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
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]
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.