The Shore Temple : A UNESCO World Heritage Site

Mahabalipuram is known as ancient port town situated approximate 60 km from channai, TN. It is mainly famous because of Stone temples and other group of monuments. One of them is the very famous Shore temple. These monuments were built between 7th to 9th centuries in Pallava dynasty. The construction of Shore Temple was started by Pallava ruler Narasimhavarman II. Later, Cholas built the additional parts of the temple after invading the Mamallapuram from the Pallavas.

Because of the unique structure and extraordinary carvings on stones, this group of monuments has been declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site now. Most of these monuments are monolithic, i.e. carved out of one single rock.

  1. The Shore Temple:

Shore Temple is a structural monument on the shores of Bay of Bengal. It is made up of local granite stone. Shore Temple is also acknowledged for being the first stone structure made by Pallavas. Before this, the monuments used to be carved out of the rocks or stones

History of shore temple: It was built in the 7th century, depicts the extraordinary knowledge of art of Pallava dynasty. The Pallavas were known to be the great customers of art and were keen to create their own style of temple architecture.

Shore Temple was named as ‘Seven Pagodas’ due to its pyramidal structure. The name ‘Seven Pagodas’ indicate to the existence of 7 temples in the past. Now only Shore temple remains to tell the tales of the past.

Structure: Shore Temple comprises three shrines, where the prominent ones are dedicated to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. At the rear end, one can find two shrines facing each other. Here, one shrine is dedicated to Ksatriyasimnesvara and other to Lord Vishnu. In the shrine, Lord Vishnu is imaged reclining on the ‘Seshanag’, which is a symbol of consciousness in Hinduism.

The outer wall of the shrine to Lord Vishnu and the internal side of the boundary wall are elaborately carved and sculptured. The images on the sculpted panels depict scenes from everyday life. However, the sculptures are incredibly real and artistic. The exterior walls of the temple are segregated by plasters into bays, where the lower part has been impressed into a series of nurturing lions.

Present Status: Shore Temple is no more a living temple. There is no murti or pooja happens here. In the present day, Shore Temple makes the background of Mahabalipuram Dance Festival that is held in Jan /Feb every year. The festival is organized to promote the traditional dance as well as tourism in Mahabalipuram.

Unique Architecture: Unlike other monuments of the south India, Shore Temple is a five-storied rock-cut structural temple. In southern India, this is amongst the earliest and most important structural temples. The spire is extensively decorated with carvings and sculptures. In the recent years, a stone wall has been constructed to protect the shrine from further sea-erosion.

Scientific significance: Shore Temple generates an exclusive combination of history and natural splendor. The temple was designed to grasp the first rays of the rising sun and to spotlight the waters after sunset. In the words of Percy Brown, Shore Temple served as “a landmark by day and a beacon by night”.

Other Group of monuments in UNESCO Heritage Site includes

2. There are five chariots dedicated to the Pandavas.

3. There are bass reliefs of the Descent of the Ganges that are very famous: structures protruding from the base of the rock and depicts the Mahabharata Yuga.

4. The krishna’s butter ball : Also known as Vaanirai Kal (Stone of the Sky God), as it has been sitting on a 45-degree slope in Mahabalipuram for over 1,300 years.The 20 ft rock appears to defy gravity, looking like it’s going to roll at any moment — and all attempts to move it have been in vain.

(First Image at Five Chariots and second image at Butter Ball)

Based on my personal visit to Mahabalipuram , I have come to know that shore temple is one the best historical places to visit in India. It has stood strong over the years in spite of regular facing winds and salt of the sea. Since it is at the sea , has resulted in considerable erosion of the temple’s superstructure.

You all must plan a visit to the shore temple very soon !!

Data Sources:

  1. My personal Visit to the place
  2. Internet