You are currently viewing MAHENDRA STYLE MONUMENTS



• All monuments in this style are subterranean rock-cut excavations usually known as cave-temples.

• The cave temples excavated consists of pillared verandah with a shrine cut into either the back or one of the side walls according to the direction which the main façade or the front of the mandapa faced. Thus, in mandapas facing south or north, the shrine cells were often cut laterally so as to face east or west, while in mandapas facing east or west the shrine cells were cut behind the mandapas.

• The cave temples cut into the living rock were necessarily designed to show the interior aspect of the structural monuments they imitated.

• These mandapas, which are pillared halls, open or closed, with a flat rook , contain a small shrine either in the centre or behind.

• With the exception of the Vishnu temple at Mahendravadi, all are dedicated to Siva and originally contained stone lingas or images of the deity. The Lingas were large and cylindrical in shape, highly polished and mounted on yoni pedestals of the usual kind.

• The shrine chamber is free from all ornament within, but usually has a dvarapala, or doorkeeper , carved in high relief standing on each side of the entrance into the sanctum.

• The mandapa of the cave-temples is often divided into proximal and distal sections, the outer corresponding to the maha-mandapa and the inner to the ardha-mandapa.

• The maha-mandapa has on its front a row of pillars and pilasters usually four in all but sometimes six or eight. Their cave temples were mostly located in the Pallava country of Tondai-mandalam

• This rock-cut temple is hewn out of the northern face of a small hill, overlooking a water tank, situated in the west of the village.

• It consists of a ardha-mandapa and a mukha-mandapa. The front facade of the mukha-mandapa has two pillars and two pilasters with niches at the terminals.

• The pillars and pilasters are of simple design, a cubical base and top (saduram) with intervening octagonal section (kattu).

• Another row of pillars and pilasters separates the mukha-mandapa to the ardha-mandapa. The rear wall has four pilasters forming three niches, each 3 feet deep. These three cells were dedicated to Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.

• Two dvarpalas are carved in the niches at the terminals of the mukha-mandapa. The serpent ornaments worn by the doorkeepers indicate that the leading diety enshrined in int was Shiva, whose image occupied the centra niche.

• The name of the Pallava king who ordered this temple to be excavated is mentioned in the inscription as Vichtrachitta, which was another name of Mahendravarman I.

• Dalavanur is small village in Villupuram district of Tamil Nadu and it is known for its magnificent cave temple of the Pallava period.

• The temple is dedicated to Siva and is excavated in the southern face of a small granite hill lying to the north of the village and is known as the Pancha Pandava Malai.

• The façade faces the south but the little shrine containing the lingas faces the east.The linga is fixed in a yoni pedestal.

• Both the linga and yoni pedestal are detached stones and are not monolithic like the rest of the temple and its ornamentation.

• On each side of this doorway are two doorkeepers or dvarpalas in high relief,one each side of the entrance.

• The base of the shrine has regular adhisthana mouldings; upana, jagati, tripatta-kukuda, kantha sandwiched between two kampas and pattika.

• The cubical portions pf the two pillars in the centre of the façade are decorated with conventional lotus flower medallions.

DvarpalaDvarpalaDvarpala Dvarpala Dvarpala

Inner Shrine

• Above the main entrance and springing from the two corbel capitals is a bas-relief representation of a makara-torana, in which two ends or volutes of the torana are shown emerging from the mouths of makaras.

• Above the torana running the entire length of the facade, is a heavy projecting convex cornice decorated with the Buddhist gable-window ornament.

• With the exception of the linga and the figures of the doorkeepers , the entire ornamentation is Buddhist in character.

• It is particularly an interesting example of Mahendra style because the pillars of the façade contains a number of inscriptions in the Grantha-Pallava alphabet.

• Engraved on the pilaster to the right of the sanctuary and at a spot which appears to have been selected for the principal inscription, is the following name “Sri Mahendra Vikrama”.

• The pillars at the other end of the hall contain a number of names and burudas, among them ,”Gunabhara”,who is said to have had the temple excavated. Gunabhara was a surname of Mahendravarman I.

• The inscription also records that the beautiful large sculptural panel facing the shrine entrance, representing Siva in the form of Gangadhara, was also excavated at the same time.

• The facade faces the south and is simple and severe in character. It has four cubical pillars dividing the facade into five openings of equal size, with a second row of pillars inside the temple and in line with those of the façade. In style, the pillars are similar to those at Dalavanur, but they have no bas-relief representation of a torana over the entrance and there is no ornamental cornice above the architrave of the facade.

• Above the shrine doorway is a cornice decorated with gable-window ornament and on each side of the entrance, carved in high relief and standing in niche , is a figure of a doorkeeper leaning on a club.

• Carved on the west wall of the hall and facing the shrine, is a large panel, about seven feet square, containing a fine image of Shiva in the form of Gangadhara, the bearer of Ganga.

• This from of Shiva illustrates the Puranic story of the descent of the heavenly Ganges unto the earth. In the sculpture, shiva is portrayed with four arms, the right upper arm holding the Ganges issuing from his hair.

