historic town, northeast Tamil Nadu state, southeastern India. The town lies along the Bay of Bengal 37 miles (60 km) south of Madras. The town's religious centre was founded by a 7th-century-AD Hindu Pallava king, Narasimhavarman, also known as Mamalla, for whom the town was named. Ancient Chinese, Persian, and Roman coins found at Mahabalipuram point to its earlier existence as a seaport. It contains many surviving 7th- and 8th-century Pallava temples and monuments, chief of which are the sculptured rock relief popularly known as "Arjuna's Penance," or "Descent of the Ganges," a series of sculptured cave temples, and a Saiva temple on the seashore. The town's five rathas, or monolithic temples, are the remnants of seven temples, for which the town was known as Seven Pagodas. The town is a resort and tourist centre. It contains a college offering instruction in architecture and temple sculpture.
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