, Parameshvaravarman
continues fighting theChalukyasunder the leadership of
Vikramaditay I.
He captures Kanchi and advances south to the River
Kaveri. In 674 he fights the Battle of Peruvalanallur, near
Trichinopoly, and is victorious despite facing a huge
677 - 680 Parameshvaravarman occupiesChalukyanterritories from
which he withdraws only after the Chalukyan rulers agree
to pay a yearly tribute and accept Pallava overlordship, but
not before the occupation army annihilates several
Chalukyan princes, nobles and citizens.
This victory enables the Pallavas to assert their
hegemony over the subcontinent.

670 - 674


This magnificient carving is unique in the range of indian art.

Two large boulders with a narrow fissure in between have been
chosen to represent a series of rouse of gods and goddesses like
Chandra, surya, pairs of kinnaras and siddhas, ghandharvas,
apsaras etc., rushing towards a central point near the cleft a sage
stands on his left foot deeply engaged in penance involving
physical mortification.
This scene is generally taken to represent a story from the
mahabharatha in which arjuna, the epic hero performed penance
to please siva and thus to obtain the pasu[pata weapon from him.
This story was very popular about the time when this sculpture
was excecuted. Bharavi , a Sanskrit poet of the 6th century,
adapted it for the theme of his kiratarjuniya.

Close by Arjunas penance is a tiny but realistic carving of a
group of monkeys, a family consisting of the father, mother
and child.
One of the parents is removing lice from the head of the
other, while the little one is resting on the lap.
It was found while clearing the sand in front of the panel to
expose it completely.


To the south of Arjunas Penance, is a structural Mandapa (hall) of

recent origin added to a boulder carved with a remarkable scene
from Krishnas life.
Vandalism has not caused much damage to this superb bas- relief
of the Pallava period, except for the later Vaishnavite mark incised
on the forehead of the couchant bull and the erection of a modern
pillared hall, which destroys the view of the original sculptured
Everything realistically depicts the unconcern of the cowherds
towards the fury of Indra, who as the story goes , sent a storm to
chastise the Gopis but could not injure them in anyway, being
protected by the mountain Govardhana held aloft by Krishna.
The mountain itself contains at one end a group of lions, griffins
and sphinxes in their liars and a couchant bull at the other.
This representation of Govardhana scene is probably the best in
India, even the one in Ellora comes nowhere near this.
These griffins and sphinxes remind us of similar earlier
representations at Amaravati and Sanchi show the persistence of
earlier tradition.

Beyond Krishna Mandapa is a large cave temple known as
Panchapandava mandapa of which only six lion pillars and
similar pilasters at either end are finished.
The brackets above the capitals of these pillars are decorated
Even in its
with lions and griffins with human riders.
unfinished stage,
this cave temple is
Its sanctum was
designed to have a
passage all around
the exterior, so that
it would be possible
circumambulation of
the sanctum.
In no other Pallava
cave temple was

A path beyond the monkeygroup leads to the Ganesa-ratha,

one of the finest monolithic
temples at Mahabalipuram.
It is of three-storeyed and of
better workmanship.
The elaborately worked roof has
nine vase-shaped finials and is
the precursor of the later
Gopuram, an essential adjunct
of medieval south Indian temples.
The cell beyond the hall once
contained a Siva-Linga, but it is
now occupied by the figure of
Ganesa installed by villagers four
or five decades ago.
On the wall is an inscription, a
copy of the one found at Dharma
raja- Mandapa ,giving the name
of the temple as Atyantakama
the monolithic temple was


A little beyond the
Ganesa - ratha towards
the north by the
pathway is a small
unfinished carving of a
group of elephants, a
peacock and a monkey.
The elephants show a
family composed of the
parent animals and two
little ones.
The realistically carved
peacock and monkey are
perched a little above.


Further north on the same bouder,is a triple-celled temple for the

three gods Brahma,Vishnu and Siva.
The front of each of these cells is beautifully carved with the usual
decoration of a gopuram,and pilasters support the superstructure.
The entrance of each cell is flanked by dvarapala figures in narrow
Towards one end beyond these is a niche surmounted by a makara
torana for an eight-armed Durga standing on the cut head of the
demon Mahisha.
In the cells are represented Brahma,Siva and Vishnu ,each attended
by figures of kneeling devotees and flying dwarf ganas,one of each
on either side.
Brahmas iconic form unusually has here a single face and wears a
of rudraksha beads.
of Siva
an axe
is a and rosary ,
The figure
of rock-cut
Vishnu carries
cisterna conch and discus.
popularly known as Gopis churn.
On its outer surface is engraved
Sri kadhiti in pallava characters.

A pathway from the above leads to a small primitive rock-cut
cave-temple, devoted to Durga.
The faade shows two massive pillars and pilasters at either end.
Beyond the hall to the front and cut in the centre of the back wall
is a cell guarded by female doorkeepers on either side of the
A pathway from the Ganehsa ratha goes up to the hillock leading
to the following monuments.

Close by to the south west of the Ganesa ratha and behind
Arjunas penance is the cave know as Varaha manadapa.
The hall at the front has two lion pilars and two pilasters , and
beyond this,in the centre is the cell guarded by two dvarapala
There are four panels representing Varaha raising the earth fron
the ocean, wherein she was submerged;Gajalakshmi seated on a
lotus and bathed by elephants ;Durga with four arms;Trivikrama
overcoming the demon king Bali.

Beyond this,at the top of the boulder ,is an unfinished
Gopuram or temple gate tower of the Vijayanagara period
showing the typical decoration on the jambs.
This is the second unfinished Vijayanagara Gopuram at
Mahabalipuram, the other one being opposite the Talasayana


To the north-west of theTHRONE
light house is a plateau where the royal
palace was probably located, now marked by a heap of brick
The only noteworthy objects here are a monolithic lion and a
large rectangular seat with a beautifully carved couchant lion at
one end.
The modelling of the animal closely resembling the vehicle of the
goddess in the Mahishamardini cave , is exceedingly well done.
The lion is significantly portrayed as roaring , proclaiming as it
were , the sovereign power of the Pallavas.
Further there are two rock-cut cisterns in the vicinity.


Further north and facing east is a cave called the ramanuja

It is a triple celled saivite cave completely ruined in later times
by vandals who chiselled and destroyed the carved panels.
The faade of the cave has two pillars and 2 pilasters supported
by squatting lions.


A straight path about 200m from the ground of the five rathas
leads to mahishamardhini cave, a long hall with a triple cell.
The faade of this cave shows four pillars and two pilasters.
The pillars are polygonal with bulbous cushion capital and square
Pillars supported by squatting lions rise from the angles of a
stylobate in the small mandapa projecting from the central cell
which is flanked by dwara palas.

The name of the temple may

probably be olakannisvara
[ flame eye] shiva.
But it is popularly known as
olakanatha temple.
On the summit of the rock
mahishamardhini caveis this
masonry temple of siva which
can be assigned to the time of
superstructure is lost, it must
originally have resembled the
shore temple.