Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu, India   (info)

The religious centre of Mamallapuram (formerly, Mahabalipuram) was founded by a 7th-century CE Pallava king, Narasimhavarman, also called Mamalla ("great wrestler"), for whom the town was named. The Pallavas, a 4th-9th-century dynasty, began as indigenous subordinates of the Satavahanas in the Deccan, moved into Andhra, and then to Kanchi (Kanchipuram today), where they rapidly adopted Tamil ways. Their genealogy and chronology, however, are highly disputed. Their rule was marked by commercial enterprise and a limited amount of colonization in Southeast Asia. Ancient Chinese, Persian, and Roman coins found at Mamallapuram attest to a flourishing seaport.

The Pallavas supported Buddhism, Jainism, and Brahminism, and were patrons of music, painting, and literature. But they were, in the end, ineffective in withstanding military pressure from the Western Chalukya dynasty, and their feudatories, the Cholas, gradually ousted them from power. About 880 CE, the Pallava dominions passed to the Chola kings. The best surviving Pallava monuments in Mamallapuram are the Shore temple, the sculptured rock relief known as Arjuna's Penance, temples carved from granite monoliths (Five Rathas), and numerous cave temples. Today the town is a resort and tourist centre, with a college offering instruction in architecture and temple sculpture. [Adapted from Encyclopedia Britannica]

Coromandel coast



Morning on the beach

Shore temple

Weathered by wind and sea

Pallava art, 6th century CE

Inner sanctum (1, 2, 3)

A complex of three temples

One large, two small temples

One Vishnu, two Shiva temples

Built of granite (more)

Arjuna's Penance (more)

Monolithic carvings (more)

Rock-cut elephant

Trimurti cave temple (1, 2, 3)

Varaha cave temple

Varaha lifting Bhu Devi, or
mother earth (more)

Shiva as Gangadhara, standing
in tribhanga pose (more)

Ganesh Ratha (more)

Sisyphean labor? (more)

Rayar gopuram

More ruins on the hill

Cave temples (more)

Morning on the beach

Cave shrine on the beach

Fishing boats and nets

Seafood restaurants

Mahabalipuram beach (more)

Tsunami memorial

Girl selling trinkets

Lunch in town

Tourist hordes

Fresh shrimp

Coral fragment

Night on the beach

Krishna mandapam (1, 2, 3)

Left panel

Middle panel

Right panel

A tsunami memorial

Higher secondary school

Landscape (more)

Writing on the wall

Mahishamardini mandapam

Cave wall detail (more)

Olakkanneshvara Temple

Bharatanatyam dance

During the annual Mamallapuram dance festival

Mamallapuram lighthouse



Mahabalipuram girl

Beach in Mahabalipuram (1, 2)

Fishermen (1, 2)

Visitor (more)

Dead Eel

Five Rathas

Temples are named after the
five Pandavas and Draupadi

Chariot-like temples

Hewn in situ from a rock cliff

Pallava art and architecture

Elephant sculpture

Temple wall detail

Inner sanctum

Goddess of nothing

The sculptors of Mamallapuram

Dead Turtles on the Beach

On the Coromandel Coast just north of Mahabalipuram, we found a sad spectacle in early January 2015. Dozens of Olive Ridley Turtles had washed up dead on a desolate, beautiful stretch of beach; more came in the days ahead. The most recent corpses seemed bloated and were oozing blood from various parts. Further investigation revealed that this was collateral damage from fishing trawlers. Read more about it here.


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