The Shore Temple is one of the most visited sites in southern India.
The Shore Temple is located on the shore of the Bay of Bengal near the city of Mahabalipuram, India (currently called Mammalapuram). The temple is one of the oldest structural stone temples in the world and was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. It is one of several ancient monuments that still exists in Mammalapuram.
Shore Temple Architecture
It was built between 700 and 728 A.D. on behalf of Narasimhavarman II who reigned from 690 to 728 A.D. The temple complex has three shrines, two are dedicated to Shiva and one to Vishnu. The two shrines dedicated to Shiva are the largest and both have a square base and are topped by a pyramid shaped tower. The shrine dedicated to Vishnu is very small and not very noticeable because it is sandwiched between the taller Shiva shrines.
The largest structure is five stories tall standing 60 feet high and sits on a square platform that is 50 feet long on each side. The architecture has carvings depicting various deities, scenes and stories from Hindu mythology. The temple complex also has stone carvings of a lion and 101 bulls but only 80 are currently at the complex.
Marco Polo was here!
When Marco Polo visited the coast of the Bay of Bengal in 1292, he reported seeing Seven Pagodas. The Shore Temple is only surviving temple of the seven and the other six are believed to be submerged in the sea.
I always enjoy visiting sites where ancient civilizations lived. I think part of my fascination is because I grew up in a part of the world that doesn’t have an ancient history. Seeing places that are hundreds or even thousands of years old completely amazes me. When I visit sites like the Shore Temple, I am stunned by the architectural accomplishment that people could create so long ago with the tools that they had at the time.
The Shore Temple is relatively small but it is in excellent condition for its age. Many of the stone carvings are worn but it would be unusual if they weren’t. It is a historical site that is open to the public so it is to be expected that a 1300 year old site shows signs of being worn.
Many of the places that I visit are places that I don’t understand many of the details of the site but I still enjoy visiting theses place because they help me to actually experience history from long ago.