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World Heritage Series – Mahabalipuram

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Item Code: NAC012
Author: C. Sivaramamurti
Edition: 2006
ISBN: 8187780215
Pages: 96 (Illustrated Throughout In Color)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 9.4 Inch X 4.8 Inch
Weight 180 gm
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Book Description
From the Jacket

This guidebook on Mahabalipuram is part of the World Heritage Series beings published by the Archaeological Survey of India.

Mahabalipuram is situated on the Coromandel Coast, 58 kms to the south of Chennai. It was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984 for its stunning range of monuments, dating from the sixth to the tenth century AD, that include stone rathas (temples in the form of chariots), mandapas (cave sanctuaries), the famous Shore temple and giant bas reliefs carved on granite rocks.

Mahabalipuram finds mention in texts dating from the beginning of the Christian era, including the Perip Los of the Erythraean Sea, as an important seaport. From the sixth to the tenth century AD, successive rulers of the Pallava dynasty built some of the finest examples of rock-cut architecture and monolithic temples at this site.

The majority of the monuments at Mahabalipuram were constructed under the great Pallava ruler, Narasithhavarman I (circa AD 630-70), who was also called Mamalla, and even today Mahabalipuram is popularly known as Mamallapuram.

All the monuments, such as the Shore temple, standing on the edge of the sea for a thousand years; the immense bas-relief of Arjuna’s penance carved with human figures, animals and deities; the mandapas and the eight monolithic temples styled as rathas, are proud testimony to the architectural brilliance of Pallava craftsmen.


This guidebook is on the group of monuments at Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram) a prominent seaport during the time of Periplus (1st century AD) and Ptolemy (AD 140) that finds mention in Hiuen Tsang’s account. This heritage site, located 58 km to the south of Chennai, has evidence of architectural activity dating back to the period of Mahendravarman I (AD 600-30). But the most noteworthy of the monuments are the rock-cut rathas or chariots, mandapas, sculptured scenes on open rocks like Arjuna’s penance, caves of Govardhanadhari and Mahishamardini and the Shore temple complex of the time of Narasimhavarman I Mamalla. The monolithic rathas ranging from single to triple-storeyed ones are remarkable examples and display a variety in architectural forms. The monolithic rat has, structural temples and rock-cut caves at Mahabalipuram, attributed to the Pallavas, especially occupy a distinct position in classical Indian architecture.

In fact1 monolithic carving both cut-in and cut-out, continued even during the later periods (Atiranachanda - cave, Pidariratha and Tiger-cave). Structural architecture was, however, introduced on a grand scale by the Pallava Rajasimha (AD 700-28).

The grandiose Vijayanagara phase is represented here by the Raya-gopuram and Talasayana-Perumal temple, juxtaposed to the carved boulder of Arjuna’s penance.

General Information

The monolithic and cave temples at Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram) — 12°37’02” N; 80°11’39’ E — occupy an important place among classical Indian monuments. The monuments stand on the sandy sea shore, testimony of the ancient artists’ inherent talents. Picturesquely situated and rich in artistic wealth, they offer scope for the study of ancient architecture and sculpture of the Tamil country.

Excellent roads connect Mahabalipuram with Chennai, 58 km away. The scenic East Coast Road (a toll road) connects Chennai and Pondicherry via Mahabalipuram. There is an alternate old Mahabalipuram Road, which is toll-free. The Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation operates frequent direct buses to Mamallapuram. There are also buses to Pondicherry (via the East Coast Road) that stop at Mahabalipuram.

One can avail these bus services from Chennai Moffusil Bus Terminus at Koyambedu. Taxis are also available from Chennai. Tamil Nadu Tourist Corporation and many private tour operators conduct one-day tours to Mahabalipuram, which also cover other places of tourist interest on the way. The nearest airport is at Chennai. The nearest railhead is at Chengalpattu, 29 km away.

Mahabalipuram has kept alive the ancient art of stone-masons and sculptors. The visitors can witness the actual technique of stone-carving, be it with the traditional hammer and chisel or with modern powered tools.

For four weeks from early January, the annual Mamallapuram Dance Festival is held against the magnificent backdrop of Arjuna’s penance. This unique festival draws major artistes from all over the country.

The monuments remain open to visitors between 6.30 am to 6 pm.. Entry fee is Rs 10 for Indians and US $5 or Rs 250 for foreigners. Children below 15 years of age are allowed entry free of charge. Photography using still cameras without tripod, with synchronised flash is permitted. Videography using hand-held video cameras is permitted upon paying a fee of Rs 25, after filling a form. Other forms of photography/ videography require permission from:

Superintending Archaeologist Archaeological Survey of India Chennai Circle, Fort St. George Chennai-600009.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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