Seven Pagodas may be fact, not fiction
Just before the 2004 tsunami struck, some people claimed to have seen some temple structures in the sea as the waters receded before flooding in. This strengthened the earlier belief that the two standing shore temples were part of a set of seven. European explorers and mariners have described Mamallapuram as the town of the seven pagodas (seven temples), which they probably saw as they crossed the coastal city during their sea voyages. The legend was that the shore temple complex had seven temples. Excited archaeologists undertook studies on the shore and offshore to find out more and now believe that there could have been seven temples, five now submerged in the sea. “The existence of seven temple superstructures including the Salavankuppam Murugan temple cannot be ruled out,” says T. Sathyamurthy, former superintending archaeologist, Archaeological Survey of India. Based on his recent research paper, he says some parts of the Shore temple complex possibly went under as a result of local erosion of the coast and advancement of the sea. The team headed by Sathyamurthy excavated the Murugan temple. “Evidence indicates the shore temple complex was extending further north, south and eastwards, to a very limited extent and some of the collapsed structures are under the sand or in the inter-tidal zone,” he said adding that it needs further off-shore investigation.