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Dharmaraja Mandapa, Mahabalipuram

Dharmaraja Mandapam, Mahabalipuram
Dharmaraja Mandapam. / Thamizhpparithi Maari, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

WorldBlue  In short

The simple, even ascetic Dharmaraja Mandapa is somewhat less noticed rock-cut temple in Mahabalipuram.

4.1 out of 10 stars 41.3%

GPS coordinates
12.6148 N 80.1916 E
Location, address
Asia, India, Tamil Nadu, south of Chennai, Kanchipuram district, Mahabalipuram town, southern part of the temple hill
Hindu shrines, Rock-cut architecture and sculptures, Rock-cut temples and monasteries
Alternate names
Atyantakama cave temple
Late 7th century AD or middle of the 8th century AD
UNESCO World Heritage status
Part of "Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram", 1984, No. 249

Map of the site

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WorldYellow In detail

This temple is located near the Olakkannesvara Temple and an interesting, unfinished sculpted rock that resembles the famous Arjuna’s Penance further north.


Dharmaraja Mandapa is facing east. Its architecture is simple but elegant. The front part has three openings with two pillars. Inside is a simple hall divided by two more pillars. At the back wall, three-four steps lead up to three cells – shrines. Most likely the central, larger cell was devoted to Shiva, two others – to Brahma and Vishnu.

The only ornamentation inside has been two dvarapalas (mythical guards), “guarding” the central shrine. Both reliefs have been chiseled off in later times, possibly, during the Vaishnava resurgence in the 14th – 15th centuries.


An interesting detail in this temple is an ancient inscription in Grantha writing and Sanskrit language, with fourteen lines. Most likely, it was made upon the completion of the temple. In other cases, these inscriptions help to understand the time of the construction, but not this time. The inscription is rather chaotic and lists several rulers of the Pallava dynasty without mentioning which one of these rulers ordered the temple.

The simple design of the temple is characteristic of comparatively early rock-cut temples. Some researchers consider that the temple was built during the time of Rajasimha I (reigned in 735 – 765 AD). Nevertheless, more researchers are inclined to think that it was built earlier, during the times of Paramesvaravarman I (reigned in 670 – 695 AD).

Vaishnavas occupied this temple during the 13th – 19th centuries.


  1. Saurabh Saxena, Mamallapuram – Dharmaraja Mandapa, July 16, 2016. Accessed on the 18th May 2019.
  2. K. R. Srinivasan, Cave Temples of the Pallavas, Archaeology Survey of India, 1964. Accessed on the 18th May 2019.

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