General view from the north-west of the Shore Temple, Mamallapuram 10032235
Photographer: Rea, Alexander
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of the Shore Temple at Mamallapuram in Tamil Nadu, from the Archaeological Survey of India Collections taken by Alexander Rea in the 1880s. Mamallapuram, a tiny village south of Madras, was a flourishing port of the Pallava dynasty during the 7th-8th centuries. The site is famous for an early group of monolithic temples, known as the 'Pancha Ratha' and some monolithic sculptures assigned to the 7th century reign of Narasimhavarman Mahamalla (r. c.630-668). The Shore Temple was built around 700 AD by Rajasimha and is orientated east, towards the ocean. Unlike the five monolithic Rathas this is the first Pallava example of structural temple made of finely dressed blocks of granite. The temple is approached through a series of ruined precinct walls lined with statues of the bull Nandi. The sanctuary facing the ocean houses a linga and an open passageway leads to another small sanctuary facing west with Shaiva icons. The original sanctuary shelters an image of Vishnu sleeping on the serpent Ananta. The two pyramidal towers on the Shaiva shrines have stepped roof-storeys decorated with miniature buildings culminating in octagonal domes.