Mahabalipuram’s Shore Temple: Detailed Guide

The Mahabalipuram’s Shore Temple was built with granite stone and is one of the oldest stone temples in South India. It is one of the famous structural stone temples that have stood up for years.

The shore temple is a symbol of the ancient ruins of Mahabalipuram. This temple is named for its location on the Coromandel coast overlooking the Bay of Bengal. The sculptural excellence symbolizes the height of Pallava architecture.

Shore Temple was named “Seven Pagodas” due to its pyramidal structure. The name “Seven Pagodas” indicates that there were 7 temples in the past. Now only the Shore Temple remains to tell the story of the past.

What is the History of Shore Temple?

What is the History of Shore Temple?
What is the History of Shore tmple?

The shore tmple was built in 700-728 AD. This temple got its name-Shore because it overlooks the coast of the Bay of Bengal. This temple is a structural temple built of granite blocks dating back to the 8th century AD.

The site was a busy port during the reign of Narasimhawarma II, who created the Palava dynasty. Since 1984, it has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and belongs to one of the monument groups of Mahabalipuram.

People say that it is one of the oldest structural stone carving temples in South India (cutting the rock), a combination of temples and shrines, and one of the most temples on the shore.

Studies conducted on the historical discoveries of Mamallapuram, including different archaeology, numismatics (eg: Roman Theodosius coin-4th century AD), and historical discoveries, indicate that the town was once a prosperous harbor, with Sri Lanka, China, and Other Southeast Asian countries.

The textual references include: – The Greek navigation book “Periplus of the Erythraean Sea” (1st century AD), which mentions Mamallapuram and calls it a prosperous port; while Ptolemy (2nd century AD) refers to Mahabalipuram is called Malange.

Hiuen Tsang (7th century AD) also talked about Marmarapuram in his travel records, calling it the Port of Pallava. In his work “Nalayiraprabandha” (8th century AD), Saint Tirumangai Alwar of Vaishnava described the port town of Xixi Port and wrote about the many ships moored in the port.

What is the History behind the Submerged Shore Temple?

What is the History behind the Submerged Shore Temple?
What is the History behind the Submerged Shore Tmple?

In 1375 in the Catalan Atlas Abraham Cresques referred to the temple cluster as Setemelti (from Sette Templi, which means seven pagodas in Italian). In 1582, a jewelry merchant named Gasparo Balbi referred also referred to the temple cluster as “Seven Chinese Pagodas” of Mamallapuram.

Niccolai Manucci wrote of the 7’China-men’ built pagodas. As Polo, Balbi, and Manucci had not set their feet in the town and had only seen the temples from a distant ship, the tall pyramidal temple spires had appeared to them as Chinese built pagodas.

Interestingly, all medieval European travelers had described seven shore temples in Mamallapuram, while only two are now seen. This had led to many speculations over whether these old travelers’ accounts were factually correct.

However, during the 2004 tsunami many rock-cut temples, inscriptions, and sculptures were briefly exposed as the waters receded.

Later, archaeologists with diving teams explored an underwater site 700 m east of the Shore temple and found ruined walls, sculptures, blocks of rectangular stones laid parallel to the shoreline, and remains of forty other monuments (Sundaresh et al, 2014, 1167-1176).

From these findings, a new line of thought has developed that believes a part of old Mamallapuram is now under the sea.

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What is the Legend associated with Shore Tmple?

What is the Legend associated with Shore Temple?
What is the Legend associated with Shore Tmple?

Legend has it that this famous shore tmple was originally identified as part of the Seven Pagodas at Mahabalipuram. This is a very sacred temple, one of the ancient Hindu legends, referring to the origin of these pagodas in mythological terms.

A story related to the history of the temple-Prince Hiranya kasipu refused to worship Vishnu. The prince’s son Prahlada loved and dedicated to Vishnu and criticized his father’s lack of faith.

Later, Hiranya kasipu banished Prahlada, but then tolerated him and sent him home. After that, the father and son soon began to argue about Vishnu’s nature. When Prahlada said Vishnu was everywhere, including on the walls of their home, his father kicked a pillar.

Lord Vishnu emerged in the lion’s head out of the pillar in the form of a man, killing Hiranya kasipu. Eventually, Prahlada became king and had a grandson called Bali. Later, Bali established Mahabalipuram in this place.

Mythology says that the gods are jealous of the architectural elegance of the Mahabalipuram monuments. As a result, they caused flooding to occur which submerged most parts of the city, except for a few structures that are seen.

