Shore Temple

The Shore TempleWorld famous for its shore temples, Mahabalipuram, was the second capital of the Pallava kings of Kanchipuram. 58 kilometres from Madras on the Bay of Bengal, this tiny sea side village of Mahabalipuram, is set in a boulder strewn landscape. Tourists are drawn to this place by its miles of unspoiled beach and rock-cut art. The sculpture of this place, is particularly interesting, because it shows scenes of day-to- day life, in contrast to the rest of the state of Tamil Nadu, where carvings generally depict gods and goddesses.

Mahabalipuram art is divided into four categories : open air bas reliefs, structured temples, man-made caves and rathas ('chariots' carved from single boulders, to resemble temples or chariots used in temple processions). The famous Arjuna's Penance and the Krishna Mandapa, adorn massive rocks near the centre of the village. The beautiful Shore Temple towers over the waves, behind a protective breakwater. Sixteen manmade caves in different stages of completion, are also seen scattered through the area.


Arjuna's Penance

Arjuna's Penance

Arjuna's Penance

Carved in relief on the face of a huge rock, Arjuna's Penance is the mythical story of the river Ganges, issuing from its source high in the Himalayas. The surface of the rock has detailed carvings, showing the most endearing and natural renditions of animals. It also shows deities, and other semidivine creatures and fables from the Panchtantra. Arjuna, one of the Pandava brothers and a consummate archer, is shown standing on one leg, doing penance to obtain a boon from Lord Shiva. It is said, that Arjuna had made a journey to a bank, on the river Ganges to do penance, in the hope that Shiva would part with his favourite weapon, the pashupatashatra, a magic staff or arrow.

Mandapams (low rise, rockcut halls)

In all, there are eight mandapams scattered over the main hill, two of which have been left unfinished.

Krishna Mandapam

This is one of the earliest rock-cut temples. It features carvings of a pastoral scene, showing Lord Krishna lifting up the Govardhana mountain, to protect his kinsmen from the wrath of Indra, the God of Rain.


These are architectural prototypes of all Dravidian temples, demonstrating the imposing gopurams and vimanas, multi-pillared halls and sculptured walls, which dominate the landscape of Tamil Nadu. The rathas are named after the Pandavas, the heroes of the Mahabharata epic. Although they are widely known as "Five Rathas", there are actually eight of them.

Shore Temples

The shore temples were built in 7th century, during the reign of Rajasimha, and represent the final phase of Pallava art. These beautiful and romantic temples, ravaged by wind and sea, are so significant that they were given World Heritage listing, a few years ago. The two spires of the temples, contain a shrine for Lord Vishnu, and for Lord Shiva.

The Mahabalipuram dance festival, is held every year from January 15 to February 15. During this period, dances from all over the country are staged, here, including Kathakali from Kerala, Kuchipudi from Andhra Pradesh, as well as tribal dances, puppet shows and classical and traditional music concerts.

When to Visit

The best time to visit this area is in winter, between the months of November and February.


By Road:There are buses available from Pondicherry, Kanchipuram, Chengalpattu and Madras to Mahabalipuram daily.

By Air/Train:Madras can be accessed by air or train from any corner of the country. International flights operate from various parts of the world to Madras.


There are many hotels available in the area to suit all ranges. These include

Temple Bay Ashok Beach Resort
Tel: +91-4113-2251/52/53/54,
Fax: 2257,

Tel: 2228/2283,
Fax: 2280),

Mamalla Beach Cottages, state run Tamil Nadu Beach Resort Complex and Golden Sun Beach Resort
Tel: 2245/2246, Fax: 4444.

Tamil Nadu