Places of interest in Tamilnadu

Trip to Mahabalipuram on December 5, 2007
AdiVaraha Temple

One of the finished monuments, this temple is currently under worship. A stucco image of Varaha has been installed in the garbagraham. This must be a later addition. A wall has been raised which covers the front of the mandapam and therefore we are not able to see the pillars and most of the roof from the outside. Usually, a row of pillars divides the mandapam into two sections – the maha mandapam & ardha mandapam on the inner side. In this mandapam, there are two rows of pillars. In the first row, are four pillars and two pilasters with sitting lion base. In the second row are two pillars.

There are several relief panels to be seen in this mandapam, some of them similar to those in the Varaha Mandapam – Gangadhara, a Pallava king (seated on a throne) with his queens, Gajalakshmi, Vishnu, Harihara, Durga, another panel depicting a Pallava king (standing) with his queens, Brahma.

Gangadhara panel
Siva is seen standing holding out a strand of hair to receive the descending Ganges. Ganga is shown as a woman falling down, offering prayers to Lord Siva. Siva is seen with four arms – main right arm in abhaya mudra (blessing) and the main left arm on his hips, weapons in his upper arms.

Gangadhara panel
Pallava king

Pallava king
A wide shouldered Pallava king is seen seated on a throne. Though he wears a crown, there are not many ornaments on his chest. On either side are his queens facing the king, seen in three-fourth profile.

There is an inscription on the lintel reading sri-simhavinna-pottr-Athirajan ('The illustrious Simhavishnu-Pallava, Supreme King') in Pallava Grantha characters.

Majority view is that it is Simhavishnu, the grand-father of Mamalla. But, one scholar suggests that it is Rajasimha and his queens.

Gajalakshmi Panel
Lakshmi is seated erect on a lotus. She is seen holding lotuses in both her arms with her legs resting on the lotus. There are four women, two on either side. The ones closest to Lakshmi are holding pots ready for the holy bath. The other two women are holding flowers in their hands. There are two huge elephants on top. The one on the left is in the act of squirting holy water on Lakshmi and the one on the right is ready to reach the pot.

To the right of the Lakshmi panel is a Vishnu sculpture in a niche, standing on a lotus with four arms. There are two devotees kneeling at his feet. Outside the niche is the figure of Adisesha with five heads (snake’s hood) to Vishnu’s right.

To the right of this panel is the garbagriham with two dwarapalakas at the entrance. On the beam is a hamsa (swan) frieze. On the rear wall is a relief panel of Varaha. There are also the figures of Sri Devi and Bhu Devi in the shrine. A stucco image of Varaha has been installed. This must be a later addition.


To the right of the garbagriha is a Harihara sculpture in a niche, similar to the Vishnu sculpture. Here too, there are two devotees kneeling at the feet of the Lord. Harihara is part Vishnu (on the left) & part Siva (on the right). There is an inscription above this panel listing the Dasavatarams.

To the right of this is a panel depicting Goddess Durga. Here the Goddess is in a graceful pose, with her right leg bent slightly at the knee and crossed behind the left. (In the other caves, we see Durga standing erect). In her eight arms she holds weapons. On either side are two standing devotees with weapons. At her feet are two sitting devotees. At the top we can see two ganas, and the face of a lion and a deer on either side.

Goddess Durga
Pallava king with his two queens

To the right of this on the side wall is a panel depicting a Pallava king with his two queens, both of them on his left. In this panel, they are all seen standing. An inscription above says Sri Mahendra pottr athirajan.

To the right of this, is a panel depicting Lord Brahma seen standing on a lotus. His main right arm rests on his hip while his left arm is in abhaya mudra. In his upper right arm he holds the mala (rosary) and in his upper left arm a lotus.


A two-line inscription, a sloka in Sanskrit in the Pallava Grantha script can be seen on the floor of the ardha-mandapam, cursing those who are not devotees of Siva.

Back | Home