Mallai Olakkaneswara temple

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)16891686
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.
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)
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.”
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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.”
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.

( 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)

11 thoughts on “Mallai Olakkaneswara temple

  1. 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?

  2. 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 [email protected]. 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

  3. 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.


  4. 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 [email protected]

  5. 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.


  6. 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!

  7. மிக அருமையான விளக்கம் கண்டேன்.தமிழ் சிற்பக் கலையின் வண்ணம் கண்டு வியந்தேன்.உங்கள் வலைத் தளம் மூலமாக நிறையக் காண்கின்றேன்.சிறந்த பணிக்காக எமது இனிய நன்றி.சோலை.தியாகராஜன்,மியம்மா.([email protected])

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


  9. திரு.விஜய்,
    மியம்மாவில் பகான் என்ற பகுதியில் இந்தியக் கலை வண்ணச் சிற்பங்கள் நிறைய உண்டு.அவைகள் பற்றிய வலைத் தளத்தைக் கண்டு மகிழ்க.
    மேலும் முயன்று செய்திகள் தருவேன்,நன்றி.
    சோலை.தியாகராஜன்,மியம்மா.([email protected])

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