Mahabalipuram - Ms.Meera Srikanth's English version

Sakthi Foundation

History - Mamallapuram

Neerper

Perupanatruppadai is a Sangam work written 2500 years ago. Pallava land is referred to as Thondai Nadu in this work. It also mentions that the capital city was Kanchipuram and it was ruled by Ilanthirayan Thondaiman. Uruththirankannanar refers to the port in this kingdom as Neerper. Research suggests this is today’s Mamallapuram.

Three people are responsible for Mamallapuram coming on the global map:

Mahendra Pallava (509-630 AD)

Narasimhavarma Pallavan, also known as Mamallan – (630-668 AD)

Naraimmavarma Pallavan Rajasimha Pallavan (690-728 AD)

These three have done yeomen service in promoting fine arts in this city. After them a few more Pallavas, Cholas and Nayakkars have also contributed to the promotion of arts. The British were responsible for making Mamallapuram popular worldwide.

Trade across Seas

Pallavas did trade with several countries across the seas – Egypt, Rome, China, Lanka, Arabia, Sumatra, Java, Indonesia, etc. This was their harbour. They journeyed the seas on large wooden ships. Chinese coins from 4th century AD and Roman coins from the time of Thodoseus I have been found in the city. Pallava coins with ‘Srinidhi’ and ‘Srihari’ embossed on them have also been discovered.

Peribleus in 1st century AD and Ptolemy in 142 AD have also written about this city in their travelogues. It was one of the leading port cities of this time.

Mallai, Kadal Mallai, Mahamallapuram, Mallapuri, Jananathapuram, Mavelipuram, Mavalipuram, Mavelivora (as referred by foriegners) are some of the names by which this city was known. It may have been known as Mallai because many products came by the sea route and were available at cheap rates. During the reign of Rajaraja Cholan (11 AD), it may have been named Jananathapuram as Jananathan was one of his names.

Mamallapuram - Kanchipuram

Thirukkazhakkunram Highway from Mamallapuram to capital city Kanchipuram via Chengelpet was laid out in that period and was used by the kings, ministers, travellers and the common man. Today several stone carving workshops are housed on this road.

Mamallapuram as described in Perumpanatruppadai

Perumpanatruppadai is one of the literary works from the Sangam period. It was composed by Uruthirunkannanar. While praising Ilanthirai, the king of Thondai Nadu, he describes the port city of Mamallapuram. But he refers to it as Neerper. Only during the Pallava period it was called Mamallapuram.

Sea Trade Centre

Mamallai was one of critical ports for Thondai Nadu’s sea trade. Fisherfolk, farmers and sea traders were the primary constituents of the city’s population. Those who traded in foreign lands stayed here. Worship at Shore Temple was very popular even in those days. The lamp pillars brought by Greek traders lit the streets of Mamallapuram at night. The lamps had a head of swan. These can be called the precursors to the Indian lamps with swan motif.

Ships from several countries came to this port. War horses were a primary cargo. High quality perfumes from several countries were also imported. Godowns to shelter the cargo were available.

The beach housed the families of the fishermen.

Rich Traders

Several rich traders lived in palatial houses in the city. The women from these families wore soft silk dresses, gold and stone-embedded jewellery. Several playthings made of thread were available. Houses had upper stories where people went up for air.

Simple Farmers

Farmers lived in thatched huts. Fragrant turmeric was grown in the front yard. Flowering plants and shady trees and vegetable garden were grown in the backyard. There are references to coconut trees, tender coconut, jackfruit, banana plantations, sweet potato, ice apple, colocasia etc.

There was economic growth due to internal and external trade.

Lamps were lit at night from tall pillars in the city. Perumpanatruppadai also mentions that along with these lamps, the lighthouse was a beacon for the ships approaching from the sea.

Holy Land

Among the 108 holy places for Vishnu sung by the 12 Vaishnavite saints, called Azhwars, Mamallapuram is one of them. One of the Azhwars, Boothathazhwar, was born in this city in 5th century AD. He has referred to this city in one of his songs.