• The left upper arm holds some indistinguishable object, that may be meant for a rosary. The left lower arm rests on the left hip and the right lower arm holds a hooded serpent, the body of which is entwined round Shiva’s chest and right arms. Shiva’s right foot is raised and rests on the head of a little dwarf who is also supporting the god’s foot. Kneeling round the figure of Shiva are four worshippers, and above are two gandharvas flying through the air and raising their hands in the act of adoration.

• The base of the panel is decorated with the Buddhist rail ornament.

• The eastern face of this boulder was even out and carved with a temple consisting of a mukha-mandapa, an ardha-mandapa and garbha-grha in the rear.

• The front façade of the cave is supported on two pillars and two pilasters. Pillars have base and top cubical sections (saduram) with intervening octagonal part (kattu).

• The cubical faces of the pillars are carved with lotus medallion on all four sides. The pilasters are left tetragonal throughout.

• The next row of pillars separates the mukha-mandapa from ardha-mandapa. These pillars are left plain, devoid of the lotus medallions on their cubical parts. The corbel placed above the pillars is with curved profile.

• The shrine in the rear is flanked with two dvarapalas, both shown in the same posture, resting one hand on their waist and the other hand pointing towards the shrine. Both wear their yajnopavita in nivita style.

• Rock-cut steps are provided for entry into the shrine. The shrine contains a modern image of Narsimha.

• This shrine is of great importance as it is among very few temples, from Mahendravarman period, dedicated to Vishnu.The temple contains an important Pallava inscription engraved on the north face of the first pillar from the left of the facade.

• The Pallava period Rock-cut temples namely Sri Karivartharaja Perumal Temple, Siva Temple and Sri Vedhandheeswarar Cave Temple in Vallam village which is 3 km from Chengalpattu Taluk, Kanchipuram District, are declared as protected Monument of State Department Archaeology.

• Vallam is small settlement near Chengalpattu where three rock-cut shrines are excavated in a hillock, running north to south, Cave Temple at Vallam.

• On the eastern face of the hill are carved three rock-cut shrines. Two caves are on same boulder one above the other cave, while the third is located little north of the previous one.

• This is the uppermost rock of this hill. It has been closed on all sides with iron grills as the cave is still in use as a live temple.

• The front facade of the cave is supported in two pillars and two pilasters. This arrangement divides the cave into three openings as seen in many earlier caves of seen as Mandagapattu, Dalavanur,etc.

• Both pillars and pilasters are differentiate into cubical top and bottom (saduram) and octagonal middle part (kattu). There are two inscriptions on the front top cubical faces of the pillars.

• The corbels are curved; however, curve is not very prominent so this looks like in angular profile. As also seen in other caves of the same period, this cave also has two rows of pillars and pilasters, hence partitioning this into ardha-mandapa and mukha-mandapa.

• There are two small niches, beyond the pilasters of the front row. These niches are not aligned with cave, so it looks that these were excavated later after excavation of the cave.


• At Melachari,3 miles north-west of the town of Gingee, in the South Arcot district, is a rock cut shrine excavated in the western face of a small granite hill standing to the north of the village.

• It is known as the Maddilesvara temple and is still in use as a place of worship.The rock-cut façade faces the west but is hidden from the view by a modern brick and plaster mandapa attached to the front of it.

• In the centre are two square pillars, dividing the facade into three openings of equal size.Cut in the back or east wall, and facing the west is a small square shrine chamber containing a monolithic linga.

• The stone linga is cylindrical in form and together with its yoni pedestal stands above the floor level and is cut out of the solid rock.

• The temple contains no sculptures or ornamentation of any kind, but it does contain a Pallava inscription on one of the pillars.


• About one mile to the south of Melacheri is the village of Singavaram which contains a rock-cut temple which, in all probability, owes its origin to the Pallavas.

• It is known as the Ranganatha temple and contains a large rock-cut image of Anantasayana resembling the one in the Shore temple at Mahabalipuram.

• The rock-cut hall in the front of the shrine chamber has square monolithic pillars of the usual kind ornamented with conventional lotus flowers.

• At the each end of the facade is an image of a doorkeeper which mostly resemble those found at the entrance to the shrine chamber of the Dalavanur Temple.


This town is situated at the foot of the Vedasgirisvara hill and contains a large Shiva Temple and another Shiva temple on the summit of Vedasgirisvara hill. The latter is approached from the south by a step flight of stone steps which half way up , diverges east and west, forming a Pradakshina or processional path meeting at the top of the hill.


• The flight of steps which ascends the eastern side of the hill below the summit, passes a rock-cut Pallava Temple known as Orukal mandapa.

• This temple was excavated in the eastern face of an enormous rock which juts out from the slope of the hill on this side.

• The façade faces the east and is simple and severe in style. It has no carved projecting cornice and no large panels at the exterior ends of the façade containing figures of doorkeepers, and in this respect as well as on plan , it resembles the pallava temple at Mahendravadi.

• The shrine contains a large cylindrical granite linga mounted on a yoni-pedestal of the usual kind and the walls of the interior are free from ornamentation.

• On each side of the shrine doorway, is aniche containing a crudely carved figure of a doorkeeper. The latter have only two arms and are portrayed with one hand resting on a huge club and the other on the hip.

