Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram) the Port of Pallavas who ruled South India with their headquarters at Kancheepuram is classified as a UNESCO world Heritage site and is famous for its rock hewn structures and temples. Majority of the structures are believed to be carved during the reign of great Pallava king Narasimhavarman-1 (AD 630-38) who was titled as Mamalla. The rocks near Mahabalipuarm beach were called as Seven Pagodas by mariners. Seafarers used these tall rocks as day marks for coastal navigation.

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Old Mahabalipuram Lighthouse

Light on Olakaneeswara temple

Olakaneeswara temple is situated on the summit of the tallest rock in the group of seven pagodas and at its bottom is Mahishasuramardhini cave temple. The idol, a Siva lingam auspiciously placed inside Olakaneeswara temple was thrown out of the sanctum by some vandals in the end of eighteenth century or in the advent of nineteenth century. Sri Kavali Lakshmayya, in his article ‘Description of Pagodas & C. at Mavalivaram’ written in Telugu language in 1803 mentioned that “The God has rolled away someway.

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Olakaneeswara temple

Lighting apparatus

A fourth order dioptric lens with capillary lamp was installed at Santapille lighthouse in the Andhra Pradesh coast in 1870. The light did not serve the purpose, for the power of light beam was insufficient to reach the outer edge of Santapille Reef and complaints started pouring from mariners. When Santapille lighthouse got a new second order optic in September 1886, the old lighting apparatus was transferred to Mahabalipuram lighthouse. Lighting apparatus for new tower was supplied by M/s Chance Brothers, Birmingham.

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Optic Lens

Lighthouse Museum

For awareness of younger generation about the important role played by lighthouses for safe navigation through unknown territories, a lighthouse museum and a maritime heritage museum were commissioned at Mahabalipuram on 28thJanuary 2014. The theme of lighthouse museum is evolution of lighting apparatuses through centuries. We have exhibited old country lanterns, lamps, revolving and drum optics, clockwork mechanisms, etc in beautiful acrylic boxes with a narration of the exhibit in three languages. A separate section is included for evolution of lamps.

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Mahabalipuram Museum


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Other Heritage lighthouses

Lighthouses in India

Temples of Mahabalipuram