The Vishnu temple is called Shore Temple.

In 9th Century, Thirumangai Azhwar has sung in praise of the deity in the Shore Temple.  In those days, the deity in the temple by the beach was worshipped. He is referred to as the companion of Siva, who resides in the cremation ground. In some of the poems, idols of Varaha, Govardhanadhari, Ananthasayanam are also mentioned. His unique style is describing in detail the divine form of the deity. There is no doubt that he has described the idols found in this city.

Since the Shore Temple was affected due to several cyclones from the Bay, Nayakkars built the current bigger temple in the middle of the city. There is a separate sanctum sanctorum for Bootathazhwar in this temple.

Pallavas’ Love for the Land

Sri Nilamangai Nachiyar temple symbolises the love Pallavas have for their land. Moreover, Lord Vishnu reclines on the floor, highlighting the connection between man and the land. Sri Varaha Temple also is evidence of the respect Pallavas had for nature’s bounty on earth. They built Sri Lakshmi Varaha temple in Thiruvdanathai near Mamallapuram. Sri Varaha cave temple also exemplifies this philosophy.

Did Pallavas have such a close connection with land? Yes, indeed. Just as a mother keeps food on her lap ready for her children, it can be said that mother earth waited for the Pallavas with rocks near the seashore in Mamallapuram.

Why did the Pallavas convert this to a land of sculptures?

It is a very interesting question.

Mamallapuram was a port city. Traders from several countries stayed here. The sculptures were created initially to entertain the guests with traditional Indian art.

These sculptures depict several of Indian philosophical thoughts in a visual medium.

These idols are primarily based on the deities Siva, Vishnu and Durga. Because, Bhakti margam had gained currency during the Pallava period through Saivaite-Vaishnavite traditions to guide people on the spiritual path. The sculptures in Mamallapuram are based on the preachings of the spiritual heads of these different philosophies. These were also created with the ulterior motive of making the foreign traders of the Vedic teachings. They reinforced the underlying principle of life – charity-material possession-happiness-home.

We see the temple architecture being presented in greater depth after much research. They stress the importance of temples in Vedic way of life.

The most popular epics and stories are depicted through the sculptures. Mamallapuram was responsible for spreading Indian religions across the seas.

Mamallapuram – A Goal for Uni5

Taking a stroll looking at the sculptures is a good exercise.

Artists must have performed in different spots in that place.

With the idols, these sights would have been a pleasure to watch. The sculptures would inspire spiritual, scientific and social thoughts. This would create awareness about life.

Pallava Sculptors – For several years, several Pallava sculptors stayed here with their families and worked on carving the sculptures.

They were trained in literature, mathematics, art of sculpting and the fundamental science.

The king and the government supervised the work. Theologists often visited to provide their expert views.

Pallava Paintings – Along with the sculptures, there was also plan to have on display paintings.

On the underside of the ceiling of the Varaha Temple, there is evidence of patterns having been drawn with red paint.

Similarly, on some idols, lime mixture was applied as a base for them to be painted on.

Let’s examine each of these:

Sights to See

Tiger Caves – When travelling on ECR from Chennai, this comes before Mamallapuram in a place called Saluvan Kuppam. (In the olden days, travellers used to stay nearby and entertainment shows used to be staged here.

Athiranachandra Cave – This is near Tiger Cave.

Subramanya Cave Temple – This was discovered buried under the sand in 2004 after the tsunami. This is also located nearby.

Mukunda Nayanar Temple – This is on the left side near the entrance to the town. This multi-storied temple tower built with strong, high quality stones is evidence of Pallava’s early attempts at building. It is called Mukunda Nayanar temple but is a Sivan temple.

Shore Temples

The moment one hears of Mamallapuram, images of temples along the shore is what is conjured up in the mind’s eye.

They were built around 700-728 AD.

