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. It is a testimonial to the heritage of India. It is located in Mahabalipuram and is one of the most photographed monuments in India located on the shores of Bay of Bengal. The work of the temple has been listed amongst the World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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