Look Inside

Saluvankuppam Exacavations (2005-07)

FREE Delivery
Express Shipping
(30% off)
Express Shipping: Guaranteed Dispatch in 24 hours
Delivery Ships in 1-3 days
Item Code: NAW957
Author: Sathyabhama Badhreenath
Language: English
Edition: 2015
Pages: 168 (Throughout Color Illustrations)
Other Details 11.00 X 9.00 inch
Weight 1.03 kg
Fully insured
Fully insured
Shipped to 153 countries
Shipped to 153 countries
More than 1M+ customers worldwide
More than 1M+ customers worldwide
100% Made in India
100% Made in India
23 years in business
23 years in business
Book Description

Temples form an important component in the tangible heritage of India and have been studied for their architecture, sculpture and also for their religious, social and economic impact. The material of construction and the skills of engineering are other fields of study.

Temples in perishable materials like brick, timber and mortar existed is clear from the inscription of Mahendravarman I of the Pallava dynasty in the Mandagapattu cave temple in Villupuram district, Tamil Nadu and also from the Sangam classics.

To a large extent, the Pallavas of Kanchipuram were the forerunners in the experimentation and development of temple architecture in Tamil Nadu and most of their pioneering efforts are to be seen in present Kanchipuram district. While it was known through inscriptions that some of the brick temples were converted into stone, no temple constructed of brick had been reported.

The tsunami of 2004,which struck the coast of south India uncovered an inscription and indirectly, a temple constructed of brick. This temple of brick at Saluvankuppam near Mamallapuram has been diligently exposed despite being buried in sandy soil. The type of construction, the spatial growth of the temple, the inscriptions, the terracotta and pottery found at this site have been systematically studied.

The excavation of a temple constructed of brick and the process of its conversion to stone now provide an insight into a new area of investigation. The fact that this is the earliest reported temple dedicated exclusively to Subrahmanya is another aspect of importance.

I, congratulate Smt. Sathyabhama Badhreenath and her team for bringing out this report and placing the facts of the excavation for the scholars to research upon in future.


The receding waves of the tsunami of 2004 brought to light new lines of an inscription of Rashtrakuta King Krishna III (939 - 967 CE) on a rock boulder adjacent to the earlier copied inscription of Kulottunga III (1178 - 1218 CE). Both inscriptions incidentally mention about a Subrahmanya temple. There was no temple anywhere close to the vicinity of this site and an enquiry led to a closer look at the site which fortunately resulted in exposing through systematic excavations one of the earliest temples dedicated to Subrahmanya assigned to the Early Pallava period.

The discovery was significant since, it contributed to information which was hitherto unknown.The evolution of a small brick temple to a full complex probably due to the patronage that it received was revealed here. The complete layout of the temple complex was exposed, which revealed three phases of structural activity ranging from Early Pallava to late Chola period. It was for the first time that the inscription of the Rashtrakuta King Krishna III was found in the Mamallapuram area. It was perhaps for the first time that the spear (vel), the attribute (ayudha) of Subrahmanya, a popular deity in this part of the region even to this date, has been found in stone.

The story of this episode of excavation will not be complete without mentioning the rich haul of stone inscriptions and antiquities including Roman coins and terracotta plaque with dancing girls that was unearthed from the site. A multi-disciplinary approach through a geological study to understand the sea surge activities in this area was attempted and has been incorporated in this report.

Finally, I only wish to add that a holistic study of the site through this excavation has added a new dimension to the history of the famous world heritage site of Mamallapuram.


The shoreline off the coast of Mamallapuram has a large number of stone outcrops, which were judiciously utilized by Pallava craftsmen for their awe-inspiring creations. These works of art have been extensively described in European accounts like those of B.G. Babington, J.F.Fleet, John Goldingham, Charles Gubbins, Alexander Rea, J.Ph. Vogel etc. However, the main problem European travellers encountered was the drifting sand dunes that were continuously burying these places. The Archaeological Survey of India over the last century has been involved in the task of exposing the monuments by removing the drifting sand. Even two decades back during clearing operations in the Shore temple complex, an apsidal temple, a bathing ghat like structure and some brick structures were unearthed. This type of scientific clearance is an ongoing process, which is being continuously adopted by the Survey.

Incidentally the tsunami of 2004 exposed some structures and sculptured rocky outcrops alongside the coast to the north and south of the Shore temple.

The fluorescence of Pallava architecture can be best studied at Mamallapuram, which is studded with rock cut caves, bas reliefs, monoliths and structural temples. What was missing was the brick structural temple. This was corrected with the discovery and excavations of a brick temple complex at Saluvankuppam which must have once formed the periphery of the port town of Mamallapuram (pl. 1 A).

A sporadic archaeological investigation for evaluating the damage caused during the flury of the tsunami that hit the coast of Tamil Nadu on December 26, 2004 resulted in the discovery of new evidence by way of a three-line inscription engraved on the eastern face of a boulder at Saluvankuppam, five kms north of Mamallapuram(Fig.1).

