Mamallapuram, also known as Mahabalipuram, is a town in Chengalpattu district in the southeastern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, best known for the UNESCO World Heritage Site of 7th- and 8th-century Hindu Group of Monuments at Mamallapuram.
Mamallapuram was one of two major port cities by the 7th century within the Pallava kingdom. The town was named after Pallava king Narasimhavarman I, who was also known as Mahamalla. Along with economic prosperity, it became the site of a group of royal monuments, many carved out of the living rock. These are dated to the 7th and 8th centuries: rathas (temples in the form of chariots), mandapas (cave sanctuaries), the giant open-air rock relief the Descent of the Ganges, and the Shore Temple dedicated to Shiva, Durga, Vishnu, Krishna and others. The contemporary town plan was established by the British Raj in 1827.
Mamallapuram is also known by other names such as Mamallapattana and Mahabalipuram. Another name by which Mamallapuram has been known to mariners, at least since Marco Polo’s time is “Seven Pagodas” alluding to the Seven Pagodas of Mamallapuram that stood on the shore, of which one, the Shore Temple, survives.
Neolithic burial urn, cairn circles and jars with burials dating to the 1st century BCE have been discovered near Mamallapuram. The Sangam age poem Perumpāṇāṟṟuppaṭai relates the rule of King Thondaiman Ilam Thiraiyar at Kanchipuram of the Tondai Nadu port Nirppeyyaru which scholars identify with the present-day Mamallapuram. Chinese coins and Roman coins of Theodosius I in the 4th century CE have been found at Mamallapuram revealing the port as an active hub of global trade in the late classical period. Two Pallava coins bearing legends read as Srihari and Srinidhi have been found at Mamallapuram. The Pallava kings ruled Mamallapuram from Kanchipuram; the capital of the Pallava dynasty from the 3rd century to 9th century CE, and used the port to launch trade and diplomatic missions to Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia.
The temples of Mamallapuram, portraying events described in the Mahabharata, were built largely during the reigns of King Narasimhavarman and his successor Rajasimhavarman and show the movement from rock-cut architecture to structural building. The city of Mamallapuram was founded by the Pallava king Narasimhavarman I in the 7th century AD.
Main article: Group of Monuments at Mamallapuram
The town has a collection of 7th and 8th century Hindu religious monuments that has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal, about 60 kilometres (37 mi) south of Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India.
The site has 40 ancient monuments and Hindu temples, including Descent of the Ganges or Arjuna’s Penance – one of the largest open-air rock relief in the world. The site includes several categories of monuments: ratha temples with an architecture of monolith processional chariots built between 630 and 668 CE; the mandapa viharas with halls and stone roofs with narratives from the Mahabharata, Shaktism and Vaishnavism; rock reliefs particularly bas-reliefs of Shaivism, Shaktism and Vaishnavism; stone cut temples particularly those dedicated to Shiva that also reverentially display Vishnu and others, built between 695 and 722 CE; and, archaeological excavations with inscriptions some dated to 6th century and earlier. The cave temples and monolithic temples were built during the Pallava Period. The site is managed by the Archaeological Survey of India.
Descent of the Ganges or Arjuna’s Penance – a giant open-air rock relief
Pancha Rathas (Five Chariots) – five monolithic pyramidal structures named after the Pandavas (Arjuna, Bhima, Yudhishtra, Nakula and Sahadeva) and Draupadi. Each of these is carved from one single separate large piece of stone.
Cave Temples – over ten rock-cut temples dating back to the 7th century. These include the Varaha, Adi Varaha, Krishna, Mahishasuramardini (Durga), Ramanuja, Dharmaraja, Koneri, Kotikal, Panchapandava and others
The Shore Temple – a structural temple along the Bay of Bengal with the entrance from the western side away from the sea. Recent excavations have revealed new structures here.
Other structural temples including the Olakkanesvara temple and the lighthouse, along with rock-cut features such as the Draupadi’s tank and Krishna’s butterball
Thirukadalmallai, the temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
Narendra Modi–Xi Jinping Summit
On 12 October 2019, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping had an informal meet at Mamallapuram. Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping visited places like Arjuna’s Penance, Pancha Rathas and Shore Temple and later explained about the sculptures and paintings to the Chinese president. Later both gave a pose in front of Krishna’s Butterball.
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