Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram

Mamallapuram, the city of mamalla, a place now in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, was initially a sea-port during the time of Periplus (1st century AD) and Ptolemy (AD 140) used frequently by the Indian colonists to the South-East Asia. The city is named after the title of the great Pallava ruler Narasimhavarman whose reign is marked with sculptors and structures, like rock-cut rathas, Govardhanadhari, Mahishasuramardini, and the Jala-Sayana Perumal temple.

Among the nine monolithic temples found in Mahabalipuram the five rathas (temple in the form of chariots), carved out of single stone and known after the five Pandava brothers, are the most important. The Draupadi ratha is a simple hut like kutagara shrine while the Arjuna ratha is a dvitala vimana with a mukhamandapa. The Bhima ratha is rectangular on plan with a salakara wagon-vaulted roof. The Dharmaraja ratha is a tritala vimana having functional shrines at all the talas. The Nakula-Sahadeva ratha with an apsidal plan and elevation indicate the experimental tendency of the architect.

The introduction of structural architecture in the eighth century by Pallava Rajasimha (AD 700-28) culminated in the renowned Shore Temple, which is a complex of three temples, viz, Rajasimhesvara (a small tritala vimana facing west), the Kshatriyasimhesvara (the larger east-facing vimana) and Nripatisimha Pallava Vishnugriha (an east-facing, oblong, flat-roofed mandapa shrine) housing the reclining Vishnu.

The caves here were once plastered and painted. Notable cave temples built in the mamalla style are the Varaha mandapa, Mahisamardini mandapa, Paramesvara Mahavaraha Vishnugriha (Adivaraha cave). After a temporary halt the architectural activities regained momentum during the Vijayanagara phase, represented by the Raja Gopurams and the Sthala-Sayana temple.

Recent excavations exposed rock-cut figures, representing religious themes of period prior to the construction of the temple and some monolithic Bhuvaraha, a reclining image of Vishnu, the base of Durga shrine with deer and a square socket possibly to accommodate mahastambha.