Seven Pagodas has served as a nickname for the south Indian city of Mahabalipuram, also called Mamallapuram, since the first European explorers reached it. The phrase “Seven Pagodas” refers to a myth that has circulated in India, Europe, and other parts of the world for over eleven centuries. Mahabalipuram’s Shore Temple, built in the 8th century CE under the reign of Narasimhavarman II, stands at the shore of the Bay of Bengal. Legend has it that six other temples once stood with it.
For centuries, the residents of Mahabalipuram, India, talked of seven pagodas so spectacular the gods became jealous and had six of them consumed by the ocean. With only one real pagoda to show on land, historians considered the stories to be legends handed down from past times. However, after the 2004 tsunami hit the area the ocean receded 500 meters, exposing a long, straight row of large rocks and some statues and small structures. The discovery prompted the Archaeological Society of India and the Indian Navy to search for other ruins in the area. They discovered that the row of large stones people had seen immediately before the tsunami, were part of a 6-foot-high, 70-meter-long wall. They also discovered remains of two other submerged temples and one cave temple within 500 meters of the shore. Although these findings do not necessarily correspond to the seven pagodas of myth, they do indicate that a large complex of temples did exist in Mahabalipuram. This draws the myth closer to reality.