Seven Pagodas and the Lost City of Mahabalipuram

May 2 2017

Expedition Video

Discover the Seven Pagodas in the Lost City of Mahabalipuram

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May 2 2017

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Expedition Background

According to myths and written records, a magnificent city of "Seven Pagodas" or Mahabalipuram flourished in the 7th and 8th centuries on the shores of the Bay of Bengal in Southern India. "Before the December 2004 tsunami, evidence for the existence of the Seven Pagodas was largely anecdotal. The existence of the Shore Temple, smaller temples, and rathas supported the idea that the area had strong religious significance, but there was little contemporary evidence save one Pallava-era painting of the temple complex. Ramaswami wrote in his 1993 book Temples of South India that evidence of 2000 years of civilization, 40 currently visible monuments, including two "open air bas-reliefs," and related legends spreading through both South Asia and Europe had caused people to build up Mahabalipuram’s mystery in their minds (Ramaswami, 204). He writes explicitly that "There is no sunk city in the waves off Mamallapuram. The European name, ‘The Seven Pagodas,’ is irrational and cannot be accounted for" (Ramaswami, 206).


Anecdotal evidence can be truthful though, and in 2002 scientists decided to explore the area off the shore of Mahabalipuram, where many modern Tamil fishermen claimed to have glimpsed ruins at the bottom of the sea. This project was a joint effort between the National Institute of Oceanography (India) and the Scientific Exploration Society, U.K. (Vora). The two teams found the remains of walls beneath 5 to 8 meters of water and sediment, 500 to 700 meters off the coast. The layout suggested that they belonged to several temples. Archaeologists dated them to the Pallava era, roughly when Mahendravarman I and Narasimharavarman I ruled the region (Vora). NIO scientist K.H. Vora noted after the 2002 exploration that the underwater site probably contained additional structures and artifacts, and merited future exploration (Vora)." Source: Wikipedia

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