Mamallapuram historical town, India

Mamallapuram, also called Mahabalipuram or Seven Pagodas, historic town, northeast Tamil Nadu state, southeastern India. It lies along the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal 37 miles (60 km) south of Chennai (Madras).

“Arjuna’s Penance”

The town’s religious centre was founded by a 7th-century-CE Hindu Pallava king—Narasimhavarman, also known as Mamalla—for whom the town was named. Ancient Chinese, Persian, and Roman coins found at Mamallapuram point to its earlier existence as a seaport. It contains many surviving 7th- and 8th-century Pallava temples and monuments, chief of which are the sculptured rock relief popularly known as “Arjuna’s Penance,” or “Descent of the Ganges,” a series of sculptured cave temples, and a Shaiva temple on the seashore. The town’s five rathas, or monolithic temples, are the remnants of seven temples, for which the town was known as Seven Pagodas. The entire assemblage collectively was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984.

Mamallapuram is a resort and tourist centre. In addition to the ancient monuments and temples, it has an extensive beachfront on the ocean, lined with resorts and tourist cabins. The town is also home to a college offering instruction in architecture and temple sculpture.

Cultural life

Hinduism lies at the core of the culture of Tamil Nadu. Among the most famous of the state’s temples, which number in the tens of thousands, are the 7th- and 8th-century structures at Mamallapura, which were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. The gopurams, or gateway towers, of such temples are dominant in most towns, particularly Chidambaram, Kanchipuram, Thanjavur, Madurai, and the Srirangam pilgrimage centre in Tiruchchirappalli. The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Administration Department is responsible for the administration of the state’s temples and sanctuaries.

The cycle of temple festivals attracts large congregations of devotees. Noteworthy also are the car festivals, during which large chariots decorated with religious icons are taken in procession around the temple. In addition, Tamil Nadu is scattered with sectarian monastic institutions, or mathas—of which the most important are the Shankara Matha at Kumbakonam and the Vaishnava compound at Srirangam—which hold various activities; Hindu families typically owe allegiance to a number of such institutions.

The arts
Meenakshi Amman Temple

Bharata natyam, one of India’s major classical dance forms, and Karnatak music (South Indian classical music) are both widely practiced. Painting and sculpture are less prominent, although there are schools that teach the art of sculpture in stone and bronze. Tamil literature rapidly adopted the Western literary forms of the novel and the short story. The poet Subrahmanya Bharati (1882–1921) was one of the first to modify traditional Tamil poetry by blending popular and scholastic literary styles. Motion pictures are the most prevalent form of mass entertainment. There are both touring and permanent movie theatres, and sentimental and spectacular films, often featuring music and dancing, are produced by the film studios situated largely around Chennai.

Media and publishing
Hundreds of periodicals are published in Tamil, most of them daily newspapers. The Dina Thanthi is the leading paper. Among English newspapers, The Hindu of Chennai is widely read and is respected for its high standard of journalism.

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