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Label : Must Visit

Tags : Temple

Timings : 6:00 AM - 6:00 PM

Time Required : 1-2 hrs

Entry Fee : Indians: INR 10, Foreigners: INR 340, Children (below 15 years): Free

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Sea Shore Temple

Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram Overview

Built during the 7th century, Shore Temple is one of the oldest South Indian temples constructed in the Dravidian style and depicts the royal taste of the Pallava dynasty. The work of the temple has been listed amongst the World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. It is located in Mahabalipuram and is one of the most photographed monuments in India situated on the shores of Bay of Bengal.

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History of Shore Temple

As per legends, the Shore Temple was a part of the Seven Pagodas in Mahabalipuram. Seven Pagodas is an old Hindu legend. As history has it, Prince Hiranyakasipu did not believe in Lord Vishnu. However, his son Prahlada was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu which forced Prince Hiranyakasipu to banish Prahlada from the kingdom. Prahlada was the welcomed after a while after which he went on and became the king. He had a grandson named Bali who also founded Mahabalipuram.

Shore Temple was given the name 'Seven Pagodas' after they saw such a tall structure standing alongside the seashore. This temple was like a landmark for the navigating ships. Also, the structure resembled that of a Pagoda and hence the familiarity.

After Tsunami hit the coastline of Coromandel in 2004, an old distorted temple was exposed in the process. This temple was made up of granite only. After this event, the news of Mahabalipuram being a part of the Seven Pagodas as mentioned in the diaries of Europeans began doing the rounds. It was also stated that out of temples, six of them remain sunken in the sea. The Tsunami also brought to light some old sculptures of elephants, peacocks and lions which were used to decorate the walls of the temples during the reign of the Pallavas in the 7th and 8th century.

Architecture of Shore Temple

Shore Temple was the first stone structure constructed by the Pallavas. Before the development of this monument, all the ancient monuments were carved out of rocks and stones. The magnificent temple comprises of five storeys and has a rock-cut structure. It has been one of the most important and earliest built temples in the entire Southern India. The top structure of the temple is decorated with sculptures and carvings. Also, to provide a much better protection to the striking temple from sea-erosion, a stone has been constructed as well.

This pyramidal structure which has a height of 60 feet is present atop 50 feet square platform. It beautifully showcases the Dravidian style of architecture along with an elite history mixed with magnificence. It was designed to seize the first rays of rising sun and to catch hold of the waters after sunset due to which as per Percy Brown it served as a landmark by day and a beacon by night. Mandapas and compound walls surround the grand temple. A rock-cut of a lion having a small square-shaped cut in its belly which is ridden by two young women can be seen too on the temple walls. There is a huge rock lying nearby this majestic temple which the waves have been able to touch since years. In the northern side, a carving of the buffalo demon too is present with a stick in his hand. The temple looks like a chariot when viewed from a distance.

All the three of the Shore Temples have been standing erect on the same platform. If viewed from the northern end, these temples appear to be the exact imitation of the Dharmaraja Ratha. The main Shore Temple, which faces east for the sun rays to fall upon the principal deity of Shiva Linga which is an ancient Hindu structure rather than just a rock formation. The temple is built with sculpted granite stones hauled from a nearby quarry. There is a small temple in front which was the original porch. It is made out of finely cut local granite. The shore temple is also one of the most famous temples. Recent excavations show that many unrevealed structures are still lying deep under the sand.

Best Time To Visit Shore Temple

Taking into consideration the climate of Mahabalipuram, the best time to visit the Shore temple is during the months of October to March. Evening/morning time is usually ideal to pay a visit to the temple. Also, January/February is a perfect time to be a part of the Mahabalipuram dance festival. Sunrise and sunset add scenic charm to the temple and therefore it should be visited at dawn and dusk.

Tips For Visiting Shore Temple

1. Still photography is allowed for no extra charge. However, for videos, one needs to pay INR 25.
2. Carry a camera to capture the beauty of this wonderful temple. 
3. Sale of entry ticket closes at 5:30 PM.
4. The surrounding monuments can be visited free of cost.

How To Reach Shore Temple

Well connected to the main city via all means of transport. You can take a bus to Mahabalipuram from Kanchipuram, Pondicherry and other nearby tourist areas. Once you reach Mahabalipuram you can easily walk or cycle your way through the small town. Hiring regular buses and taxis from anywhere in Tamil Nadu will easily get you to the temple.

The origin of Shore Temple

The Shore Temple's name originated as a result of its overlooking the shore of Bay of Bengal. It is built with blocks of granite which can be dated back to the 8th century AD. It comprises of three shrines, where the prominent ones are dedicated to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. In the Sanctum Sanctorum an image of Shivalinga is present. Towards the end, two shrines facing each other can be spotted. One shrine out of this is dedicated to Ksatriyasimnesvara and the other one to Lord Vishnu. The image shows Lord Vishnu reclining on the 'Seshanag' which depicts "consciousness" in Hinduism.

The Shore Temple is no more a living temple. It was constructed as a work of art. The Pallavas, who were known to be great patrons of art wanted to create a temple in their own style of architecture. At present, Shore Temple is made the background of the Mahabalipuram Dance Festival which is held in January/February every year. The festival marked as well as promoted the traditional dance as well as tourism in Mahabalipuram. The temple looks beautiful due to the lights during weekend evenings.

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