mamallapuram

In News: The second India- China informal summit took place at Mamallapuram owing to its historical link to China.

Historical Link:

  • According to reports, available literature shows that the Pallava Kings had a trade and defence relationship with China, in which the kings agreed to help China in keeping a check on the growth of Tibet as a powerful nation, during those years.
  • Bodhidharma, one of the famous Buddhist Monks in China is believed to be the third son of a Pallava king, who travelled from Kanchipuram through Mamallapuram to China in 527 AD.
  • Various studies by archaeologists and historians show Mamallapuram had commercial links with countries like China, Sri Lanka, and other South-East Asian countries
  • Coins from China, Persia and Rome have also been found in Mamallapuram, which acted as trade centre for the Pallavas.
  • According to the Archeological Survey of India (ASI), it was a sea-port during the time of Periplus (AD 1) and Ptolemy (AD 140), and many Indian colonists sailed to South-East Asia through this port town. 
    • Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang also mentions the sea port in his travel records.

About Mamallapuram:

  • Mamallapuram, also known as Mahabalipuram, is located on the East Coast Road in Tamil Nadu.
  • The name is said to be derived from the word "Mamallan", which means great warrior, a reference to King Narasimhavarman I of Pallavas Dynasty.
  • He ruled the region from AD 630 to almost AD 670, and was also known for his love of art and sculpture. 
  • Many of the monolithic rock-cut structures that are now seen in this region were created during his time.
  • Excavations under water, near the famous Shore Temple, revealed several reminiscences of history, including ruined walls, sculptured stones and other monuments. 
  • Some argue that the city was referred by foreign travellers as The Seven Pagodas while five of them are now seen as the Pancharathas (Five Rathas or Chariots)
  • There is another explanation which says that a part of the city might have drowned in the sea following a tsunami, centuries ago.

Architectural heritage of Mamallapuram:

  • Shore Temple: It is a structural temple built between 700–728 AD with granite
    • It was built by Narasimhavarman II in Dravidian Style of Architecture.
    • It has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Pancharathas (Five Rathas or Chariots): These are named after the five Pandava brothers and Draupadi but they neither have anything to do with chariots nor probably with the Pandavas and are purely of a local character. These are monolithic rock cut structures.
  • Varaha Cave: It is also called Adi Varaha Cave Temple. 
    • The prominent sculpture in the cave is that of Varaha Swamy (Boar), who is the incarnation of Lord Vishnu and is rescuing Bhudevi (Mother Earth) from Seas. 
    • It is a rock-cut cave temple of the late 7th Century.
  • Arjuna’s Penance: It is a 27m x 9m world largest bas-relief. It has over 100 sculptures of Gods, Birds, Beasts and Saints. It is Popularly called as Arjuna Penance (Tapas).
    • It is also known as the “Descent of the Ganges”. It is said in legends that King “Bhagiratha” standing on one leg posture Praying to the Lord to bring the River Ganges Down to earth to please the souls of his ancestors. 

Huien Tsang:

  • He was a chinese traveller who visited India between 630 A.D and 645 A.D during the reign of Harsha Vardhana.
  • When he went back to China, he wrote a detailed description of India during the reign of Harsha in his book ‘Si-yu-ki’ or ‘Record of the Western Countries’.
  • His description has been accepted as the best available source of knowing the administrative, social and cultural condition of India at that time. 
  • However, his account of India is not entirely dependable. At several places it is confused, while mostly it is biased because Hiuen Tsang used his description as a means to glorify Buddhism and Harsha as its follower.
  • He visited several places in India like Mathura, Kannauj, Sravasti, Ayodhya, Kapilvastu, Kusinagara, Sarnath, Vaisali, Pataliputra, Rajagraha, Bodha-Gaya and Nalanda.
    • He remained at the University of Nalanda for about five years
  • He also participated in one of the religious assemblies called by Harsha at Prayag .
  • He left India in 644 A.D. through the same route by which he had entered i.e via Central Asia and Afghanistan.