• Their pose, style of the headdress and position on the each side of the shrine entrance indicate that they belong to the Mahendra Period.

• Standing figures in bas-relief of Brahma which is on the south side of the sanctuary and are carved in panels on the back of the hall. These two images appear to be later than the two doorkeepers guarding the entrance into the sanctuary. If so, the original temple must have been dedicated to shiva and then at a later period, converted into a place of worship for the three gods of the Hindu Trinity.

• Unfortunately, the inscription does not tell us who excavated the temple, but style of its architecture clearly denotes that it was excavated in the reign of Mahendra.

• Little rock cut monument which appears to belong to the early Pallava period is the shrine at Kilmavilangai.

• It is cut in the northern face of a large isolated granite rock standing in the field just outside the village. The shrine consists of a small cell five feet in height and three feet in width and faces north east .

• It contains a crudely carved image of Vishnu carved on the back wall in high relief.

• The entrance is provided with narrow doorjamb hewn out of the rock. On the outer surface of each doorjamb is a crude representation in outline only and unfinished, of a standing doorkeeper.

• The village of Kuranganilmuttam is situated in Tiruvannamalai district of Tamilnadu. This cave temple faces east and is excavated below the ground level.

• It consists of a mukha-mandapa, ardha-mandapa and three shrines at the rear wall. The front façade is supported on two pillars and two pilasters.

• The pillars have cubical top and base sections (saduram) and middle octagonal section (kattu). Ten pilasters at the rear wall results into an arrangement of three shrines with their opening and corresponding set of dvarpalas.

• Kalmandagam refers to a cave temple attributed to the Pallava king Mahendravarman I , however no Pallava inscription has been found in the temple or the village.

• Some assigns this excavation to the earlier part of the reign of Narasimhavarman I, based upon the form of the dvarpala sculptures and comparative thinness of pillar while some draws its resemblance with the cave temple at Mahendravadi , an excavation of Mahendravarman I and assigns this shrine to him.

• The hall is supported on two pillars and two pilasters, resulting into three aisles and one bay.

• The front facade is not ornamented with the regular features of miniature shrines or kudu arches.

• The sanctum, on the back wall, is projected ahead and raised above the floor. A two-step staircase leads into the sanctum, which is empty now.

• Two female dvarapals (guardians) are placed on either side of the sanctum entrance. The dvarapala on left holds a sword and shield while the one on the right holds a long bow.

• Presence of female dvarapalas suggests that this shrine should be dedicated to a female deity, most probably it should be Durga in this case.

• Located near the unfinished penance panel, this cave temple falls under the category of the early Pallava cave-temples due to its primitive design and style resembling very much with the early cave-temples of the Mahendravarman I.

• This cave-temple faces east. Its façade has a heavy cornice in front however it is devoid of any decoration such as kudu arches (gable windows) or miniature shrines.

• The excavation is in form of a hall with three cells at its rear wall. The hall is supported on two rows of pillars, dividing it into two bays. Both the rows have two pillars and two pilasters.

• The pillars in both the rows are of the same design, with characteristic square at the top and the bottom and an octagonal section in between. The pilasters in both the rows are tetragonal throughout.

• Three cells are excavated on the back wall of the hall. All the cells are raised above the floor and provided with a staircase of three steps. Presence of three cells suggests that the cave-temple was dedicated to the Hindu Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.

• From the outlines of the dvarapalas, it can said that they were two armed, one arm is rested on their waist, and one arm is holding on to some object.

• This cave-temple is located little far from Mamallapuram town, in a small hamlet Saluvankuppam.

• This cave-temple has a simple facade resembling earlier Pallava period excavations of king Mahendravarman I. The cave is excavated into a mandapa (hall) with a cell in its rear wall. The mandapa is supported on two pillars and two pilasters.

• The pillars are of simple design having square top and bottom sections with an intervening octagonal section. The pilasters are tetragonal throughout.

• The cornice of the facade is bereft of usual decoration scheme of dormer windows (kudu arches) and interconnected oblong shrines.

• The inner cell is projected forward into the mandapa and provided with an entrance. On either side of the entrance, pilaster framed niches house dvarapalas. They depict typical Shaiva attributes suggesting the cell was dedicated to Shiva. Both rest their one hand on their club and other hand is raised in suchi-mudra.

• Inside the cell, on its back wall, is a bas-relief of Somaskanda. In the relief, Shiva and Parvati are shown seated, while Skanda is in the lap of Parvati.

• A granite multi-faceted linga is placed in front of the Somaskanda panel in the cell. This type of black polished linga is usually found during the reign of the Pallava king Narasimhavarman II Rajasimha. However it is later suggested that insertion of linga was a later design.

• On a separate boulder in front of the cave temple is a magnificent panel depicting Durga as Mahishasuramardini. The Goddess is shown with six arms carrying dhanush (bow), shankha (conch), chakra (discus) and khadga (sword). She is shown alighting from her lion mount. Her army is already in process of annihilating the demon army, the latter is led by demon king Mahishasura.


Get Updates by Subscribing Our Newsletter

Leave a Reply