But it was completed by Narasimmavarma Pallava, whose other name was Rajasimman.

From however many angles one may take photos of these temples, its beauty is manifest every time.

Marco Polo writes that he saw seven temples when he visited the shores of Mamallapuram. Today there are only two. When the water receded during tsunami, the tops of the other temples were sighted. Narasimmavarman II had built them.

A protective wall has been raised to preserve the existing temples.

In the temples visible during tsunami, as indicated by European travellers, the idols of peacock, lion, elephant and horse were noted.

Currently, two chariot temples can be seen on the shore. The seven temples noted historically may have been submerged by giant waves. When the water receded during tsunami, two temple towers were noticed.

These temples were raised for Siva and Vishnu. During the Pallava period, Nayanars and Alwars spread Saivaite and Vaishnavite practices through Bhakti marga, which influenced the temples built by the Pallavas.

One of the chariot temples faces east and has a smooth and shining octagonal Siva linga. Behind the linga, on the wall, is drawn the form of Siva with his consort, Parvathi. The deity is named Somaskandar.

The linga symbolises all-pervading divinity. Sculpting gives it shape. The credit of creating this goes to the Pallavas.

One has to climb three steps to reach the sanctum sanctorum. Once upon a time, this was a place of worship.

Behind this is a smaller chariot, on whose east-facing front, a giant Vishnu idol in the reclining posture has been carved. Azhwars hail him as Mamalla’s ‘Thalasayaththuruvar’. Initially, Alwars sang in praise of this deity. There is a carving that says ‘Narapathisimmavishnu Temple’.

Made of sandstone, lime has also been applied over them. Sivapurana stories have been carved on the walls. They must be observed closely.

On the outer wall, stone Nandi idols have been planted in a neat row.

One idol of a warrior atop a lion drawing the bowstring depicts the brave Pallava.

A big sacrificial platform, the court of the king, scenes from Siva-Vishnu epics are the efforts of Pallava to make people aware of these traditions.

The roof has idols of animals, from puranas, gatekeepers, showing how well the Pallavas followed Shilpa Shastra.

Shore Durga

Notice a cave outside near the harbour area having been carved beautifully. It has the carving of Mahishusaran being killed by Goddess Durga.

The shore side temples are a feast to the eyes of the weary travellers who embark from the ships on the harbour.

Varaha Tank

The predecessor to modern temple tanks, this is a stone platform in the middle of a temple tank with a wild boar idol in the centre, as if drinking water from the tank. It is jokingly said that the tanks represents Chalukyas being made to eat the humble pie by Pallavas.

  1. Kshatriya Simha Pallaveshwara Gruham (Siva is referred to as Simheshwara)
  2. Rajasimha Pallaveshwara Gruham
  3. Sthalasayana Perumal
  4. Narapati Simha Gruham could have been the temple for Lord Narasimha.

These temples are referred to in stone inscriptions.

Old Harbour

Traces of the harbour can be seen in the deep trench in front of the temple on the beach. One can especially see where the ships and boats were built. The small trench that was dug in front of the temple to create the harbour can be seen. Cargo would be transferred from the ship to a boat and brought to land through canals that were dug here. There are several rods placed for tying the boats. The position of the sea, its qualities have changed over the centuries.

‘The ships float at Mallai on the sea waiting to export elephants and precious stones,” sings Thirumangai Alwar.

Mahendra Varman, Narasimmavarman I, Narasimmavarman II and Rajasimma Varma have done much to promote the arts in this city.
The temple towers were redesigned to resemble Buddhist temples. The cave temples are comparable to the caves of Ajanta and Ellora.

After the Vatapi war, Naraimma Varman brought many architects from the Chalukyan kingdom and created many structures under their guidance.

Mamallapuram cave temples contributed significantly to the growth of Saivaite and Vaishnavite movements.

After him, Raja Simman, Nayakkar and Chozhas during the second phase of their ascendance have also contributed to the architecture here.

There are nine monolith temples, each carved from a single stone.

