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Shore Temple Mahabalipuram

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The Shore Temple is a complex of temples and shrines in Mahabalipuram, about 60 kilometres south of Chennai in Tamil Nadu, India. It is a structural temple built with granite blocks in the eighth century AD. During the reign of the Indian Pallava dynasty’s Narasimhavarman II, the site was a thriving port. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984, as part of the Mahabalipuram Monument Group. It is one of the oldest structural rock-cut stone temples in Southern India.

The Shore Temple has two sanctums, one dedicated to Lord Shiva and the other to Lord Vishnu. Built of cut stones and granite blocks, the temple exemplifies the true essence of Dravidian architecture. A pyramidal Kutina tower comprises stepped stories topped by a cupola and a finial. The Shore Temple complex, along with other temples and monuments in Mamallapuram, has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Marco Polo, during his travels, identified the Seven Pagodas of Mamallapuram. The shore temple is thought to be one of these pagodas. The temple is believed to be the last of seven temples built along this coastline.

Legend/Story Related to Shore Temple Mahabalipuram

According to legend, sailors and merchants at sea could spot the temple’s shikhara from afar and use those majestic towers to signal their arrival in Mahabalipuram, a prosperous port city. In this manner, the temple was not only a home for the gods Shiva and Vishnu but also a feature of the landscape and an icon of the dominion of the great Pallava kings.

Shore Temple Mahabalipuram

History of Shore Temple Mahabalipuram

Mamallapuram, also known as Mahabalipuram, was an important port town in India’s early history and grew into a major centre for artistic activity under the patronage of the Pallava rulers. Nrasimhavarman I, known as Mamalla (meaning “great warrior”), ruled for approximately 38 years beginning in 630 C.E. and sponsored a large number of rock-cut monuments at Mamallapuram, including cave shrines, monolithic temples, and large sculptures carved from boulders.

Shore Temple Mahabalipuram

While the Pallava kings primarily worshipped the god Shiva, they also encouraged the construction of temples dedicated to other Hindu gods and goddesses, as well as other religious traditions. The Pallava rulers were particularly inspired by the growing personal devotional movement known as bhakti, in which worshippers treat the divine as if it were a cherished child or loved one.

The Architecture of Shore Temple Mahabalipuram

The Shore Temple is both a rock cut and a freestanding structural temple. The entire temple is built on a naturally occurring granite boulder. The complex consists of three shrines: two dedicated to Shiva and one to Vishnu. The Vishnu shrine is the oldest and smallest of the three shrines. The temple’s other elements, such as the gateways, walls, and superstructures, were built with quarried stone and mortar.

Shore Temple Mahabalipuram

The western gateway, facing the smaller Shiva shrine, serves as the entrance to the temple complex. Dvarapalas, or door guardians, stand on either side of the gateway, welcoming visitors to the complex and marking the site as sacred. The smaller Vishnu temple is located between the two Shiva shrines, connecting them.

Shore Temple Mahabalipuram

It has a rectangular shape with a flat roof and contains a carved image of the god Vishnu sleeping. Images of Vishnu reclining or sleeping on the cosmic serpent Shesha-Ananta can be found throughout Indian art. While the artists who created this carving did not depict Shesha-Ananta, it is possible that the rock was originally painted with the snake.

Shore Temple Mahabalipuram

Like the Vishnu shrine, the two Shiva shrines have elaborate sculptural depictions on both their inner and outer walls. The large Shiva shrine faces east and has a square plan with a sanctum and a small pillared porch called a mandapa. In the centre of the shrine is a lingam, Shiva’s aniconic form in the shape of a phallus. Though the temple is no longer used for active worship, visitors can occasionally be seen worshipping and offering flowers to the lingam, bringing the sacred site back to life.

Shore Temple Mahabalipuram

Important Facts About Shore Temple Mahabalipuram

  • The Shore Temple, located 2 kilometres from Mahabalipuram Bus Station, is an ancient temple on the Bay of Bengal in Mahabalipuram.
  • The Shore Temple was built by Pallavas in the seventh century CE, during Narasimhavarman’s reign. It is one of South India’s oldest temples, constructed in the Dravidian style and reflecting the Pallava dynasty’s royal taste.
  • It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and part of the ‘Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram’.
  • Shore Temple is a structural temple composed of granite blocks. Its name comes from the fact that it overlooks the Bay of Bengal.
  • The Shore Temple is a five-story structural Hindu temple, unlike the other monuments at the site, which are rock-cut.
  • Shore Temple is the oldest important structural temple in Southern India. The pyramidal structure is 60 feet tall and sits on a 50-foot square platform.
  • There is a small temple in front that was the original porch. Legends claim that it is one of the Seven Pagodas and one of the best places to visit in Mahabalipuram.
  • This temple contains three shrines, two of which are dedicated to Lord Shiva and the other to Lord Vishnu. The location and cleanliness of the place have made it a popular tourist destination.
  • Shore Temple is located on the shore of the Bay of Bengal, with a stunning view of the endless ocean.

Best Time to Visit Shore Temple Mahabalipuram

This place is very heavenly and spiritual, and you can visit it all year. However, the best time to visit this temple is during the monsoon and winter seasons. During the monsoon season, this location receives moderate to heavy rainfall, making it appear heavenly with its greenery and bringing freshness elsewhere.

How to Reach Shore Temple Mahabalipuram

By Air: The closest airport to Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram is Chennai International Airport, which is located in Meenambakkam, Chennai. Travelling to the city from the airport is relatively easy, taking about an hour by road.

By Rail: The closest railway station to Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram is the Chennai Central Station, which is 55 kilometres away from Mahabalipuram and provides access to other major cities as well as many other smaller towns across India.

By Road: The east coast road connects Mahabalipuram to Chennai, a city connected by the Golden Quadrilateral highway system. It is connected to other Indian cities via four major National Highways (NH) that originate in the city.

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Closed

Tuesday 6 AM - 6 PM
Saturday 6 AM - 6 PM
Sunday 6 AM - 6 PM
Monday 6 AM - 6 PM
Wednesday 6 AM - 6 PM
Thursday 6 AM - 6 PM
Friday 6 AM - 6 PM
Address: Shore Temple, Beach Road, Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu, India
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Closed

Tuesday 6 AM - 6 PM
Saturday 6 AM - 6 PM
Sunday 6 AM - 6 PM
Monday 6 AM - 6 PM
Wednesday 6 AM - 6 PM
Thursday 6 AM - 6 PM
Friday 6 AM - 6 PM
Address: Shore Temple, Beach Road, Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu, India