is a town in Kancheepuram District in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is around 60 km south from the city of Chennai. It is an ancient historic town and was a bustling seaport during the time of Periplus (1st century CE) and Ptolemy (140 CE). Ancient Indian traders who went to countries of South East Asia sailed from the seaport of Mahabalipuram.The virtuous city of Mahabalipuram (also Mamallapuram) is situated just 60 km off Chennai on the Bay of Bengal coast in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The town of temples, sand and sea - Mamallapuram, formerly known as Mahabalipuram is world renowned for its beautiful Shore Temple. It was once the main port and naval base of the great Pallava kingdom and was later made the capital of this Dynasty. Mamall ', meaning the great wrestler was the name given to king Narasimha Varman I. Most of the temples here is dedicated to the Lord Siva and Vishnu, were completed between 630 A.D and 728 A.D during the reign of Narasimha Varman II. Intriguingly enigmatic, the picturesque city of Mahabalipuram is world renowned for its shore temples. The long stretch of unspoiled beaches and rock-cut art of this historic city attracts one and all The journey through the city is no less than a joy ride and is full of spectacular sights.
By the 7th Century it was a Port city of South Indian dynasty of the Pallavas. It has a group of sanctuaries, which was carved out of rock along the Coromandel coast in the 7th and 8th centuries : rathas (temples in the form of chariots), mandapas (cave sanctuaries), giant open-air reliefs such as the famous 'Descent of the Ganges', and the Shore Temple, with thousands of sculptures to the glory of Shiva. All the group has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. "Mamallapuram was developed as flourishing seaport by the great Pallava monarch, Narasimhavaraman I, and has ever since remained important in the history of south India. A naval fleet was despatched from here, by the same king, to Sri Lanka which was conquered and his vassal, Manavarman, installed on the throne. But above all, the grand conception of Rajasimha in cutting huge boulders of granite into exquisitely carved rathas has provided this seaside village with the most attractive and important monuments in India.Mahabalipuram
The free standing monolithic temples called rathas, the lavishly sculptured cave-temples and the huge rock-face portraying the sculptures narrating the story or Arjuna obtaining the pasupata situated almost on the seashore, draw the admiration of the world. The charm of the place is enhanced by a temple with two towers, familiarly known as the Shore Temple.
Set against the background of unfathomable sky and the boundless sea, each merging with the other in a far off horizon, with the melody of the waves gently rolling over the outer walls, with the two towers as if piercing the blue canopy of the sky, with their sharp spires and with the green wood in the front welcoming the visitor with a gentle breeze, the Shore Temple has a splendour unsurpassed in aesthetic appeal. With the rising sun spreading its rays like a golden ball, with white clouds moving across, the towers are most fascinating. The temple, standing as it is on the coast for over a thousand years with most of its sculptures having been eroded, due to saline action but leaving vestiges here and there, mere outlines, shines in its pristine glory.
This temple is the most complex group of all the temples of south India, having two shrines placed one behind the other, one facing east and the other west. These two shrines are separated by a rectangular shrine sandwiched in between and having its entrance from the side. This shrine is dedicated to Vishnu, who is represented as lying on his serpent couch and known as Talasayana Perumal. The other two shrines are dedicated to Siva. There is a large open court at the western end.
A little to the south of the sancta and within the compound is a majestic lion which carries a miniature Mahishasuramardini carved inside a square cavity cut in the neck of the animal. Two attendant deities of the Goddess are shown as mounted on either side of the animal. A little to north of this, in the platform, is an exquisitely carved deer shown with majestic ease. Unfortunately its head is mutilated. In between the deer and the lion could be noticed a dwarf with only the legs preserved.
This temple with triple shrines was built by Narasimhavarman II, familiarly known as Rajasimha. That Rajasimha was a great patron of art, literature and other fine arts is revealed in innumerable titles he assumed for himself like Vinanarada. He was a great devotee of Siva and a prolific temple-builder. Both lithic records and copper plate grants of the Pallavas extol him as one who lavished wealth on temples and scholars.
The fact that different shrines were dedicated to different deities is evidence of an increased sectarianism at the time of their construction. A bas-relief on a sculpted cliff has an image of Shiva and a shrine dedicated to Vishnu, indicating the growing importance of these Sangam Period deities and a weakening of the roles of Vedic gods such as Indra and Soma.