Shore Temple

WHATStanding like a magnificent fist of rock-cut elegance overlooking the shore of the Bay of Bengal, the Shore Temple symbolises the heights of Pallava architecture and the maritime ambitions of the Pallava kings. Its small size belies its excellent proportion and the supreme quality of the carvings, many of which have been eroded into vaguely Impressionist embellishments. Originally constructed in the 7th century, it was later rebuilt by Narasimhavarman II and houses two central shrines to Shiva. The layout is meant to resemble the perfect cosmic body, with the head and heart located over the spire that dominates the structure. Facing east and west, the original linga (phallic images of Shiva) captured the sunrise and sunset. The Shore Temple is a five-storeyed structural Hindu temple rather than rock-cut as are the other monuments at the site. It is the earliest important structural temple in Southern India. Its pyramidal structure is 60 ft high and sits on a 50 ft square platform.

The temple is believed to be the last in a series of buildings that extended along a since submerged coastline; this theory gained credence during the 2004 tsunami, when receding waters revealed the outlines of what may have been sister temples. Recent excavations have revealed new structures here under the sand. The building is now protected from further erosion by a huge rock wall, and like many of Mamallapuram’s sights, it’s spectacularly floodlit at night.

The temple is a combination of three shrines. The main shrine is dedicated to Shiva as is the smaller second shrine. A small third shrine, between the two is dedicated to a reclining Vishnu and may have had water channeled into the temple, entering the Vishnu shrine. The two Shiva shrines are orthogonal in configuration. The entrance is through a transverse barrel vault gopuram. The two shikharas have a pyramidal outline, each individual tier is distinct with overhanging eaves that cast dark shadows. The outer wall of the shrine to Vishnu and the inner side of the boundary wall are extensively sculptured and topped by large sculptures of Nandi. The temple's outer walls are divided by plasters into bays, the lower part being carved into a series of rearing lions.


Country : India
State : Tamil Nadu
Location : Mamallapuram or Mahabalipuram, District Kanchipuram


Hours of opening:
0600 hrs. to 1800 hrs. on all days.
Sale of admission tickets will be closed at 1730 hrs.

MahabalipuramMahabalipuram derived from 'Mamallapuram' is pre-eminently testimony to the Pallavas civilization of south-east India.The sanctuary, known especially for its rathas (temples in the form of chariots), mandapas (cave sanctuaries), and giant open-air reliefs, is one of the major centres of the cult of Siva. The influence of the sculptures of Mahabalipuram, characterized by the softness and supple mass of their modelling, spread widely.

Founded in the 7th century by the Pallavas sovereigns south of Madras, the harbour of Mahabalipuram traded with the distant kingdoms of South-East Asia: Kambuja and Shrivijaya and with the empire of Champa. But the fame of its role as a harbour has been transferred to its rock sanctuaries and Brahmin temples which were constructed or decorated at Mahabalipuram between 630 and 728.

Most of the monuments, like the rock-cut rathas, sculptured scenes on open rocks like Arjuna's penance, the caves of Govardhanadhari and Ahishasuramardini, and the Jala-Sayana Perumal temple (the sleeping Mahavishnu or Chakrin at the rear part of the Shore temple complex) are attributed to the period of Narasimhavarman I Mamalla.


The monuments may be subdivided into five categories:

ratha temples in the form of processional chariots, monolithic constructions cut into the residual blocks of diorite which emerge from the sand. The five ratha of the south, which are the most famous, date to the reign of Naharasimhavarman Mamalla (630-68), the great Pallavas king (the Cholas texts, moreover, call the city Mamallapuram).

mandapa, or rock sanctuaries modelled as rooms covered with bas-reliefs (the mandapa of Varaha, representing the acts of this avatar of Vishnu; the mandapa of the Five Pandavas and, especially, the mandapa of Krishna and the mandapa of Mahishasuramardini).

rock reliefs in the open air illustrate a popular episode in the iconography of Siva, that of the Descent of the Ganges. The wise King Baghirata having begged him to do so, Siva ordered the Ganges to descend to Earth and to nourish the world. The sculptors used the natural fissure dividing the cliff to suggest this cosmic event to which a swarming crowd of gods, goddesses, mythical beings (Kinnara, Gandherya, Apsara, Gana, Naga and Nagini), wild and domestic animals bear witness.

temples built from cut stone, like the Temple of Rivage, which was constructed under King Rajasimha Narasimavarmn II (695-722), with its high-stepped pyramidal tower and thousands of sculptures dedicated to the glory of Siva.

monolithic rathas, from single- to triple-storeyed, display a variety of architectural forms, while the Dharmaraja, Arjuna and Draupadi rathas are square in plan, the Bhima and Ganesa rathas rectangular, and the Sahadeva ratha apsidal. Structural architecture was introduced on a grand scale by Pallava Rajasimha (700-28), culminating in the erection of the Shore Temple.

ratha temple
ratha temple
Krishna's Butterball
Krishna's Butterball is a giant natural rock perched on a hillside seemingly in defiance of all laws of physics - it's a common sight to see visitors placing hands under the stone posing for pics, which looks as though they are holding it!
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Shore Temple