Thursday, Aug 11, 2022
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Art, Out Of The Blue

The tsunami 'backwash' unravels fragments of Pallava-era shrines, fuelling Mamallapuram's 'seven pagodas' folklore

Art, Out Of The Blue Pallava Bagla

The tsunami of December 26, 2004, left an indelible and devastating mark on the minds of many in Tamil Nadu. But the natural disaster also unravelled in its wake a tiny archaeological gift to India, some remarkable rock-cut shrines in Mamallapuram (earlier Mahabalipuram), the ancient world-famous temple township in coastal Tamil Nadu, some 50 kilometres southwest of Chennai.

As the waters calmed and receded, three rock shrines stood revealed on the beach close to the township's famous Shore Temple. This came about due to what is called 'backwash', a phenomenon in which retreating waters suck off huge amounts of debris and sand. The shrines thus delivered to light have given credence to the theory that Mamallapuram was once a Pallava dynasty stronghold, characterised by several distinct granite temples.

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