Pallavas art and architecture Upsc

Pallavas art and architecture

Pallavas era was the great age of temple building. They actually introduced the art of excavating temples from the rocks.

Also, the Dravidian style of Architecture was actually started by the Pallavas. The Dravidian architecture had a gradual evolution that started from cave temples to monolithic rathas and finally to structural temples.

Their history is documented from the 6th to the 8th century. They are mostly Shaivite but several Vaishnava temples survived during their rule. Also, they are influenced by long Buddhist traditions in the Deccan.

The Pallava’s early buildings were generally rock-cut and later ones were structural. The early buildings were generally attributed to the rules of Mahendravarman -I. Narasimhavarman-I inaugurated most of the building works at Mahabalipuram. Mahabalipuram is known after him, as he was called Mahabali after defeating Pulakesin-II.

The shore temple at Mahabalipuram was built during Narasimhavarman-II, which is also known as Rajasimha.

Three are three shrines, two to Shiva. One shrine faces east and the other shrine faces west. The middle shrine is dedicated to Vishnu who is depicted as Anantashayana.

The development of temples by Pallavas can be seen in four stages.

Pallavas art and architecture: First Stage

The first stage is rock-cut temples which were introduced by Mahendravarman -I. The rock-cut temples are seen at Mandagappattu, Mahendravadi, Mamandur, Dalavanur, Tiruchirappalli, Vallam, Siyamangalam, and Tirukalukkunram.

Pallavas art and architecture
Five Rathas Mahabalipuram By Av.kumar85 at English Wikipedia – Own work Av.kumar85 at English Wikipedia, Public Domain,

Second Stage

The second stage is represented by Monolithic rathas and Mandapas that are found at Mamallapuram. This stage was founded by Narasimhavarman – I.

The five rathas or Panchapanadava Rathas show five different styles of temple architecture. These mandapas at Mahabalipuram contain beautiful sculptures on their walls.

Mahishasuramardhini, Tirumurthi, and Varaha Mandapa are the most famous ones.

Third Stage

The third stage is structural temples introduced by Rajasimha. The structures were built by soft sand rocks.

An example of the earliest structural temples was Shore temple at Mamallapuram and Kailasanatha temple at Kanchipuram.

The greatest masterpiece of Pallavas art and architecture is the Kailasanatha temple at Kanchi.

Kailasanatha temple at Kanchi By Keshav Mukund Kandhadai – Flickr: Kailasanathar Temple, CC BY 2.0,

Last Stage of Pallavas art and architecture

It is also represented by structural temples built by later Pallavas. The temple that belonged to this stage is Vaikundaperumal, Muktheeswara, and Matagenswara temples at Kanchipuram.

Apart from temples Pallavas also developed Sculptures. The ‘Open Art Gallery’ at Mamallapuram is an important example.

Fine Arts

Music, dance, and painting also developed under the patronage of the Pallavas. The Mamandur inscription contains a note on the notation of songs. The Kudumianmalai inscription mentioned musical notes and instruments.

The Alwars and Nayanmars composed their hymns in various musical notes. Dance and drama also developed during this era. The sculptures of this era depict many dancing postures.

The Sittannavasal paintings belonged to the present period. The commentary called Dakshinchitra was compiled during the reign of Mahendravarman I, who had the title Chittirakkarapuli.


This article is written Upsc exam for the “Art and Architecture of Pallavas”. This note is prepared from Ncert Book. The article is about the Pallavas architecture, the best examples are Kailasanathar Temple at Kanchi, Pancha Rathas, and Shore Temple at Mahabalipuram.


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* * All the Notes in this blog, are referred from Tamil Nadu State Board Books and Samacheer Kalvi Books. Kindly check with the original Tamil Nadu state board books and Ncert Books.
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