Pallava Architecture

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Pallava Architecture (3rd – 9th centuries A.D.):

 In the 7th century A.D., Kanchipuram and Mahabalipuram emerged as major centres of art under the Pallava rulers. The Pallava period witnessed the emergence of the early Dravidian style of temples. Pallava architecture can be divided into two phases: wholly rock-cut (c. 610-690 A.D.) and structural (c. 690-900 A.D.).

Panch Rathas

​The rock-cut structures of the first phase include mandapas (open pillared halls) and rathas (monolithic shrines). Mahendravarman I (c. 600-630 A.D.) pioneered rock-cut temples and is credited with building the Satyagirinathar and Satyagirishwarar twin temples at Mahabalipuram, the Siyamangalam in North Arcot, and the upper rock-cut temple at Tiruchirappalli, along with two Vishnu cave temples. Narasimhavarman I (Mamalla) (c. 630-668 CE) built the renowned Pancha Rathas (five rathas) at Mahabalipuram, named after Draupadi, Arjuna, Bhima, Dharmaraja, and Nakula-Sahadeva. The complex also includes the exquisite rock-cut bas-relief known as Arjuna’s Penance or Descent of the Ganges. The Shore Temple at Mahabalipuram, built by Narasimhavarman II (Rajasimha) (c. 690-728 A.D.), is a complex of three temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu.

Kailasanatha Temple

Kailasanatha Temple

The structural temples of the Pallavas can be divided into two groups: the Rajasimha group (c. 690-800 A.D.) and the Nandivarman group (c. 800-900 A.D.). The Kailasanatha Temple at Kanchipuram, considered one of the largest early structural temples, is a prime example of the Rajasimha group, while the Vaikuntha Perumal Temple represents the Nandivarman group. Early Pallava Shiva temples were sparsely adorned internally, but later temples feature elaborately carved pillars depicting scenes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata.

The Pallava period marked a transition from rock-cut to structural temples in South India. Another notable feature is the introduction of sedant yalis (lions) on temple bases under Narasimhavarman I and rampant lion motifs under Rajasimha, marking the evolution of pillar design.



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