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This shrine, called the Trimurti Temple, is generally considered as the first of the Pallava cave-temples and was commissioned by Mahendra I in the early 7th century. The Pallava temples along with a similar group by the Chalukyas of Badami represent the earliest Hindu stone temples in southern India. The temples were a significant architectural innovation as they marked the transition from wooden structures to stone. An inscription on the temple calls it the Laksitayatna and dedicates it to Brahma, Isvara, and Vishnu. Steps at the end of a wide stone courtyard lead up to an uncovered porch before a simple rectangular mandapa with four massive equidistant pillars.

The pillars of the mandapa have an octagonal central section with square base and capital and curved corbels. Inside, another row of similar pillars divides the mandapa into three aisles. The aisles lead to the Trimurti shrines, deep plain niches cut into the rear wall.

Large niches flanking the mandapa have large dvarpalaka images carved in relief. The images are shown wearing tall headgear and standing in dvibhanga, leaning on a massive club entwined by a serpent.

Rock above
Surrounding landscape seen from the hill above the temple.

Photos and Text © Amit Guha