By: Melissa D. Goolsarran Ramnauth, Esq.
Legend says that: Seven Pagodas existed in ancient Mahabalipuram, India, during the 7th and 8th centuries. Mahabalipuram was a prosperous economic center in South India, supposedly founded after Lord Vishnu killed Prince Hiranyakasipu. The name “Seven Pagodas” was likely coined by European sailors who encountered seven temples in Mahabalipuram.
The local Tamils believe that god Indra was so jealous of the magnificent city that she sank it during a great storm- leaving only the Shore Temple above water. They claimed that some of the other six temples could be seen glistening under the water from fishing boats above. The six missing temples continued to fascinate many. Time had relegated the hidden temples to mere myth, and much of the city’s other monuments became buried under sand.
And then: Gradual steps were taken by Indians and foreigners to uncover Mahabalipuram monuments. British families living in India during Britain’s colonization reportedly personally excavated the area. The British also appointed experienced archaeologists to oversee digs.
In 2002, scientists investigated these centuries-old claims by fishermen and found some remains 5-8 meters beneath sediment. The arrangement of the remains suggests that there were indeed several temples in the region.
Shortly thereafter, the 2004 tsunami exposed a collapsed granite temple when the ocean water pulled back about 500 meters. Many witnesses near the beach saw a row of rocks emerge before the water rushed back to the shoreline. The tsunami also washed several relics (dated to the 7th century) onto the shore. For example, a large stone lion washed ashore and many have flocked to view it since.
Altogether, India’s 30,000 thousand-year history and vast landmass is filled with treasures. Mahabalipuram exemplifies the riches of a prospering ancient city, the perils of nonpreservation, and the excitement for new discoveries of these antiquities.
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