The Shore Temple, located at Mamallapuram, was erected during the reign of Rajasimha in the 7th century AD. The temple rests on a rocky outcrop, presiding over the shoreline. The temple was designed with a view to catching the first rays of the rising sun and illuminating the waters after dark. For this reason, the temple has an unusual layout. It was the first Pallava structure to be built in stone. The older temples, however, were hewn out of stone. The Shikhara or the spire of the temple has been prominently designed. The spire has a soaring and tiered style rather than being like a rounded Vihara.
The Temple Architecture
The Shore Temple is a brilliant example of the Pallava art and architecture. What is to be noted is the design of the Shikhara or the spire. The design has altered from the rounded Vihara to the soaring tiered style. Erected to catch the first rays of the rising sun, the temple has an unusual design. The main shrine of the temple faces the east while the gateway, the forecourt and the assembly hall are located behind the sanctum.
The temple stands in dedication to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. A chain of Nandi Bulls can be observed along the enclosing wall of the temple. A huge stone wall was built to protect the temple against the rising waves of the sea. The wall also helped to save against further erosion. Facing the east and the west are two shrines to honour Lord Shiva. Acquiring a position between these two shrines is a shrine dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu can be seen resting on the serpent Sesha which symbolises consciousness. The sculpted panels of the temple represent the mastery of the erstwhile artisans of the Pallava era.
Apart from being known for its sculptural treasures, the city of Mahabalipuram is also popular for the festival of Pongal. The festival is celebrated in mid-January every year. Yet another popular fsetival that is organised around the same time is the Dance Festival. Far-famed artists put up fabulous performances of Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathakali and Odissi dance forms. With the beautiful backdrop of the Shore Temple, the celebrations fill every heart with intense delight.
How to Reach
» By Air :Chennai (76 km) is the closest airport from Mammallapuram. .
» By Rail : Chengalpattu, 29 km from Mahabalipuram, is the nearest railway station from here. There are regular trains from here connecting to Chennai and other places of the country.
» By Road :Mahabalipuram or Mammallapuram has a fabulous road-network, connecting to places like Chennai, Tirukkalikundram or Pakshithirtham, Kanchipuram and Pondicherry.