Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Shore temple

It is criminal to visit a World Heritage Site without a camera; I got away with it because my cell phone has a decent one! Had gone to Mamallapuram on Sunday, the trip being inspired by friends visiting Chennai. As we walked around the monuments, I realized it was the first time that I was seeing the Shore Temple after the tsunami of December 2004.

The name of this town, about 60km from Chennai, is a tribute to King Narasimhavarma Pallavan's prowess as a wrestler ('Maha Mallan' = great wrestler). This tribute is a recent one, dating from the second half of the 20th century. For hundreds of years after King Narasimhavarman, the town was called Mahabalipuram, and is identified by that name in UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites. But Mahabalipuram calls to mind a religious myth and the atheistic political climate of the 1960s could not stand such a reference: a more local heritage needed to be honoured. (Some scholars believe that the Pallavas were originally the Pahlavas of Persia, but that's too tenuous a connection, so Mamallapuram satisfies requirements of local heritage).

The shore temple is magnificent, built on bedrock that rises from the sea. It is believed that there were once 6 such others - but the earliest documentation of this is from 1798, when John Goldingham, later to be the first official astronomer of the Madras Observatory, wrote down the local legends he heard. The tsunami of 2004 provided a tantalising glimpse of what might be: some who were on the beach when the sea withdrew reported sightings of another temple, and a stone lion was uncovered when the sands were washed off from it. The Archeological Survey of India does not have any recent update on its post-tsunami investigations. Until they find - and then manage to relocate to the surface - another temple, the Shore Temple will remain a singular monument!

7 comments:

crazyBugga said...

this is advertising at its best! hats off to u boss!

and BTW, u went there on a weekday?

crazyBugga said...

and if possible, do turn off ur word verification...

babooshka said...

It's afabulous image and really informative.

Sometimes I don't, sometimes I do said...

>> CB>> Thanks man. No, was there on Sunday.

Didn't remember the captcha; will turn it off sometime soon.

>> Babooshka>> Thanks!

Ravindran said...

Whenever I see these historic things I wonder at the time they had at their disposal to build them. .Compare it with now when we find little time even to loo peacefully with a song on our lips and a nwespaper in our hand.

Hilda said...

Magnificent is right! I really love old buildings.

Sometimes I don't, sometimes I do said...

>> Ravindran>> They were in no hurry, certainly. In fact, Narasimhavarman only completed what his father, Mahendravarman, had begun!

>> Hilda>> Yes, the stories they would tell, if they could!