Mahabalipuram, also known as Mamallapuram, situated 60 km south from the city of Chennai in Tamil Nadu. The beauty of the place is not only due to these architecture but the vast casuarinas trees, the silvery sandy beach the classical hand male crafts around have made them all to form what is a collective splendor.
By the 7th century it was a port city of South Indian dynasty of the Pallavas. It has a group of sanctuaries, which was carved out of rock along the Coromandel coast in the 7th and 8th centuries : rathas (temples in the form of chariots), mandapas (cave sanctuaries), giant open-air rock reliefs such as the famous Descent of the Ganges, and the Shore Temple, with thousands of sculptures to the glory of Shiva. The Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The monuments are mostly rock-cut and monolithic, and constitute the early stages of Dravidian architecture where in Buddhist elements of design are prominently visible. They are constituted by cave temples, monolithic rathas (chariots), sculpted reliefs and structural temples. The pillars are of the Dravidian order. The sculptures are excellent examples of Pallava art. They are located in the side of the cliffs near India's Bay of Bengal.
The Sthalasayana Perumal Temple, located at Mahabalipuram, stands as the first and foremost of Mahabalipuram sculptures, one of the 108 Divya desam. The temple stands on the shore, built in the same period as the sculptures at the site. A cat standing on one leg represents one of the notable, and perhaps ironic, figures in the bas-relief.
Varaha Cave Temple, an example of Indian rock-cut architecture dating from the late seventh century, refers to a small rock-cut cave temple with a mandapam dating from the seventh century. Inside the side walls have large sculptured panels depicting Vishnu as Varaha, the boar, holding up Bhudevi, the earth goddess, good examples of naturalistic Pallava art. The Pallava doorkeepers constitute four pillars that have lion carved into the bases. Inside, on rear wall, the shrine sits with guardian figures on either side.
The Shore Temple is a structural temple built with blocks of granite, dating from the eighth century C.E. and is a five-storied rock cut structural Hindu temple rather than monolithical in the style of other monuments at the site. The earliest important structural temple in Southern India, the pyramidal structure stands 60 ft high and sits on a 50 ft square platform.
Pancha Rathas (Five Chariots) are five monolithic pyramidal structures named after the Pandavas and Draupadi. Interestingly the rathas, despite their sizes, remain unassembled—each had been carved from one single large piece of stone.
A large stone lion, which the changing shoreline left sitting uncovered on Mahabalipuram’s beach, may be the most famous archaeological finding after the tsunami. Archaeologists have dated it to the seventh century C.E. The Goddess Durga seats on her lion vahana. A small shrine may have been in the cavity in the lion's chest.