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Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram) is a very popular town in the state of Tamil Nadu, India. The ideal location of the town, on the Coromandel Coast, adjacent to the Bay of Bengal, has also made the town highly popular among tourists. During the 7th and 10th centuries of the Pallava dynasty, the town was established as a seaport and thus, has prospered accordingly.
The Shore Temple is built in 700–728 AD and named because it overlooks the shore of the Bay of Bengal. It is a structural Shiva Temple In India, built with blocks of granite, dating from the 8th century AD. At the time of its creation, the site was a busy port during the reign of Narasimhavarman II of the Pallava dynasty. As one of the Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram, it has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984. It is one of the oldest structural (versus rock-cut) stone temples of South India.
Marco Polo and the European merchants that came to Asia after him called the site Seven Pagodas. One of these is believed to be the Shore Temple. The Shiva temple In India probably acted as a landmark for navigation of their ships. As it appears like a Pagoda, the name became familiar to the seafarers.
This structural temple complex was the culmination of the architectural creations that were initiated by the King Narasimhavarman II in mid 7th century starting with the Cave temples and the monolithic Rathas. Even though the architectural creation of sculpturing cut-in and cut-out structures continued during subsequent periods, as seen in the Atiranachanda cave, the Pidari rathas and the Tiger cave, the main credit for the architectural elegance of the Shore Temple complex in the category of structural temples goes to the King Rajasimha (700–28 AD), also known as Narasimhavarman II, of the Pallava Dynasty.
It is now inferred that this temple complex was the last in a series of temples that seemed to exist in the submerged coastline; this is supported by the appearance of an outline of its sister temples off the coast during the Tsunami of 2004 which struck this coastline. The architecture of the Shore Temple was continued by the Cholas (in the temples that they built) who ruled Tamil Nadu after defeating the Pallavas.
Apart from being known for its sculptural treasures, the city of Mahabalipuram is also popular for the festival of Pongal. The festival is celebrated in mid-January every year. Yet another popular festival that is organised around the same time is the Dance Festival. Far-famed artists put up fabulous performances of Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathakali and Odissi dance forms. With the beautiful backdrop of the Shore Temple, the celebrations fill every heart with intense delight.
By Air: Chennai (76 km) is the closest airport from Mammallapuram.
By Rail: Chengalpattu, 29 km from Mahabalipuram, is the nearest railway station from here. There are regular trains from here connecting to Chennai and other places of the country.
By Road: Mahabalipuram or Mammallapuram has a fabulous road-network, connecting to places like Chennai, Tirukkalikundram or Pakshithirtham, Kanchipuram and Pondicherry.
The Shore Temple that survived Tsunami
The most famous shore temple of Mahabalipuram was the worst hit during the 2004 tsunami. However, the strong structure survived the catastrophe with the least damage to its structure and beauty. The mighty tsunami waves heaped the sea sand on the temple. Later when the sand was uncovered a few more sculptures that were hidden in the sand before the tsunami were discovered.