Earlier tall temple gopuras on the coastal areas served as watch towers and light houses. The Shore Temple in Mahabalipuram was one such landmark for martime movements. Similarly, the Olakkanesvara Temple in Mahabalipuram is one of the temples on a hillock which was later converted to a watch towere.
Olakkanesvara Temple which is also called as the Old Lighthouse. It is located on a hillock above the Mahishasuramardini Temple. The is structural temple is one among the Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram.
History of Olakkanesvara Temple
Once it was called as Ulaikannisvaram meaning Shiva with a crescent moon on the head. Later, the name got corrupted to Olakkanesvara Temple. This 8th century architecture is one of the tourist attractions in Mahabalipuram.
It is said that Olakkanesvara Temple was constructed during the time of Pallava King Rajasimha. According to the studies, the roof of the shrine was used as the lighthouse along with Shore Temple working as a landmark for the ships. Olakkanesvara was a live temple till the 19th century.
Architecture of Olakkanesvara Temple
Originally it is said to have a structure similar to Shore Temple. Now only a rectangular structure remains without any Shikhara. Now a half-hall which leads to the rectangular shrine. The entrance has the sculptures of Dwarapalakas and interior walls have carvings of mythological figures.
Olakkanesvara Temple on the hillock
Olakkanesvara Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Hence you can see several carvings of Lord Shiva and his wife Parvathi. There is also a figurine of Nataraja (another form of Lord Shiva). Olakkanatha Temple is not a live temple any more and there is also no idol in the sanctum.
Location of Olakkanesvara Temple
Olakkanesvara Temple is situated on a hillock in Mahabalipuram. The temple is in such a location that one can get a good view of the coastal town. Olakkanesvara is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Tamil Nadu.
How to Reach Olakkanesvara Temple
Olakkanesvara Temple is around 1km from the famous Shore Temple in Mahabalipuram.
Best Time to Visit Mahabalipuram
Mahabalipuram can be visited year-round but the winter season is the best time to visit. The months from October to February is the best time to visit Mahabalipuram.