Shore Temple in Mahabalipuram
Shore Temple is the first thing that pops up in everyone’s mind at the mere mention of Mahabalipuram. Mahabalipuram is a UNESCO World heritage site situated between Bay of Bengal and the Great Salt Lake in Tamil Nadu. Shore Temple is dedicated to Lord Vishu and Lord Shiva. While heading to Pondicherry, one day was dedicated to witness the architectural marvels of temples and monuments of Mahabalipuram. Shore Temple can surely be treated as the showstopper of all the monuments in Mahabalipuram.
Shore Temple is called so because the temple overlooks the shore of the Bay of Bengal. It is one of the oldest stone temples in Southern India. Shore Temple dates back to 8th century and the credit for building the temple goes to Narasimhavarman II of the Pallava dynasty. Now you know it is actually very old. The interesting fact about the temple is that it is the only surviving one from the set of seven temples also known as Seven Pagodas. It is believed that due to the ever changing shore line of the Bay of Bengal the other temples got submerged in the ocean. Our guide also told us that some of those temples were sighted during the Tsunami of 2004 but none of them saw the light of the day.
Structure of Shore Temple
Shore Temple has three shrines out of which two are dedicated to Lord Shiva and one with reclining image of Lord Vishnu is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. As you walk towards the temple you will notice that there are two sanctums and a chamber between them. The former being dedicated to Lord Shiva and the latter to Lord Vishnu. The structure and carvings are not very clear but if you look hard you can easily spot the deities. The temple has narrow passages and stairs to enter the sanctum. The first shrine which faces the West is locally known as Somaskanda and it showcases images of Lord Shiva, Goddess Parvati and their son Karthikeya. Karthikeya is also known as Skanda and hence it is colloquially famous as Somaskanda.
The other shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva faces east, so that the first ray of sunrise falls on the black Shiva Linga standing tall in the shrine. Between these two you can find the shrine which has the reclining Vishnu. I don’t have any images from that part.
While you move around from one shrine to another don’t give a miss to the Nandi structure. There are numerous carved Nandi structures which surrounds the entire Shore Temple. These structures give a symmetrical look and feel to the temple. While Mahabalipuram has a lot to offer in terms of history and architecture, Shore Temple still remains the highlight amongst all of them.
Important Information for Shore Temple
Getting to Shore Temple: The nearest airport is Chennai Airport. Shore Temple is approximately 60 kms away from the airport. You can easily hire taxis from the airport. Many buses also ply from the city and the airport till Mahabalipuram. Mahabalipuram is popular amongst Indians as well as foreigners so get good rates on flight plan you flight ticket booking way in advance.
Entry Free: Rs 30 for Indians and Rs 500 for foreigner.
Timing: 6 am to 6 pm everyday.
Accommodation: There are many budget hotels in and around Mahabalipuram. You can book your stay and easily visit all the temples. While searching for hotels I got to know about Movenpick hotels, I am yet to try my hands on them.
Tip: Carry a water bottle as it gets hot, humid and sunny during the day time.