The Pallavas introduced the style of creating the tall, triangular tower over the main sanctum sanctorum.

Sthalasayana Perumal Temple – one of the 108 temples of Divyadesam

Krishna Mandap – This is located behind the Vishnu temple. In the early days, this was also an engraving like Bhagareetha’s tapas. Nayakka kings converted the Srikrishna Govardhanagiri hall for conducting upanyasas. Lion pillars with idols of Thirumangai Alwar and Ramanujacharya can be found here. On the floor, one can see the various games the architects played.

Now let us examine the idol of Govardhana Giri dhara.

There was a time when Indira was worshipped because he was believed to bless the earth with rains. He is also considered representative of sensual pleasures.

Krishna told his people, “It is true that Indra causes the rain-bearing clouds to be formed. But it is the Govardhana mountain with its lush forest that traps the clouds and causes them to shower on Vraja land (Vrindavan). So isn’t it right then that we should worship the hill?”

Even today, in North India, on the day after Diwali, Govardhana giri is worshipped.

But a jealous Indra, unable to bear this rejection, caused heavy rains for the next seven days, flooding River Yamuna and causing much distress to the people and the cattle. Krishna held up the Govardhana Hill like an umbrella to provide shelter to his people. Nammazhvar has sung in praise of this.

The Pallava king learnt of this episode from Srimad Bhagavatam. Krishna, as a responsible leader, protected nature and his people from a natural disaster. The carving aims to convey this thought.

It represents the appearance and costume worn by the cowherds during his reign in Tamil Nadu.

Govardhana Hill, lions inside the cave, monkeys, cows chewing the cud peacefully on the hill top, a big bull, a calf, milking the cow – the image of the milking man pulling the teat is very realistic. The posture of the man sitting with his dhoti pulled up, the woman selling curd, the haystack she carry to feed her cattle, a mother showing her son her husband playing the flute, and many other such scenes of people running their lives under the protection of the hill is thought-provoking.

Krishna is God Incarnate.

This sculpture shows how the cowherds who surrendered themselves to Krishna lived a carefree life.

Balarama stands with dignity, a hand on the shoulder of a cowherd. This shows the closeness between the king and his people. One can sense Balarama assuring the cowherd that he is there to protect them.

Krishna points to his feet with one hand even as he lifts the hill with the other, asking the nearby gopis to surrender to him. Pallavas realised that the people of a kingdom can live happily if they have a good king.

Ganesha Mandapa Temple is located to our right, next to the carving of Bhageeratha doing penance, on the way to Varaha cave. Ganesha chariot temple has some intricate carvings. Rajasimma Pallava constructed this.  A stone engraving refers to it by his special name, Atyantakaama Pallavesvara Griham. This is a Siva temple. The trident atop the temple tower suggests it is Siva temple. But inside, a large statue of Ganesha was placed with the permission of the British for worship. It continues to be worshipped. Very intricate work can be seen. It has gate keepers, stone engravings, a lamp stand etc. On the walls can be seen engravings praising Rajasimman.

Varaha Cave

Sri Varahar

Varaha kills Hiranyakashan and saves Bhoomidevi. Notice the adoration on the face of Mother Bhoomi as she looks at her husband incarnated as Varaha. Having saved his wife, Varaha appears majestic as he lifts her up with one foot on Adisesha.

We who constantly misuse and abuse Mother Earth are Hiranyaksha. Nature will save Earth. That is the inner meaning behind Varaha Avatar.

How angry we become if someone ill-treats our wife? What if that cosmic energy gets angry with us for abusing His wife? That is why we suffer disasters such as tsunami, earthquakes, drought etc. It is Varaha’s warning to us.

Take it as a father’s warning to a son who constantly troubles his mother.

We who divide land into plots and dig for sand had better be warned. Whether God is incarnated as Kalki, He will surely return as Varaha, in the form of natural disasters.

