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Mahabalipuram Temples

Brief
Mahabalipuram is located at a distance of 58 km from Chennai. It is one of the most exciting and memorable destinations with rich tradition history, piety and western annals. It is one of the popular tourist places known for great architecture much visible in its rock carvings and monolithic sculptures. It also has the famous shore temple the only one to have survived the wrath of nature. Also known as the Seven Pagodas (temples), six of them now lie drowned in the sea. The architecture of the temples at Mahabalipuram are inspired by the Pallava Art and were built during the period 830 - 1100 AD.  

History
The history of Mahabalipuram dates back to two thousand years it contains nearly forty monuments of different types including an "open air bas relief" which is the largest in the world, for centuries it has been a centre of pilgrimage, it figures in the early annals of the British search for the picturesque in India in the 18th century, today it attracts shoals of foreigners in search of relaxation and sea bathing, and most strange of all, it has an atomic power plant for neighbour. A small library has been written on it. Over its history and that of its monuments a number of scholarly controversies rage. Mahabalipuram was already a centre of pilgrimage when, in the 7th century Mamalla made it a seaport and began to make temples fashioned of rock. It was through Mahabalipuram that many Indian colonists, who included sages and artists, migrated to Southeast Asia. Sri Lanka's national chronicle, the "Mahavamsa" testifies to this fact. The proper name of the site is "Mamallapuram", after Mamalla, an honorific of the Pallava king, Narasimha Varman I (630-668), who created the earliest of its monuments. But it is popularly called "Mahabalipuram", or "The city of Bali", whom Lord Vishnu chastised for his pride and of whom there is a relief in one of the excavated temples here. 

Temples In Mahabalipuram   

The Shore Temple - The Shore Temple, beside the sea shore is a lovely temple, caressed by the sea water and the wind. There is three-in-one abode of God, containing a Vishnu temple and two Shiva temples. It is a visual delight, having wonderful architectural masterpieces. There is sea on either side, having no limits to its extent. Within the compound wall of this temple lies the pleasing sculptures of Nandi the bull while the figure of Vishnu is present in the sanctum sanctorum.

The Varaha Caves - The Varaha Cave is a small rock-cut mandapam (hall). Here one can find the incarnations of Vishnu-Varaha (boar) and Vamana (dwarf). The four panels of Pallava doorkeepers are the most important and famous. The Dharmaraja Cave, built in the early seventh century, consists three empty shrines. The Mahisasurmardini Cave (mid-seventh century) has fine bas-reliefs on its panels of imperishable beauty. The Somaskanda sculpture here represents peace, power, and wisdom. Here Lord Vishnu is shown in omniscient repose in a masterpiece of dhwani (the art of suggestion). There's also a huge theatrical panel showing, Goddess Durga's fight with the demon Mahishasura. The Tiger Cave is about 5 km north of Mahabalipuram, which is a rock-cut shrine, dating back to 7th century.

Rathas - The Rathas are a group of structures placed at the southern extreme of Mahabalipuram. They are situated amidst Casuarina trees. There are Pancha Pandava Rathas, which are five in numbers. Among these five, four are carved out of a single rock, while the fifth on the west is scooped out from a small rock. The complex consists of square Draupadi and Arjuna Rathas, the linear Bhima Ratha, the taller Dharamraja Ratha and the niche Nakula-Sahadeva Ratha.

Krishna Mandapam - The Krishna Temple is a rock-cut temple and is one of the first in Mahabalipuram. The walls of the temples describe scenes of reverend life, one of the pictures here shows Lord Krishna lifting the Govardhan Hill on his fingertips to protect his people from Indra.