Monday, August 15, 2005

The India diaries V - under the sand

I have been to Mahabalipuram a zillion times (or so it seems!) but this trip was a bit different. After all the wedding reception and birthday celerations we needed a sack out day. Hired a very comfy Swaraj Mazda and packed 11 adults, 3 kids and a large bag of snacks into it for a day out.

Mahabalipuram, or Mamallapuram, was the chief seaport of the Pallavas who ruled over much of South India from as early as the first century B.C to the eighth century A.D.. It has some marvellous sculptural architecture hewn into the very tough grantie and is visted by tourists from around the world with good reason. Well, why go on about something well documented in a gazillion books and webpages. Here is why:

The Shore Temple with its lying down Vishnu has been a UN World Heritage monument for quite some time now. The legend is that Mahabalipuram is the port of the seven pagodas. The shore temple is one pagoda. As the other 6 were never found the legend grew to incorporate the 5 rathas and Arjuna's penance making up a suitable 7.

This is the Shore temple

And NOW the Tsunami has uncovered this,

the remains of another temple's walls. With a well and beautiful lamp burners built into rock sculptures

So the legend that was built to include the 5 rathas and Arjuna's penance is being revisited. Sonar readings show 5 more such sturctures bruied under the sand along the coast.

Fascinating that the dune behind which we used to hide as kids has been levelled to reveal something of such significant importance. It's all under the sand.

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