Shore Temple is one of the most famous stone-cut temples, and shrine complex in the world, recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since1984. It is situated on the shore of the Bay of Bengal, in the city of Mahabalipuram, about 60 Km away from Chennai in Tamil Nadu, which gave its name. This temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva.
Shore temple is situated in the city of Mahabalipuram, also known as Mamallapuram, on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal, which is 60 km away from Chennai in the state of Tamil Nadu. Mahabalipuram did not have its own airport, so the nearest airport there is Meenambakkam Airport, Chennai, which is around 55 km from there.
The Direct Railway service is also not available in Mahabalipuram; the nearest Railway Station from Mahabalipuram is Chengalpattu Junction, which is 29 km far. Whether anyone comes by train or aeroplane, one will have to take a taxi or rent a private vehicle to reach Shore Temple.
According to Puranas, it is said that the Shore Temple is situated at the place where Lord Vishnu killed King Hiranya Kashyap, who was the father of Prahalad, who was the devotee of Lord Vishnu. Later the son of Prahalad named Baali set up this city called Mahabalipuram. There are also some other theories about the name of Mahabalipuram. One such story says, in this area, there were a lot of sacrifices (Bali) were done during the time of Durga Puja, so it was called Mahabalipuram.
One more story is that in this area, wrestling was very popular, also called Malyudha, and people of this region were also very strong and fond of wrestling, due to which it was named Mamallapuram or Mahabalipuram. The wrestling court in the shore temple complex is the evidence of popularism of wrestling, which relates to this theory.
Thetemple was built between 700-728 AD by the King of the Pallava dynasty, Rajasimha, also called Narasimhavarman II. The structure of the temple's complex is the culmination of his architectural creation, which the rulers of the Chola dynasty further continued after taking the kingdom from Pallavas.
It is one of the seven temples that was built by Pallavas; out of that, 6 are submerged in the sea, and this one is considered to be the last one among them. The Tsunami of 2004 exposed the old collapsed temple that was built of granite block. It also exposed a few rock structures of elephants, lions and peacocks. This also confirms the information that was available in the diaries of Europeans who described this site as the site of Seven Pagodas, and it probably acted as a landmark for seafarers. This city was the main port city during Pallavas for trade with Chinese traders.
The name of the whole Shore temple complex is Jalashayana. There are three temples built side by side, namely- Kshatriyasimha Pallavesvara Gruham, Rajasimha Pallaveshvara Gruham, and Pallikondaruliya devar.
The shore temple is made by cutting granite rocks, considered to be the replica of Dharmaraj Ratha. Among three temples, the middle one is the Lord Vishnu temple, and the other two on both sides are the temples of Lord Shiva.
The main temple is of Lord Shiva, built in the east direction so that the sun rays fall on the Shivalinga directly at dawn. The path of entering the temple is like this; first, you enter the gateway of Lord shiva Temple, through that, you get into the temple of Lord Vishnu, its the middle one, after that the main shrine appears of Lord Shiva. Rock-cut sculptures of Nandi surround the whole complex of Shore temple. There is a water tank area in the middle of water harvesting, and there is also a wrestling court in the complex.
Carvings and Artworks
The shore temple shows the great age-old expertise in stone carving by the Indians. The walls of the temple are inscribed with various incidents of ancient Hindu Purana by cutting stones. Like a carving depicting the scene of Maa Durga killing demon Mahisasur, a carved picture of Lord Vishnu in Yogic Sleep posture, another was Vishnu measuring heaven, and another incarnation of Vishnu, Lord Varaha (one of the forms of Lord Vishnu) saving the earth from the sea, these all were made by granite stone.
The deity of the main temple is called the Dharalinga, present at the sanctum sanctorum of the main temple. On the wall of this Kshatriyasimhesvara temple, the Somaskanda panel is inscribed, which has Lord Shiva, Uma, and their son Skanda, all carved out of granite. The other temple of Lord Shiva is double-storeyed and has a Kalash and a hip-knob on the top. Then Anantashayi Vishnu (in reclined position) is sculptured between the main temple and the Rajasimha Pallaveshvara temple.
Famous Dance Festival
The Department of Tourism, Government of Tamil Nadu, organises the Mamallapuram Dance Festival every year near these rock sculptures of Pallavas. In these dancers of different dance forms like Kuchipudi, Odissi, Bharatnatyam, Kathakali, and Mohini Attam perform. A large number of tourists come to witness this magnificent dance show. Thus, the Shore temple is a unique example of the expertise of our countrymen in the rock-cutting art form. No worship is done here, but people come here to witness our culture.
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