Mahendravadi Cave Temple

Mahendra Vishnu

Useful Information

Location: Mahendravadi, near Arakonam
Open: no restrictions. [2013]
Fee: free. [2013]
Classification: SubterraneaCave Church
Light: n/a
Guided tours: n/a
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: wheelchair accessible
Address: Mahendravadi Cave Temple.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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The Mahendravadi Cave Temple is an artificial cave which was strangely cut into a single erratic block of granite. As the rock is lying on a flat field, this is actually what we could describe as an above ground cave. This is definitely not a scientific term, but it describes the situation very well. The entrance is in the eastern side of the rock, divided into three portals by two pillars. Those two pillars and a second pair behind them were spared out when the temple was dug, and they support the ceiling. On the back wall of the cave is a shrine with two Dwarapalaks as bas-relief images cared into the wall on both sides of the entrance to the shrine. Inside the shrine is an idol of Yoga Narasimha which is a later addition. Whatever originally was inside the shrine is gone.

This cave temple is rather exceptional in various ways. It is the only cave temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu which was constructed by Mahendra Varman I (600-630 CE). He was the king of the Pallava, which are famous for their cultural achievements, including their developed art and architecture and the Tamil and Sanskrit literature they produced. The Pallava dynasty existed between the 2nd and 9th centuries CE in southern India.