During the rule of the Pallavas (600-900 AD), Mahabalipuram was one of the major ports in South India and the main connecting point for trade with China. Many articles including pottery have been found here and in the neighbouring areas showing close trade relationships with the Chinese.
A Pallava prince, whom the Chinese call Bodhidharma, is said to have travelled to China from Kanchipuram via Mahabalipuram, as a messenger of Buddhism and reached Guangzhou in 527 AD.
He went on to become the 28th patriarch of Buddhism succeeding Prajnatara.
The form of Buddhism that Bodhidharma taught in China came to be known as Chan (corrupt form of Sanskrit word Dhyan) Buddhism.
It reached Japan, Thailand, Indonesia and other parts of the Far East. As it spread, it came to be known as Zen Buddhism.
He also is said to have taught a silent form of martial arts to the monks at the Shaolin temple.
The choice of the second India-China informal summit venue is said to be also due to the current Chinese President who was earlier governor of Fujian, a province to the south-east of China’s mainland and a region that had intense cultural exchanges with Tamil Nadu.
Know in detail about the present India-China Relations and the bilateral and diplomatic ties shared between the two countries at the linked article.
Mamallapuram or Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu is a temple of art, created by the Pallava rulers.
It is a virtual treasure trove of sculpture and architecture. It is a shining example of Dravidian culture and of the ancient civilization of the Tamils.
Temple architecture which is a unique feature of Tamil culture was born in this place.
There are 4 types of sculptures in India: Cave temples, Carved monoliths, Sculptured scenes or Bas relief and Masonry temples. All these 4 types are found here.
Visit the linked article and read in detail about the Dravidian Style of Architecture.
The Imperial Pallavas ruled from the 6th century AD for about 400 years. Their capital city was Kanchipuram and Mamallapuram was their seaport. The word ‘Pallava’ in Sanskrit means ‘sprout’. As per mythology, Ashvatthama, son of Drona and a character in the epic Mahabharatha, fathered a son through his liaison with a snake princess. The child was named Pallava after the lotus ‘sprouts’ upon which he was laid at birth. As per mythology, the dynasty which this Pallava founded became the Pallava dynasty
History of Mahabalipuram:
The history of Mahabalipuram dates back to 2000 years.
It was a flourishing seaport even at the beginning of the Christian era.
There were references to it in the Greek work ‘Periplus of the Erythrean Sea’ of the 1st century AD and also by Ptolemy, the Greek geographer of the 2nd century AD.
In ancient times even before the Pallavas came on the scene, the place was known as Mallai or Kadalmallai.
Vaishnava saint Bhoothath Alvar was born here.
This was also a pilgrimage centre and Saint Thirumangai Alvar has rendered hymns in praise of this place.
Hiuen Tsang, the Chinese traveller of the 7th century AD mentions that this place was the sea port of the Pallavas.
It has also been referred in European literature of the 14th century as the ‘Place of 7 Pagodas’ or the place of 7 temples.
Many Indian colonists had travelled to South East Asia from this port town.
After the Pallavas, Mahabalipuram had prospered under the Cholas and the Vijayanagar Empire.
Europe knew of it as early as the 13th century when, following Marco polo’s visit, it appeared in the Catalan Map of 1275. The first European to mention it directly did so in 1582.
The first English visitor was William Chambers in 1788.
When the first British visitors went to Mahabalipuram in the 18th century, they found the monuments under the sand, a few completely so. It must have fallen into neglect after the fall of the Vijayanagara Empire. One of the earnest antiquarians Colin Mackenzie dug out some of the monuments from the sand and deputed assistants to collect its traditions and coins. This way, Mahabalipuram became one of the classical sites of Indian historical archaeology.
Mahabalipuram was essentially a victory memorial city. Narasimhavarman I of the Pallavas defeated the Chalukyan King Pulakesin II in the battles of Manimangala and Pariyala in 642 AD, killed him and sacked his capital Badami or Vatapi. He took the title ‘Vatapikonda’ (Conqueror of Vatapi) and Mamalla (the Great Warrior). Earlier, this port town was called Maamalai or ‘Great Hill’. He expanded the facilities of the port and changed its name to Mamallapuram, or ‘City of Mamalla’.With the enormous fortune that he brought from his conquest, he embellished the city of Mahabalipuram with several beautiful buildings and monuments.
The monuments and the temples of Mamallapuram were designed by the Pallava rulers during the 7th and 8th century AD. Mention should be made in this regard about Mahendravarman I, his illustrious son Narasimhavarman I or Mamalla, Mahendravarman II, Parameswaravarman and Narasimhavarman II alias Rajasimha. The majority of the monuments belong to the times of Narasimhavarman I. The rest of the monuments belong to the period of his successors Parameswaravarman and Rajasimha.
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