The largest cave-cut Hindu temple in Mahabalipuram is Krishna Mandapam – it is also one of the oldest structures in Mahabalipuram. This structure is cut in diorite, above the temple there are located enormous boulders. Close next to it is located one of the most amazing ancient artworks of world – Arjuna’s Penance.

The entrance of the temple has six columns, five columns are adorned with horned lions. Further inside there are more columns.

Temple is closely linked to the local legend about Lord Indra – god of rain and Lord Krishna.

Legend tells that earlier once per year local shepherd community – Gokulas – thanked God Indra for the blessing of rain. Lord Krishna asked people to discontinue this – after all, it was the hard work of people themselves bringing them blessing and not Indra. Indra became angry and ordered heavy, constant rain to drown the cattle.

Relief at the rear wall of Krishna Mandapam, India
Relief at the rear wall of Krishna Mandapam / McKay Savage, / CC BY 2.0

Krishna – then a small boy – was asked for help and he saved people and animals – he lifted the mythical Govardhana hill thus providing a shelter. Even more – he did this with his single little finger. The rain continued for several days until Lord Indra felt embarrassed and withdrew the clouds.

This legend is depicted on the rear wall of the temple. These well-preserved carvings show Krishna holding the Govardhana hill – with village people around him and cattle in the background. Sculptural groups show a shepherd milking a cow which in turn licks her calf, a farmer walking with his child on the shoulder, a shepherdess carrying a pot of curd on her head, a young couple and many more scenes. These depictions belong to the highest achievements of realistic art in Southern India.

Left wall of verandah contains sculptures of wild animals – lions, monkeys. On the right, high on the wall is a depiction of Nandi.


  1. Krishna Mandapam, Mahabalipuram, i Share. Accessed on April 14, 2010
  2. Trip to Mahabalipuram or Mamallapuram: Chapter 12: Krishna Mandapam, Accessed on April 14, 2010
Krishna Mandapam on the map
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Location, GPS coordinates: 12.617378 N 80.192606 E
Categories: Hindu shrines, Rock cut temples and monasteries
Values: Art, Architecture, History, Archaeology
Rating: 1.5 out of 10 stars
Where is located? Asia, India, Tamil Nadu, south of Chennai, Kanchipuram district, Mahabalipuram town, "hillock" near the centre, south from Arjuna’s Penance
Age: the late 7th century AD
Religion: Hindi
UNESCO World Heritage status: Part of "Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram", 1984, No.249

Landmarks of India

Key Gompa, India
Key Gompa / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0

India is seventh largest country of world by area, and, naturally such a large area contains huge amount of exciting attractions…

Wondermondo considers that India is the second richest centre of architectural heritage in the world after Europe and maybe no single country of the world can match it in this respect.

Hindu shrines

Sri Meenakshi Temple - gopuram
Sri Meenakshi Temple – gopuram / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Hinduism is one of the oldest religions – possibly the oldest one among contemporary religions and Hindu temples belong to most impressive religious buildings in the world.

Recommended books

Tamil Nadu: The Heart of Dravidian India

The huge temples of Tamil Nadu are justifiably famous. Through history and forty-four original photographs, this book explains how the temples came to be and what their statuary symbolizes. The book also paints a picture of what life was like in the civilizations that built them.

Mahabalipuram (Monumental Legacy)

Built in 700 CE by the famous Pallava king Rajasimha, Mahabalipuram is a unique monument where art form combines with religion and legends. Also known as Mamallapuram, it showcases the best of Tamil art and architecture. The beauty of the monument is further enhanced by its location on the shores of the Bay of Bengal, the latter significantly influencing the creations. Part of the prestigious Monumental Legacy series, this book presents a graphic account of the site and its monuments-mandapas (cave temples), rathas (chariots), open air bas-reliefs, and structural temples.

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