Mahalakshmi emerges from the milky ocean and is worshipped by celestial women and elephants representing the directions

Goddess Lakshmi represents the eight fundamental needs of human beings and is worshipped as Ashtalakshmi-Ashta Aishwarya to symbolise that. Mahalakshmi emerged when the ocean was being churned for nectar. Smitten by her beauty, everybody present wanted to possess her. But she chose Lord Vishnu who is above likes and dislikes, and found residence in his heart. This sculpture highlights the truth that he who works hard with no expectations will be blessed with the eight types of wealth.

Durga who accepts the sacrifice of a soldier who protects his country

Durga is the foremost among the old forms in which women goddesses are worshipped in India. Tamilians predominantly carve her form as Vishnudurga, holding the conch and the discus. Durga is the Conscious present within us. To realise this Conscious, man must introspect aligning his body, mind and intellect. His ego will subside. That is what the sacrifice of a soldier signifies. In those days, lion and deer were Durga’s vehicles. The mind which is constantly jumping achieves self-awareness through the realisation of Consciousness in the form of Durga.

The one who measured the world

Trivikraman asked for three feet of land and measured the three worlds – this episode is thought provoking. This makes us realise that he who is not content with three feet of land will not be content even if he gets the three worlds. The idol of the eight-armed Vishnu measuring the cosmos with his left leg is beautiful! Lord Vishnu teaches a very important lesson needed for the modern man.

By surrendering his great ego at the feet of Lord Vishnu, Mahabali receives god’s blessings. The only thing not created by God is Ego. We must offer that as sacrifice like Mahabali to the Lord through spiritual practices. True to the name of the city, Mahabalipuram, the sight of Lord Vishnu accepting three feet of land and measuring the cosmos is truly a beauty!

Empty sanctum sanctorum – Lord Varaha’s idol was supposed to be installed here.

Climb the rocks and see the foundation for a Rajagopuram that was about to be built by the Nayakkars.

A morsel of Bheema’s meal or Krishna’s butter

Near the Ganesha chariot temple there is one large rock on a slope that has not moved for eons. Is it a natural formation of the skill of Pallava architects? It has been fitted just right keeping the earth’s gravitational force in mind. Many can be seen trying to push this rock. You can try too! It is a scientific game.

Carved Siva temple – To the right of Krishna’s butter one can find natural cave formations where very high-quality idols been carved from the rocks. It is a complete temple with idols of Vishnu, Durga, Harihara and Lingam.

7th century lighthouse – Notice the stone structure which is the lighthouse. Stone inscriptions tell us that in those days, at night, logs would be stacked and neem oil poured – this was economical and easily available. Below, labourers stayed with spare logs and oil. God knows the lighthouse guided ships from how many countries.

Lighthouse – The strong lighthouse built 100 years ago is worth climbing up. The telescope, lamps and teak almirah from that period can be seen even today. You can also see the nearby areas of Chennai, Kalpakkam etc. We strongly condemn the graffiti by today’s youth. Is this socially responsible?

A Rough Sketch

Just before Mahishasuramardhini cave, there is a rough sketch of Bageeratha’s penance. Don’t miss that. That’s a rough draft!

Mahishasuramardhini Cave – This temple carved out of a cave has three sanctum sanctorum. In the central sanctum, there is a pit to install a lingam. On the wall behind is a beautiful carving of Siva, Parvati with son Muruga (Somaskanda). Then come Vishnu and Brahma. Siva’s limbs are very elegantly carved. Baby Murugan, his features, dress and jewels reflect the those of Pallava period. Sculptors have relished carving Parvati holding her son affectionately.

Madhu-Kaitapa Conspiracy – They must have planned to install an idol of Lord Vishnu to the right of Siva because there is a huge, beautiful carving of Ananthasayana lying on Adisesha. At the feet of Vishnu, the demons Madhu and Kaitapa can be seen conspiring to attack Vishnu. Below his feet, Bhoomidevi is seen submitting herself with extreme humility, seeking His protection. Two people are also shown sitting with money bags and in deep discussion.

