The Shore Temple overlooks the Bay of Bengal and is an attractive sight on the Mahabalipuram shorefront. The name of this finely carved structure derives from its proximity to the sea, being situated on the sands of Mahabalipuram beach. Study the weathered façades, marvel at sculptures of the temple’s patron Hindu gods and gaze at the pyramidal towers as they reflect the golden rays of sunset.
The Shore Temple was built in the 8th century under the reign of King Rajasimha of the Pallava dynasty. This landmark, which features Dravidian stone cut building techniques, is one of India's oldest temples. It has been under the protection of the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1984.
The Shore Temple is comprised of three shrines, one large and two small ones. Admire the two ornate pyramidal towers, which rise above them and feature elaborately carved tiers capped by domes.
The three shrines are dedicated to the Hindu deities, Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu and Ksatriyasimnesvara. Stop by each one and see carved tributes to the gods, including a depiction of Lord Vishnu resting on a the holy serpent Seshanag. This is a Hindu symbol of consciousness.
At the main shrine, the sanctum sanctorum, see the repeated sculpted figures of Nandi, Shiva's bull companion on the walls surrounding the temple. Venture inside for the Shiva Linga, a phallic sculpture symbolizing the presence of Shiva. Elsewhere in the grounds is a partly sculpted monolith of a lion.
The temple's beautiful designs serve as a backdrop for the yearly Mahabalipuram Dance Festival. Visit in December and January to see many traditional dance performances in this scenic locale.
The Shore Temple is approximately 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) from central Mahabalipuram. Arrive by rental car, taxi, bus, rickshaw or on foot. The site is open daily from early morning until early evening and there is an admission fee. If you are here on a Sunday, browse the stalls of the nearby street market. Then enjoy a lazy meander on the beach.