Shore Temple is a majestic shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva and Vishnu. Carved out of stones, this South Indian temple narrates the history of the medieval period. The elegant structure is also included in the UNESCO group of monuments and is thus regarded as an Indian heritage.
Shore Temple Location:
This magnificent Hindu temple is located in Mahabalipuram of Chengalpattu district, Tamil Nadu, India. It is one of the oldest monuments in South India and is a major tourist attraction for travelers and devotees.
History of Shore Temple:
This rock-carved temple was built during the patronage of Narsimhavarman 2 of the Pallava dynasty. Build during the 8th century AD the structure was once the hub of trade and commerce. The construction of the architecture was continued by the Cholas who succeeded the Pallavas after defeating them. Being a busy port it was well known by the sailors and hence contributed to the economy of Southern India.
The merchants and the explorers who came to the subcontinent named the site as Seven pagodas as it resembled so. The shore temple being one of them. The records given by various travelers mention about 7 pagodas but only two of them are visible presently. Until the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, there were many speculations regarding it.
But the tsunami partially exposed some rock structures and walls which have been ruined but successfully establish the fact that a part of Mahabalipuram was submerged in the ocean. Later on, a group of archaeologists confirmed the same.
Shore Temple Architecture:
Built out of granite stones the temple reflects craftsmanship through its divine architecture. The mythological legends also say that the gods were jealous of the beauty of the temple and therefore bought floods to destroy it.
The complex houses three temples, two of which are dedicated to Lord Shiva and one glorifies Lord Vishnu. The temple is carved in the Dravidian style of architecture and has a garbhagriha in the center which enshrines the Siva lingam. When the sun rays fall on it, the statue seems to glimmer making the sight surreal. The outer walls of the temple are adorned with huge Nandi structures.
One of the remarkable features of the monument is that the Shiva temples are molded in the form of shikaras.
The northern side of the temple has a small structure of Shiva housed in a kund. While the southern side is beautified by a monumental figure of Goddess Durga seated on a monolithic lion. The structure also has inscriptions singing praises of the Pallava and Chola rulers. They act as important records of history.
Conservation of this magnificent structure:
The shore temple is always exposed to the extreme conditions. Therefore attempts are being made to conserve this heritage. The efforts made by the Archaeological Survey of India has had a tremendous impact on restoring the monument and preserving its beauty.
What more does the site offer?
The shore temple defines architecture. It points to the rich culture of medieval India. You can get a deeper insight into the South Indian culture by enjoying the annual Mahabalipuram dance festival. It is held during the month of December- January with the Shore temple as its backdrop. Marked with traditional dance and music the festival is a much-awaited by the locals.
Mahabalipuram is rich in culture, art, and architecture. The Shore temple is one of the finest examples of it.
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