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Mahabalipuram seven pagodas

Mahabalipuram seven pagodas

For centuries it has been thought that the seven pagodas of Mahabalipuram (or Mamallapuram ) were just legends, but a series of events in recent years has proved the truth.

In Mahabalipuram (also known as Mamallapuram), a small Indian city reported on the Marco Polo's 1275 Catalan Map, according to ancient legends there were once seven temples that the god Indra , jealous of the beauty of the city, became a flourishing port under the Pallava dynasty between 600 and 700 AD, plunged with a storm, saving only one temple, the current " beach temple ".

Mahabalipuram sette pagode

The beach temple of Mahabalipuram

This temple according to archaeological studies was actually erected starting from the eighth century after Christ using local granite blocks, cut and arranged on five levels. The temple has a pyramidal structure and develops for about 20 meters in height with a square base of about 17 meters per side. Inside the temple there is a statue dedicated to Lingam , one of the forms of Shiva , a god who according to legends would have been the origin of the foundation of the city.

For centuries, locals have claimed to be able to see the ruins of the other temples when they go off the coast, on board their fishing boats, but until 2002 no one had ever found concrete evidence of their existence. That year a group of Indian and British archaeologists exploring the area and at a distance from the coast between 500 and 700 meters finally found the remains of walls, buried under the sand at a depth between 5 and 8 meters.

Mahabalipuram statua leone

First discoveries off Mahabalipuram

The appearance of the remains suggested that they could belong not to a single building but to several buildings, dating back to the Pallava dynasty. It was however only in December 2004, when a tsunami of frightening power also fell on Mahabalipuram, which the myth found to be definitively confirmed. Shortly before the arrival of the wave, the water withdrew and those near the coast claimed to have seen a long and straight row of large rocks emerge from the water.

The tsunami covered everything again soon after, but the sediments that had covered the structures for centuries were swept away, allowing archaeologists to find more evidence including a large statue of a sitting lion resurfaced right on the beach of Mahabalipuram. In the following months it was discovered that the large rocks seen before the tsunami were the remains of a wall about 2 meters high and about 70 meters long.

Mahabalipuram sette pagode bis

The 2004 tsunami revealed the truth

Two submerged temples and a temple dug into the rock were also found, all within 500 meters of the coast, which if related to the beach temple and other minor structures found provided a picture very similar to the one painting of the Pallava era which shows the ancient arrangement of the seven pagodas complex.

The discovery of slabs with engraved inscriptions, a further excavated temple and the remains of an earlier Tamil temple dating back to about 2,000 years ago finally provided a clearer picture of what had happened over the centuries: a first tsunami must have destroyed the Tamil temple, a second probably destroyed the Pallavi temples. The third tsunami, in our days, has allowed us to find the remains of one and the other, bringing out the legend and bringing back in history the seven pagodas of Mahabalipuram.

Tags: Myths, Mystery solved, history