The port town of Mahabalipuram or Mamallapuram near Chennai, was named after king Narasimhavarman I, one of the rulers of the Pallava dynasty of South India, who was known as Maha-malla or the great wrestler. Dating back to the 7th to 9th centuries, these rock-cut monolithic structures are early examples of Dravidian architecture, with heavy Buddhist influences. Originally seven pagodas dotted the shoreline here, but only one, the Shore Temple, remains now. The descent of the Ganges and Arjuna�s penance are open air reliefs carved on a single rock. A short distance from the Shore Temple are the pancha rathas or the five chariots, monolithic chariot-shaped shrines named after the Pandavas and their wife Draupadi. Ashwin Devanathan and I visited this site together.

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