Mamallapuram, also known as Mahabalipuram, is a town in Chengalpattu district in the southeastern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, best known for the UNESCO World Heritage Site of 7th- and 8th-century Hindu Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram. It is one of the famous tourist sites in India. The ancient name of the place is Thirukadalmallai.
Mamallapuram was one of two major port cities in the Pallava kingdom. The town was named after Pallava king Narasimhavarman I, who was also known as Mamalla. Along with economic prosperity, it became the site of a group of royal monuments, many carved out of the living rock. These are dated to the 7th and 8th centuries: rathas (temples in the form of chariots), mandapas (cave sanctuaries), the giant open-air rock relief the Descent of the Ganges, and the Shore Temple dedicated to Shiva. The contemporary town plan was established by the British Raj in 1827.
Neolithic burial urn, cairn circles and jars with burials dating to the 1st century BCE have been discovered near Mahabalipuram. The Sangam age poem Perumpāṇāṟṟuppadai relates the rule of King Thondaiman Ilam Thiraiyar at Kanchipuram of the Tondai Nadu port Nirppeyyaru which scholars identify with the present-day Mahabalipuram. Chinese coins and Roman coins of Theodosius I in the 4th century CE have been found at Mahabalipuram revealing the port as an active hub of global trade in the late classical period. Two Pallava coins bearing legends read as Srihari and Srinidhi have been found at Mahabalipuram. The Pallava kings ruled Mahabalipuram from Kanchipuram; the capital of the Pallava dynasty from the 3rd century to 9th century CE, and used the port to launch trade and diplomatic missions to Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia. An 8th-century Tamil text written by Thirumangai Alvar described this place as Sea Mountain 'where the ships rode at anchor bent to the point of breaking laden as they were with wealth, big trunked elephants and gems of nine varieties in heaps'.
The temples of Mahabalipuram, portraying events described in the Mahabharata, were built largely during the reigns of King Narasimhavarman and his successor Rajasimhavarman and show the movement from rock-cut architecture to structural building. The city of Mahabalipuram was founded by the Pallava king Narasimhavarman I in the 7th century CE. The mandapa or pavilions and the rathas or shrines shaped as temple chariots are hewn from the granite rock face, while the famed Shore Temple, erected half a century later, is built from dressed stone. What makes Mahabalipuram so culturally resonant are the influences it absorbs and disseminates. The Shore Temple includes many reliefs, including one 100 feet (30 m) long and 45 feet (14 m) high, carved out of granite. In 1957 the Government College of Architecture and Sculpture was established to promote and revive the art of making sculptures and temples.