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Varaha Cave Temple

This temple is known as the Varaha Cave Temple, because the main sculpture here is that of Lord Varaha, one of the ten avatars of Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu, in the form of a Varaha or boar, is the major sculpture here. Here Lord Varaha is seen lifting Bhudevi. There are lots of figures depicting Hindu mythology in this temple. This temple is just about 4km away from the major tourist spots of Mahabalipuram like Panch Rathas and the Shore Temple. This temple is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the respected Group of Monuments in Mahabalipuram. The history of the temple dates back to around 7th century. This temple, located on the Coromandel Coast of Bay of Bengal, is one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture found in Mahabalipuram.

The cave chamber is of the measurement 33x14 and it there are four huge pillars and pilasters at the entrance of the temple. This temple falls into the monolithic rock cut temple category. There are various styles of architecture like Roman, Greco-Roman and European evident from the sitting statutes of the statues in this temple. It would be apt to say that this temple laid the foundation for the birth of Dravidian style of architecture in South India.

The panels inside the cave are intricately carved and sculptured here. The sidewalls of these panels contain a huge sculpture of Lord Varaha lifting Mother Goddess, Bhudevi. The sculpture contains four arms, two at the back of the idol holding the Sangu and Chakra and two in the front holding the Goddess. There is also a fresco painting of Goddess Durga on a lotus, Lord Vamana (yet another incarnation of Lord Vishnu) and other mythological sculptures in the main Adivaraha Cave.

At the back wall is the Gajalakshmi panel, where one can witness the sculpture of the Wealth Goddess, Lakshmi. The sculpture of the Goddess is extremely beautiful and divine looking. She holds lotus flowers in her hands and is attended by four guards with elephants showering the Goddess with water from the vessels. Inside the Durga panel, we can find the sculpture of Goddess Mahishasuramardhini as a symbol of victory of Good over Evil. Next is the Tiruvikrama panel, where Lord Vishnu is seen as the Lord of the three worlds. Next is the Brahma Panel, where one can witness the statue of Lord Brahma with three hands, in a standing position.

Towards the northern wall of the temple, one can witness the statue of Gangadhara or Lord Shiva. This sculpture has four hands and the Lord is seen in a standing posture. In addition to these mythological sculptures, one can also find the sculptures of a couple of Pallava rulers along with his queens. From the inscriptions available here, it is found out that these kings are Adhiraja Simhavinna Potra and Adhiraja Mahendra Potra. In the local dialect, these kings are commonly known as Narasimha Vishnu and his son Mahendra Varman III.


The history of these caves can be dated back to as early as 7th century. This was the monument that was formed first in the coastal town of Mahabalipuram and researches have indicated that this temple was constructed during the times of Mahendra Varman I and Narasimhavarman I. The styles of architecture found in these caves – those of lions in sitting posture mounted on the columns and frescoes intricately carved in the walls were typical styles that were followed by these Pallava rulers.  It was during 650AD that the Pallava rulers developed this style of architecture. The entrance of the cave with its beautifully done lions in siting postures on the columns, which is a distinctive style of Pallava architecture, is evident from this rock temple.

Visitor Information

This cave temple is open only during the morning and evening hours as Puja is performed for the all the mythological sculptures here. There is no entry fee for the Varaha cave temple for kids and adults. It takes around half an hour to go around the cave temple for tourists. One can carry flowers to be offered to the deities here.

How to Reach

By Bus

There are lots of government and private sector buses available from Chennai and other nearby cities to Mahabalipuram on a frequent basis. Tourists can get their tickets booked well in advance to avoid disappointments.

By Train

Chengalpet railway station, at a distance of 24km, is the nearest to reach Mahabalipuram.

By Air

Chennai Airport, at a distance of 41km, is the nearest to reach Mahabalipuram.

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