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Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram

Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram

This group of sanctuaries, founded by the Pallava kings, was carved out of rock along the Coromandel coast in the 7th and 8th centuries. It is known especially for its rathas (temples in the form of chariots), mandapas (cave sanctuaries), giant open-air reliefs such as the famous 'Descent of the Ganges', and the temple of Rivage, with thousands of sculptures to the glory of Shiva.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Ensemble de monuments de Mahabalipuram

Cet ensemble de sanctuaires, dû aux souverains Pallava, fut creusé dans le roc et construit aux VIIe et VIIIe siècles sur la côte de Coromandel. Il comprend notamment des rathas (temples en forme de chars), des mandapas (sanctuaires rupestres), de gigantesques reliefs en plein air, comme la célèbre « Descente du Gange », et le temple du Rivage, aux milliers de sculptures à la gloire de Shiva.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

مجمّع نصب ماهاباليبورام

تمّ التنقيب عن مجمّع المعابد هذا العائد لحكام سلالة بالافا في الصخر وشُيّد بين القرنين السابع والثامن على ساحل كوروماندل. وتشمل هذه المجمعات ما يُعرف بـ"راثاس" rathas  أي معابد على شكل عربات و"ماندباس" mandapas أي معابد صخرية، بالإضافة إلى تضاريس عملاقة في الهواء الطلق كمنحدر نهر الغانج الشهير ومعبد ريفاج بآلاف منحوتاته على اسم الإلهة شيفا.

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0



source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Памятники Махабалипурама

Эта группа святилищ, основанных царями государства Паллава в VII-VIII вв., была высечена в скалах на Коромандельском побережье. Она особо известна своими «ратха» (храмами в форме колесниц), «мантапа» (пещерными святилищами), гигантскими барельефами под открытым небом (например, «Нисхождение Ганга») и Прибрежным храмом с тысячами скульптур, прославляющими бога Шиву.

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Conjunto de Monumentos de Mahabalipuram

Situado en la costa de Coromandel, este sitio engloba un conjunto de santuarios excavados en la roca que fueron fundados por los reyes de la dinastía de los Pallava entre los siglos VII y VIII. El sitio es sobre todo conocido por sus rathas (templos en forma de carros), sus mandapas (santuarios rupestres), sus gigantescos relieves al aire libre, como el célebre “Descenso del Ganges”, y los millares de esculturas del famoso Templo de la Orilla, erigido a la gloria de Siva.

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0


source: NFUAJ

Monumentengroep in Mahabalipuram

Mahabalipuram werd in de 7e eeuw gesticht door de Pallavas vorsten ten zuiden van Madras. De koningen waren ook verantwoordelijk voor het ontstaan van de groep heiligdommen, die uit rotsen werd gehouwen aan de kust van Coromandel in de 7e en 8e eeuw. De monumenten staan bekend om hun monolithische rathas (tempels in de vorm van triomfwagens) en mandapas (grottempels of rotsheiligdommen). Maar ook vanwege de gigantische openlucht rotsreliëfs, waarvan het beroemde ‘De neerdaling van de Ganges’ er een is. Verder zijn de tempels gebouwd van uitgehakte steen bijzonder, zoals de Rivage tempel die met duizenden beelden is opgedragen aan de glorie van Shiva.

Source: unesco.nl

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Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

Mahabalipuram (or Mamallapuram), located along southeastern India’s Coromandel Coast, was a celebrated port city of the Pallavas. The group of monuments there consists of rock-cut cave temples, monolithic temples, bas-relief sculptures, and structural temples as well as the excavated remains of temples. The Pallava dynasty, which ruled this area between 6th and 9th centuries CE, created these majestic edifices.

The Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram occupies a distinct position in classical Indian architecture. These majestic edifices mark the high quality of craftsmanship in the region during 6th century CE. The natural landscape was utilized in carving out these structures, thereby making the ability of the Pallava craftsmen universally known. The monuments may be subdivided into five categories:

The mandapas (rock-cut caves): During the time of Narasimhavarman-I Mamalla, new innovations were introduced in the rock medium in the form of cave temples. Notable examples of the cave temple are Konerimandapa, Mahishmardhini cave, and Varahamandapa. These rock-cut caves are richly embellished with sculptural representations known for their natural grace and suppleness. Noteworthy among them are Mahishamardhini, Bhuvaraha, Gajalakshmi, Tirivikrama, and Durga.

The rathas (monolithic temples): The monolithic temples are locally called “ratha” (chariot), as they resemble the processional chariots of a temple. These five monolithic temples are each hewn out of a huge boulder. They display the full form and features of the contemporary temple form and show variations both in ground plan and elevation. They are richly carved with artistic motifs and wall panels depicting many Hindu divinities and royal portraits.

The rock reliefs: The sculptural bas reliefs are another very important class of masterly creations created during Mamalla’s reign. There are four such reliefs at Mamallapuram, the most noteworthy among them being the Arjuna’s Penance and Govardhanadhari.

The temples: King Rajasimha introduced structural architecture on a grand scale. The earliest and most modest is the Mukundanayananar temple, followed by the Olakkanesvara temple, perched on a rock near the lighthouse. The tempo of structural edifices culminated in the creation of the famous Shore temple, having the most finite layout of a Dravida vimana, majestically fringing the sea.

The excavated remains: Sustained removal of the sand over a period of time has brought to light several buried structures around the Shore temple. Unique among them is a stepped structure, a miniature shrine, a Bhuvaraha image, a reclining image of Vishnu, and a well from Pallava King Narasimhavarman Rajasimha’s reign (638-660 CE), all of which are carved in the live bedrock. Remains of additional temples have recently been excavated, including one to the south of the Shore temple.

Criterion (i): The bas-relief of the “Descent of the Ganges” is – like that of the island of Elephanta – a unique artistic achievement.

Criterion (ii): The influence of the sculptures of Mahabalipuram, characterized by the softness and suppleness of their modelling, spread afar to places such as Cambodia, Annam and Java.

Criterion (iii): Mahabalipuram is, pre-eminently, the testimony to the Pallavas civilization of southeast India.

Criterion (vi): The sanctuary is one of the major centres of the cult of Siva.


Within the boundaries of the Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram are located all the elements necessary to express the Outstanding Universal Value of the serial property, including the mandapas, rathas, rock reliefs, temples, and excavated remains of the great Pallava dynasty. The property is in a good state of conservation. There are no major threats affecting the property, which is monitored and well maintained by Archaeological Survey of India. Identified potential threats to the integrity of the property include encroachment and unauthorized constructions in the prohibited/regulated areas.


The property remains in its authentic state in terms of locations, forms, materials, and designs. The authenticity of the property focuses on the creation and experimentation in rupestral architecture, which culminated in the evolution of structural temples. The artefacts revealed during recent excavations add to the value of the property as the representation of a masterpiece of human creative genius.

Protection and management requirements

The property is protected, conserved, and managed by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) through the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (AMASR) Act (1958) and its Rules (1959), amendment (1992) and Amendment and Validation Act (2010). The prohibited (100 m) and regulated (200 m) areas surrounding the World Heritage property are constantly monitored to minimize adverse impacts. A regular conservation and monitoring schedule is maintained by the ASI to ensure the property is in good state of conservation. Assessment of the state of conservation of the property, as well as visitor and landscape management plans, form the basis of long-term management aimed at maintaining the Outstanding Universal Value.

No major development pressures or threats are affecting the property. Sustaining the Outstanding Universal Value of the property over time will require continuing the coordinated efforts with the help of state departments to stop encroachment and unauthorized constructions in the prohibited and regulated areas.