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How is the Architecture of the Shore Temple?

How is the Architecture of the Shore Temple?
How is the Architecture of the Shore Tmple?

The Dravidian-style architecture dates back to the 7th-8th centuries. It was built under the reign of King Narasimhavarma. The best buildings, sculptures, and intricate, full of lively visual enjoyment.

The carvings made of granite are a testament to the transcendence of the craftsmen who created this magnificent structure. Structural design can only be called “Stone in Poetry”. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984.

The temple is erected on a 50-foot square platform and is a pyramid structure, up to 60 feet high. Shore Temple is a characteristic specimen of Dravidian temple architecture and is one of the oldest structural stone temples in South India.

The temple was bathed in the rays of the rising sun and concentrated the seawater after sunset. The Shore Temple has three shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu.

The main temple is a five-layer structure carved from granite dedicated to Lord Shiva. The pyramid structure is 60 feet (18 m) high and is located on a 50-foot (15 m) square platform.

In the Garbha Griha of the Sanctuary, Shivalinga is worshipped. At the back end, two temples are facing each other. One temple is dedicated to Ksatriyasimnesvara, and the other temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu.

In the shrine, Lord Vishnu is seen leaning on “Seshanag”, which is a symbol of Hindu consciousness. The inside and outside of the temple have been carefully carved.

The image on the engraving panel depicts the scenes of everyday life in incredible realism and artistic style. The relief of Nandi bull is magnificent and worth seeing. The archaeological department has unearthed some other characters from the site.

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What is the Best time to visit the Shore Temple?

What is the Best time to visit the Shore Temple?
What is the Best time to visit the Shore Tmple?

The best time to visit the temple is sunset and sunrise, which adds to the charm of the temple. Tourists can take cameras with them to capture the beauty of this temple. The ticket office of the temple closes at 5:30 pm.

Temple Timings

DayMorning TimingsEvening Timings
Monday06:00 AM07:00 PM
Tuesday06:00 AM07:00 PM
Wednesday06:00 AM07:00 PM
Thursday06:00 AM07:00 PM
Friday06:00 AM07:00 PM
Saturday06:00 AM07:00 PM
Sunday06:00 AM07:00 PM

Entry Charges

Indian CitizensRs 10
Foreign NationalsUS $ 5.00
Children Below 15 YearsNil


Shore Temple is a permanent witness to India’s rich heritage. You can easily access Shore Temples by taking a regular bus or renting a taxi to Mahabalipuram. The nearest airport is in Chennai, 60 km from Mahabalipuram.

The Shore Temple is one of the most photographed monuments in India and is a structural monument on the shore of the Bay of Bengal.

Shore Temple is no longer a pilgrimage temple. The structure of the temple is awesome, it is erected as a work of art. Today, Shore Temple is the background of the Mahabalipuram Dance Festival held every January/February. The festival is held to promote the traditional dance and tourism of Mahabalipuram.

People Also Ask (FAQs)

Why was Shore Temple built?

The Shore Temple of Mamallapuram was built during the reign of the Pallavan king Rajasimha/Narasimhavarman II, and it is the oldest structural temple of significance in South India. The two temples hold three sanctums, of which two are dedicated to Shiva and one to Vishnu.

Who built the Mahabalipuram temple?

The Mahabalipuram temple was founded by the Pallava king Narasimhavarman I in the 7th century AD. The mandapa or pavilions and the rathas or shrines shaped as temple chariots are hewn from the granite rock face, while the famed Shore Temple, erected half a century later, is built from dressed stone.

Why is Shore Temple famous?

Marco Polo and the European merchants who came to Asia after he called the site Seven Pagodas. One of these is believed to be the Shore Temple. The temple probably acted as a landmark for navigation of their ships. As it appears like a Pagoda, the name became familiar to the seafarers.

What is the Specialty of Mahabalipuram?

Once ruled by the Pallavas, famed for their excellent architecture and sculptures, Mahabalipuram has beautiful rock-cut monuments that draw architects, history enthusiasts, and travelers from around the world. Mahabalipuram is famous for its vast beach, monoliths, stone carvings and temples.

Who Patronised the Seven Pagodas of Mahabalipuram?

The Seven Pagodas of Mahabalipuram are a witness to the art patronized by the Pallavas. Interestingly, it is documented in “Carta Cartalana”, a 14th-century Spanish word map as “Setemelti” referring to “Sette Templi”, the obvious reference to the Seven Shore temples, of which only one exists today.