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The Satrumallesvara Temple at Dalavanur, built by Mahendra I, belongs to the early phase of Pallava architecture represented by a series of rock-cut shrines built between the 7th and 9th centuries in the Tondaimandalam region, around their capital Kanchipuram. These temples were the first in South India to be carved out of hard, granite rock. Earlier rock cut shrines, mostly Buddhist, were excavated into the softer rock in the Deccan.

The mandapa pillars have large medallions carved on each face of the square sections at the base and top. Steps lead to the entrance between these pillars. Above the entrance is an elaborately carved lintel. Above this, a gently curved eave has a row of equally spaced candrasalas with carved faces. On either side of the mandapa facade are deep niches with gently-leaning Dvarpalakas.

Shrine Entrance
The shrine is cut into the west wall of the mandapa so that it faces east. Dvarpalaks in relief also appear on each side of the entrance to the shrine. The figures are again exquisitely modeled, their ornaments, crowns and clothes are intricately carved. Both stand in the tribhanga pose with one hand on the hip, while the other is raised in the abhaya mudra.

The temple is excavated into the vertical south face of an isolated granite outcrop, surrounded by rice-fields.

Rock-cut steps
These rock-cut steps lead to the top of the granite hill.

Photos and Text © Amit Guha