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Mahabalipuram, located 58 km from Chennai, was the second capital of the Pallava kings of Kanchipuram. The place is famous for innumerable tourist all year round from India and abroad for the fascinating Temples in Mahabalipuram. Beside the brilliance of the rock-cut temples, the sculptures on the walls of the temples are remarkable for their beauty, plasticity and depiction of scenes from day-to-day life of the people in general.

The Temples of Mahabalipuram can be categorized under four heads of Open-Air Bas Relief, Structured Temples, Man-made Caves and Rathas or Chariot styled from a Monolith Stone. The temples in Mahabalipuram are a fine example to study the gradual development from temples hewned out of rock to structural temples. The mandaps and rathas are carved out of undressed granite while the Shore Temple is made from dressed stone. The Temples in Mahabalipuram are to be seen to admire the beauty portrayed on the stone.

Temples in Mahabalipuram:

Shore Temple
The Shore Temple in Mahabalipuram was first built around the mid-7th century AD and was later re-erected by Rajasimha or Narsimha Varman II. The temple is the masterpiece creation of the Pallavas and represents the zenith of the Pallava architecture. The temple is built on the seashore with one wall constantly being washed by the sea. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva with Shiva lingam enshrined in the two vimanas or the spires of the temple. Built on the east west axial, the first ray of the rising sun and the last ray of the setting sun touches the original lingam. Another shrine, which can be dated to a slightly earlier period, is dedicated to Lord Vishnu.

Arjuna's Penance
Arjuna's Penance is a relief carving on the huge rock measuring 30 m X 12 m. The themes of carvings are the animals, gods and demi-gods along with famous legendry tales from Hindu classical Panchatantra books. The massive upright crevice bifurcates the rock panel and is proficiently included into the sculpture with water flowing down the crevice originally representative of holy River Ganga.

Ganesh Ratha
Ganesh Ratha Temple in Mahabalipuram is located towards the north of the Arjuna's Penance. It is a temple carved out from a rock to resemble a chariot and is built in Dravidian style of temple architecture. It was once dedicated to Lord Shiva. But when the original lingam was removed, the temple came to be known as the temple of Lord Ganesh.

Trimurti Cave Temple
Trimurti Cave Temple I Mahabalipuram is located towards the north of the Ganesh Ratha. The temple is dedicated to the three prime gods of Hindu pantheon, namely, Lord Brahma-the Creator, Lord Vishnu-the Protector and Lord Shiva-the Destroyer. There is a separate section in the temple for each of them.

Five Rathas
The Five Rathas are the rock-cut temples in Mahabalipuram carved in the shape of a chariot. Built during the Pallava period, the temples were buried under the sand and were founded by the British some 200 years back. The five rathas are called the Draupadi Ratha, Dharamraja Ratha, Bhima Ratha, Arjuna Ratha and Nakula-Sahadeva Ratha, named after the five Pandavas and their wife of Mahabharata. The Draupadi Ratha is dedicated to Goddess Durga. Within the temple, the goddess is shown standing on the lotus with her devotees worshipping her on their knees. The chiseled lion protects the shrine from outside. Behind the Draupadi Ratha is the Arjuna Ratha. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, temple also has the carved idol of the Nandi Bull, Shiva's Mount. Many gods and goddesses are carved on the exterior wall of the temple. Bhima Ratha is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The idol of Vishnu in Seshashyai Mudra is within the walls of the temple. Dharamraja Ratha is the tallest and farthest of all the temples. You can see the images of several gods on the walls of the temple including Surya and Indra. Nakula-Sahadeva Ratha is dedicated to Lord Indra. A finely sculpted elephant, symbolic representation of his mount, is near the temple.

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