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Cultural & Architectural Marvels: Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram!

The Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram is one of the most architecturally rich clusters of monuments and is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Let's uncover its five important pillars.

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Hitanshu Bhatt
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group of monuments at mahabalipuram

Mahabalipuram, also known as Mamallapuram, is a town in Tamil Nadu that gained prominence between the 4th and 9th centuries during the Pallava dynasty. The Pallavas were instrumental in establishing the cultural and monumental significance of southern India. The five groups of monuments at Mahabalipuram showcase their remarkable work and are the focus of this article.

The 5 Monuments of Cultural Representation

The five monuments at this UNESCO site exemplify the artistic work of the 6th century. The architectural craftsmanship of that era has given us timeless classics in the form of carvings, structures, and monoliths. These monuments are divided into five main categories:

1. The Art of Rocks - Mandapas

Monuments at Mahabalipuram

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The ancient Indians were known for sculpting beautiful crafts and rock-cut caves were one of the most splendid creations. Rock-cut caves are made by carving solid natural rock and are a type of rock art. These temples at Mandapas of Mahabalipuram were carved during the time of Narasimhavarman-I, famously called Mamalla, the emperor of the Pallava dynasty. Some famous mandapas are Koneri, Mahishamardhini, Bhuvaraha, Gajalakshmi, Tirivikrama, and Durga.

2. The Monolithic Temples - Rathas

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The Pancha Rathas or the Rathas or Ainthinai Kovil (in the local language) of Mahabalipuram are another notable attraction. The five chariot temples were built during the 7th and 8th centuries and are classic examples of monolithic structures in India. There are 5 chariots, each carved over a single long stone (monolith) of granite. Every chariot represents the 5 Pandavas and their common wife Draupadi from Mahabharata: Dharmaraja Ratha, Bhima Ratha, Arjuna Ratha, Nakula Sahadeva Ratha, and Draupadi Ratha.

3. The Great Rock Reliefs

Monuments at Mahabalipuram

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Over one hundred depictions of humans, deities, spirits, and animals form the great rock relief of Mahabalipuram. These structures were carved from massive granite boulders naturally scattered throughout the region and are one of the largest relief structures in the world. Arjuna’s Penance and Govardhanadhari are the two famous reliefs here.

4. The Temples

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The temples here are worth witnessing, as some are architectural marvels and others are situated against majestic backdrops. The Shore Temple, the only standing temple out of the six submerged shrines, is located near the sea. The Olakkanesvara Temple, perched on a rock near the lighthouse, the Sthalasayana Perumal Temple, one of the 108 Vishnu temples mentioned in the works of Tamil saints, and the Mukundanayananar Temple are some of the noteworthy shrines.

5. The Excavated Remains

Monuments at Mahabalipuram

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Many structures were buried in earlier times and have come to the surface due to the sustained removal of soil, especially near the Shore Temple. Some of the discoveries include a miniature shrine, an image of Bhuvaraha and Lord Vishnu, and a well from the time of King Varasimhavarman.

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