(Mahabalipuram)_ is one of history's
intriguing enigmas. The ancient
Mamallapuram, as Mahabalipuram was
formerly known, was flourishing
port town of the Pallava rulers
of south India who chiseled in stone
a fabulous "open-air museum"of
sculpture under the vault of a burning sky.
Apart from this, nothing is known of the place.
What was the purpose behind this whole exercise,
and, more important, why all the royal patronage
this place enjoyed suddenly disappeared, no one
actually has any answer.
Experts say that there were seven pagodas or
temples on the shores of Mahabalipuram. All
but one were pillaged by the rapacious sea,
though there is little underwater evidence to
substantiate their existence.
Most of the temples and rock carvings of this
place were built during the reigns of Narsinha
Varman I (AD 630-668) and Narsinha Varman II
(AD 700-728). Though the initial kings of Pallava
dynasty were followers of Jainism, the conversion
of Mahendra Varman (AD 600-630) to Shaivism
led most of the monuments to be related with
Shiva or Vishnu