Exactly, a week ago, I was having my dinner at Sarvana Bhavan in Chennai. I was supposed to deliver a talk at Kubernetes Community Days Chennai the next morning. While I had a fair share of butterflies, I was eagerly looking forward to the extra day that I had to explore Chennai the little
I could. In the previous post, I shared my experience of dining at Kasi Vinagaya Mess. While it was on this same day I went to Shore Temple in Mahabalipuram. But since writing about Shore Temple required some research, the other post came in first.
In this post, I’ll share my experience of visiting the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Shore Temple in Mahabalipuram. I guess I mentioned it in some earlier posts as well, but I have fallen in love with ancient temples and bespoke architecture. And hence I wanted to visit Shore Temple the moment I knew I was visiting Chennai.
Note from History Books
Mahabalipuram or Mammallapuram was a bustling port city back in the day during the reign of the Pallavas. I studied about these dynasties in school as well, however, wasn’t quite interested in it back then. Now, I’m visiting places, learning/reading about them, and understanding the chronology of the kingdoms of the south.
I recently visited Halebidu which was the seat of the Hoysalas in the 12the century, Hampi which was the throne of the Vijayanagar Kingdom in the 15th century, Bijapur where the Adil Shahi Dynasty ruled in the 16th century, and so on.
This region of Mahabalipuram was ruled by the Pallavas dynasty which is way older than the Hoysalas and that’s why I was excited. As per the history books, Pallavas ruled the region during the 200-800 century which is almost 500 years before Hoysalas.
The ancient capital of Pallavas was Kanchipuram and they ruled quite a bit of the southern region. They extended their reign from modern-day Guntur in Andhra Pradesh to Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu.
Even when I was reading about them (and writing this) I’m just amazed by the rich ancient past of India. I think all of us must visit these historic places and see how we’ve evolved as a country over the centuries. I’m so glad that I got a chance to visit these places and highly recommend you visit them as well.
Reaching Shore Temple Mahabalipuram
The town of Mahabalipuram is located about 60 km from Chennai en route to Pondicherry. The easiest way to reach here is to take a bus from Chennai to Pondicherry. Most buses on the route stop at the junction. From there you can take an auto which can take you to the Shore Temple.
The travel time in a bus would be anywhere between 2 to 3 hours depending on the stops. Once there, you can hire an auto and they can take you to all the important places in Mahabalipuram. I’ve been told that most of these autos charge 800-1500Rs for the entire tour.
We drove here in my friend’s car, so it was a short road trip from Chennai to Mahabalipuram. We left Chennai at 5:30 in the morning and were here by 7 AM. The roads are in fabulous condition. You’ll encounter some traffic as you’re leaving the city, but once you’re out, the roads are pretty good. It’s a tolled road, so the condition is good. There’s a good amount of greenery around and you’re driving down south with the beach on your side. A scenic drive for sure.
I was like a kid at a candy shop when we reached the Shore Temple complex. There’s decent parking space, however, since we were early we got a place. I’m sure it would be jam-packed during the day. The entry price for the Shore temple is Rs 50 per head, however, we paid online and got a discount. I always visit these monuments and pay using the QR there.
Once you have the tickets, you can enter the complex. I eagerly wanted a guide to assist the visit, however because of the time we visited, we couldn’t get any. After my experience with the guide at Chennakesava temple, I strongly recommend taking guides for learning more about the places you visit.
The moment you enter the complex, you immediately notice cleanliness, green lawns, and a small temple in the middle with the mighty Bay of Bengal in the background. This 700-century temple has stood the test of time and is a fine example of what humans can achieve.
The Shore Temple is one of the seven pagodas that Marco Polo and other seafarers have described. All the sailors coming to India from this route have mentioned the Seven Pagodas in their experiences and the Shore Temple is one of the seven pagodas. The other 6 are believed to be submerged in the Bay of Bengal as per officials.
The Shore Temple is one of the first examples of a temple that was built with rocks placed on one other. Until this time, most temples that were built were rock-cut as the ‘technology’ to lift and place rocks on top of each other wasn’t available. The Shore temple is one of the early examples of such technology.
The temple is dedicated to lord Shiva, and is surrounded by many other temples in the region (not complex) There are a lot of stone Nandis around the temple. The temple isn’t ornate as the Chennakesava Temple of Virupaksha temple, and quite understandably since this is much older than the two. However, there are lion-inspired pillars and figurines around the temple. I’m assuming this is because of the presence of a lion on the emblem of Pallavas. Further due to the sheer age of the temple, the stone is affected by the sea winds and a lot of details have been lost over time.
The inner sanctum of the temple is closed to the public and one can only go around it. There is a gate that overlooks the temple which resembles the famous Pura Lempuyang temple in Bali. There’s a water tank next to the temple which has some more idols and figurines that were recovered from the site. Apart from this, there isn’t much to see at the Shore Temple. I regret not being able to get a guide, however, the audio app was pretty good and gave good details. But again a guide would have been much better.
Nonetheless, another UNESCO World Heritage Site ticked off my list. This is one of the oldest designated UNESCO Sites and is surely worth your time especially if you love history and architecture.
Must Visit When In Chennai
I’m so glad that I had this on my list and was able to visit during my short stay in Chennai. Thanks to my friends who agreed to drive me early in the morning and drop me to the airport in time to catch my flight back to Hyderabad. The Shore Temple is the oldest temple I’ve been to and was awe-struck just admiring the creation that has withstood the test of time for close to 1500 years. It’s a good lesson not only in History but also architecture as well and hence worth our time.
As I sum up this blog post, I’ll be reading more about Pallavas, their predecessors Satvahanas and their successors Cholas, Kadambas, and so on. That’s about it for this post on the Shore temple in Mahabalipuram. If you’ve not been there, then plan a trip, you’ll not regret. Let me know your thoughts about this post in the comments below, tweet to me at @Atulmaharaj, DM on Instagram, or Get In Touch.