To the left of Siva, the plan may have been to install Durga’s idol, because a beautiful carving of Mahishasuramardhini can be seen on the wall. One does not tire of this image however many photographs one may take from various angles.

Mahishasuramardhini – Durga attacks Mahishasuran sitting on a roaring lion.

She has eight arms, each carrying a weapon.

Especially admirable is the perfect arch of the strung bow, the shine and shape of the sword and the graceful fingers.

Below Durga, other women warriors can be seen.

Maybe some women participated in wars during Pallava period.

Bhutas can be seen fighting with the demons.

With the head of a buffalo and a mace in hand, Mahishan is seen attacking Durga sitting on his knee. He represents the ego of man.

Near him a soldier is seen falling upside down, dead.

Long live the sculptors who have brought to life the narration of Devi Mahatmiyam on stone.

Stone Bed – A stone bed can be seen opposite this cave. Also, one can see signs of the plans sculptures had for some of the rocks.

A Gangadhara temple can be seen on the cave. A few centuries ago, one business community used to supply the oil needed to light the lamps at night. The deity is also called ‘Uzhakku Ennai Eswarar’.

Sri Adi Varaha Temple (People still come to worship at the Lakshmi Varaha Temple)

This is called ‘Parameshwara Mahavaraha Gruham’. It is on the southwestern side of Mahishasuramardhini cave. Go when the priest performs the morning pujas.

A stone inscription with a Shloka in praise of Siva can be seen. Nandivarman Pallavan ruled as an independent king for a very long time in the south. He ruled for 65 years. There is a stone carving about him, as well as a sloka on Dasavataram of Lord Vishnu. In that Buddhar is mentioned as the incarnation mentioned before Kalki.

Sculptures of of Siva with Ganges trapped in his matted locks, Simmavishnu Pallavan with his two wives, Thirumagal emerging from the milky ocean, King of snakes – Adiseshan, Mahavishnu, Hariharan, Durga and Mahendra Pallavan with his two wives can be seen here. This Varaha is referred to in Thirumanga Alwar’s Kadal Mallai Pasuram.

The Pandava Rathas

The most popular Pandava Chariot temples convey several truths. Rajasimma Pallavan built these. The stone carvings share several information about him.

‘Bruthas’ that are sung in praise have been carved here. They praise Rajasimman as ‘Athyantha kaman’ (one who has an endless desire for endless fame).

Para Para, Para, Narayana Manoharan, Bhuvabhajanan, Narasimhan, Mahamallan, Sarvathobadran, are some of the other ways in which he is referred.

Pancha Rathas – Chariot Temples that represent the six types of deities of the Sanatana Dharma

The five chariots called Pancha Pandava Rathas are very famous, but it is a matter of research whether they have anything to do with the five brothers. Because, the Durga temple, a giant elephant belonging to Muruga, the lion that Durga rides on all raise some questions. Maybe Narasimma Pallava I, who accepted the Advaita philosophy propounded by Adi Sankara, may have used this opportunity to promote the deities of Sanatana Dharma.

Temple for Mother Goddess

The beautiful, square-shaped temple for Durga is very attractive. Carved along the wall, Durga can be seen in her pristine form. It’s called ‘Kuttai Gruham’. During the Pallava period, temples were called house – gruham.

She has been carved as Vishnu Durga holding the conch (now missing) and the discus. The right hand is held up slightly aslant in the gesture of blessing and the left rests on the thigh. These days Vishnu Durga idols show her standing with her hip pushed out on one side. But in the olden version, she can be seen standing erect. On either side of her, four bhutas can be seen standing.

She is seen covered modestly in the style followed in those days. Silk cloth flows on either sides of her waist.

Anklets on her feet, thick bangles around her wrists and beads around her neck can be seen. Thick danglers in her ears and her hair done up in a knot can also be seen. Pallava sculptures are characterised by simplicity. She can be seen standing on a platform of lotus.

