Okkaneshwara long shot.jpg
okkaneshwara location.jpg
not many looking at the temple.jpg

Today we are going to see a unique structure in mallai, sadly not many go to view this amazing place, not just for its beauty but also for its great view. With the new lighthouse ( which itself was commissioned in 1887 !) offering a nice offset, lot of people do capture this structure albeit in long shots. Kind of Old vs new but its more sad since this is probably one of the most unique structures of Mallai.

Why we call it unique, is because its a structural temple and not a rock cut/cave temple like the rest of the sculpture and unlike the shore temple, its build on top of a small hillock. Today the structure is in pretty sad state - nature and the british ( using it as a lighthouse) have taken its toll on the structure. ( images courtesy British library)

An antique snap ( early 1900's) thanks to british library.jpg
a rare plate showing the oldlighthouse.jpg
a rare antique plate - notice the broken pillar.jpg
an even earlier painting.jpg

From the pictures you could get a good idea on the location, it can reached by climbing a flight of steps adjoining the Mahishasuramardhini cave.

the splendor of okkaneshwara.JPG
The amazing panels.JPG
amazing door guardian.jpg
rajasimha lions and door guardian.jpg

But the temple is still braving the odds and has some very unique sculptures. The rajasimha lions / vyala’s are there on the corner pillars of Garbha Griham and ardha mandabam, and a few of our favorite shiva ganas - amazingly funny and endearing characters these dwarfs.( like children waiting for their dad to come back from work with trinkets)

faithful ganas watcing over passing ships.jpg
old overlooking the new, the rajasimha stamp.jpg
our freind again.jpg
amazing view.jpg
like children waiting for their dad.jpg

Now the name, i learnt it after reading Mr. Swaminathan’s work on mallai ( shortly coming out as a book and a must read)

We understand that it was the practice in those days of collecting a measure of oil (Uzhakku-ennai) from the community for the permanent light of this temple. Thus it came to be called Uzhakku-Ennai-Isvarar Temple. Olakkaneswra is its corruption is a view.”

only the door guardians remain.jpg
our two friends again.jpg
amazing door guardian.jpg
shiva dancing over demon.jpg

There are three relief sculptures on the outer walls: on the south is Dakshinamurti, Siva as a teacher, heralding a practice in all Siva temple then on, Siva as the divine dancer ( visitors to Kanchi kailasanatha would recognise this )on the eastern wall and finally, on the north side, an exquisite relief of Siva subduing Ravana who had the temerity to lift Mount Kailasa.”

shiva as the amazing dancer.jpg
ravana anugraha murthy.jpg

The beauty of this sculpture is amazing, you can still see the crescent moon gracing shiva’s locks and the scream emanating from ravana’s mouths.

Sadly our modern day Kings and their consorts have decided that these creations should be graced with their names as well. A thousand year heritage being defaced thus, cant they find better avenues to exhibit their love.

ravana okkaneshwarasadly disfigured by grafetti.jpg
ravana screaming.jpg

( Thanks to Mr. Swaminathan for taking the time to do the Mallai trip for Ponniyin selvan friends and pictures by Sri. Shriram, Sri. Plastics Chandra and Sri. Vinjamoor Venkatesh)

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 30th, 2008 at 7:09 and is filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

11 Comments so far


chandras blog on further sad plights of mahabalipuram

September 30th, 2008 at 10:07
Satish Kumar

Amazing Photos. Any idea when the iron grils were put in place? The photos from British Library do not have the iron railings, but one b/w photo does have it. Probably in 70’s or 80’s?

September 30th, 2008 at 20:14

regret missing this trip

September 30th, 2008 at 23:03
Narasimhan Srinivasan

Dear Friends,

I am a South Indian based in Delhi. I am very much interested in architectural and cultural heritage. Can anyone among you kindly let me know where exactly is the Mallai Olakkaneswarar temple located in Tamil Nadu? My email i.d. is srirangam99@gmail.com. Kindly also give me the links to more such historical and architectural websites. Do not hesitate to write emails to my at the above address. Thanks

October 15th, 2008 at 12:45

Dear Mr. Srinivasan,

Mallai is the tamil name for present day Mahabalipuram. Olakkaneshwara temple is on one of the hillocks of mallai, you can see the lcoation in the pictures - framed along with the present day lighthouse.


October 15th, 2008 at 12:49
Narasimhan Srinivasan

Aiyyo, so silly of me. But thanks anyways dear Vijay. Do not call me Mister etc. You can call me Cheenu and I again request, pl. do not forget to keep sending me links to heritage and architectural sites like the ones here… to repeat, my email i.e. is srirangam99@gmail.com

October 15th, 2008 at 13:16

Hi Cheenu ( if that makes you happy),

We have rss feed enabled on the site, you can subscribe and be aware of all new posts. for prev posts, you can search using the search, or click on the tags, use the archive index on the top menu, or go by dates highlighted in the calender. Glad to see another sculptor lover like us. Please also feel free to contribute to the effort,by sending us pictures from your past/future visits.


October 15th, 2008 at 13:37
Kathie Brobeck

What wonderful things!
Those photos with the murthis silhouetted
against the sky are gorgeous. And that charming little Shankha Nidhi. . .
Thank you, Vijay and photographers!

October 18th, 2008 at 4:06

மிக அருமையான விளக்கம் கண்டேன்.தமிழ் சிற்பக் கலையின் வண்ணம் கண்டு வியந்தேன்.உங்கள் வலைத் தளம் மூலமாக நிறையக் காண்கின்றேன்.சிறந்த பணிக்காக எமது இனிய நன்றி.சோலை.தியாகராஜன்,மியம்மா.(anna100.myanmar@gmail.com)

January 2nd, 2009 at 15:12

உங்கள் மறு மொழிக்கு நன்றி திரு சோலை.தியாகராஜன். மியம்மா வில் கூட நமது சிற்பங்கள் உள்ளன - உங்களிடம் இருந்தால் எங்களுடன்


January 2nd, 2009 at 22:11

மியம்மாவில் பகான் என்ற பகுதியில் இந்தியக் கலை வண்ணச் சிற்பங்கள் நிறைய உண்டு.அவைகள் பற்றிய வலைத் தளத்தைக் கண்டு மகிழ்க.
மேலும் முயன்று செய்திகள் தருவேன்,நன்றி.

January 4th, 2009 at 14:11

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