Mandapas or Cave shrines of Mamallapuram.
The Pallavas (6th - 9th century ce) were the first dynasty to rule over large tracts of present day Tamil Nadu. Their capital at Kanchipuram was at the cross-roads of the North-South trade in spices, gems and silks. Their thriving port at Mamallapuram was the export nexus for trade with the distant lands of Java, Sumatra and Cambodia. The prosperity of the Pallavas, permitted their artistically minded King, Mahendra Varman (571-630 ce) to be a patron of the arts, focusing on sculpture and replicating in stone, temples which were previously built in wood, brick and mortar. Their dynastic reign thus oversaw the initiation and development of temple architecture in South India. Their work influenced temples as far away as Ellora and across the bay in Cambodia.
Despite their relatively short reign, the Pallava temples inspired even invading rulers. Their armies competed not only on battlefields, but also in designing sacred spaces for the divine. Muslim invasions and their assured destruction of Hindu art, fortunately did not penetrate this area. Thus uninterrupted, temple architecture evolved in Tamil Nadu for nearly two millennia.
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