The receding tsunami waves had eroded about 60 cm of sand around the boulder to the north of Tiger's cave, on which is engraved a Chola inscription of Kulottunga III ( 1178-1218 CE) recording a donation made towards a Subrahmanya temple. Incidentally, the newly exposed inscription of Rashtrakuta Krishna III (939-967 CE) engraved on the eastern side of the same boulder, too speaks of a Subrahmanya temple (Pl. I B).

What puzzled the archaeologist was the non - existence of such a temple in the vicinity. A survey in the region near the boulder (Pl. II A) bore fruit, resulting in the discovery of a Chola coin. Brick bats were also seen strewn around. On a closer examination, the area seemed to be on a higher level than the surroundings giving the appearence of a mound (Pl. II B). A trial trench was laid on this mound (just north of the boulder) which was otherwise thought to have been a sterile sand dune (Pl. III A). The discovery of two more inscriptions also referring to a Subrahmanya temple led to a systematic excavation. The excavations at the north of the boulder taken up in 2005 exposed a brick temple underlying a stone one (Pl. III B). A cloister mandapa enclosed the temple.

The excavations were continued in 2006 and an extension to the cloister mandapa on the east and west and a mukhamandapa was noticed. The excavations in 2007 led to the unraveling of a mukhamandapa of a later phase. Since no inscriptions pertaining to this temple are available after Kulottunga III and as later inscriptions of the Pandyas, Telugu Cholas and Vijayanagara kings are noticed at Mamallapuram, Tiruvidandai, Tirukkalukkunram and Vayalur, all close to Saluvankuppam,it could be presumed that the temple might not have been in existence even during the times of the Pandyas. Moreover as the British travelogues also do not make mention of any such temple remains, but describe other structures, like the ones at Mamallapuram and also state that the Atiranachanda cave is more than half buried, it is presumed that the temple might have already been in ruins and probably well buried.

The excavation brought to light structural activities of three phases, beginning with the early medieval to the late medieval period. The signifcance of this discovery lies in its being the earliest record of a temple dedicated to Subrahmanya in Tamilnadu. The legendary achievements of Muruga (identified with Subrahmanya) are often alluded to in the classics of Tamil literature. The worship of this deity is very popular in this part of South India and its antiquity can be traced to 2nd century CE, for there are references to this in the Sangam texts like Purananuru, Paripadal, Ahananuru, Pathirrupattu, Perumpanarrupadai, Silappadikaram and Tirumurugarrupadai.

The site of Saluvankuppam referred to as Tiruvilichil in the inscriptions is located in the Tondaimandalam region. King Mahandravarman I (c 600 - 630 CE) of the Pallava dynasty gave a new impetus to religious architecture in the Tamil country by excavating a number of imperishable rock cut temples. From his inscription at the cave temple of Mandagapattu it is inferred that brick, timber, stucco and metal were in use for the construction of edifces. Alongside the use of stone for the building of temples, brick also was used in some of the Pallava temples like the Siva temple at Kuram, the Sundaravarada Perumal and Kailasanatha temples at Uttiramerur to name a few (Fig. 2).

The temple at Saluvankuppam was initially built of brick and had witnessed a change in the medium of construction from brick to stone at a later point of time. Hence, it becomes even more signifcant, as the early phase of this structure in brick is the earliest known temple and could be the earliest ediice in Mamallapuram (as Saluvankuppam is in all probability a peripheral area) before the advent of structures in stone medium.

Further, it is to be recorded here that the conclusion reached from this study is purely based on the evidence available through the excavations. The plan of the temple as envisaged through the study during each phase was quite diffcult to arrive at, due to disturbances and changes that it had encountered at every stage. Finally, it is difficult to say, if in the final point in time the temple as envisaged in stone was ever completed as stone, architectural members, particularly the members above the wall portion,were lying scattered.

The other major problem that was encountered during the excavations was the surrounding loose, sandy soil and hence, recognizing and maintaining stratigraphy was a formidable task. However, all efforts were made to document the finds systematically.

The excavation of this temple site proved to be of immense signifcance in the study of Pallava architectural development because, it is here for the first time that a temple constructed entirely of brick and subsequently converted into stone was exposed.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

Frequently Asked Questions
  • Q. What locations do you deliver to ?
    A. Exotic India delivers orders to all countries having diplomatic relations with India.
  • Q. Do you offer free shipping ?
    A. Exotic India offers free shipping on all orders of value of $30 USD or more.
  • Q. Can I return the book?
    A. All returns must be postmarked within seven (7) days of the delivery date. All returned items must be in new and unused condition, with all original tags and labels attached. To know more please view our return policy
  • Q. Do you offer express shipping ?
    A. Yes, we do have a chargeable express shipping facility available. You can select express shipping while checking out on the website.
  • Q. I accidentally entered wrong delivery address, can I change the address ?
    A. Delivery addresses can only be changed only incase the order has not been shipped yet. Incase of an address change, you can reach us at help@exoticindia.com
  • Q. How do I track my order ?
    A. You can track your orders simply entering your order number through here or through your past orders if you are signed in on the website.
  • Q. How can I cancel an order ?
    A. An order can only be cancelled if it has not been shipped. To cancel an order, kindly reach out to us through help@exoticindia.com.
Add a review
Have A Question

For privacy concerns, please view our Privacy Policy