A Great Sacrifice

This ancient Kali temple is representative of the Kali worship of those days. Inside, below the deity can be seen two youth sacrificing their body parts to the deity. One of them holds his hair and lifts his face in the process of cutting his head. In Sakteya, the tradition of men sacrificing their love for their body, their life, of life itself for the good of their country was common. There are several stones that have been planted in their memory.

In very ancient times, there have been sacrificed before wars at the ancient Mother temple. These are referred to in the literary works Silappadikaram and Manimekalai. There may have been two young warriors ready to sacrifice their lives for the victory of their Pallava rulers.

At the entrance of the temple, two women guards can be seen. It is possible that prayers were offered in this temple.

In the outer compound, Vishnu Durga stands on Mahishan’s head. Pallavas gave shape to these ideas that had no shape before.

The temple is crafted beautifully.

Elephant and Lion

A rock has been cut into a square platform and the idol of Durga installed on it. Three stone steps have also been carved for climbing up.

After climbing the platform, three more steps can be seen. An elephant and Pallava king’s lion add beauty to it. These symbolise strength and inner awareness and are apt for being at the side of Durga who is the foundation of life.

We see a roof without the kalasam. Is it a temple which has not been consecrated? No, the kalasam can be seen on one side of the platform.

The entrance has a beautiful toran design. The ceiling too has been carved very intricately with floral design.

Instead of right in front of the temple, a lion is seated looking in a different direction. The rock from which it was carved must have been like that.

Siva Chariot Temple

This chariot temple dedicated to Lord Siva is very big. That is the last temple. Here one can see the idols of various forms of Siva such as Ardhanari, Hariharan and with matted locks. The upper story of this temple also has well-carved idols. They can be called predecessors of temple towers.

Moreover, the roof of the Siva temple here is comparable to the roof of Chidambaram temple. The way the outer passages have been carved are awe-inspiring, but were not completed.

One can see several other idols of Pallava kings and queens, deities, beautifully carved stone inscriptions, incomplete Ganesha idol, an uninstalled kalasam etc.

There are also chariot temples dedicated to Muruga, Vishnu, and Indra or Surya.

Sastha Temple

There is a chariot temple next to Durga chariot temple where a God is seen astride an elephant with two women on either side of him. This could be Dharma Sastha’s temple, as his vehicle is the elephant. The ladies could be his Sakthi, Sripurna and Pushkala. Therefore this temple can be considered Sri Sastha Temple. Moreover, a giant elephant belonging to Sastha can be seen next to it.

Pidari-Kali Ratha Temple

Continue on the road to Pondicherry and visit Pidari, Kali chariot temple and Cave Ganapathi temple. These lie in the outskirts of the town. It was customary in Tamil villages to have temples of Pidari, Kali and Mari on the border to protect the village.  Following that tradition, the incomplete chariot temples for Pidari and Mari can be seen. There is a beautiful lotus-lily pond nearby. Most people miss seeing these.

Some distance away, in Valaiyankuttai, another chariot temple can be seen. It is incomplete, and must have been a temple for another village deity built by the Pallavas as per Vastu Shastra.

Hear with your inner ear the sounds of the sculptors working with devotion, concentration, talking, laughing, being praised by the king, correcting their work, the sound of the chisel, the crowds of traders, the awed expression of the people there.

The British called it the Seven Pagodas (Chariots). They reached this place from Chennai Fort traveling by boat on Buckingham Canal. It is said that the British also saw this place from the ship and saluted it.

People; see each idol as a cultural treasure. Internalise the life lesson it teaches. Do not litter and discourage others from doing so.

Even sculptors of today wonder at the beauty of the skill of the sculptures in carving these idols on soft sandstones.

See many sculpture halls. Mamallapuram is India’s greatest centre of arts and culture!

Appreciate the plan, calculation, perfection, and art craft and also teach your children to appreciate them!

English translation by Ms.Meera Srikanth - Madras

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