Mamallapuram – Workshop of the Pallavas
This is the largest cave temple at the site and is located adjacent to the Great Penance relief. Though from outside it appears to be more or less finished, however from inside it is very much left incomplete. The cave façade is supported on six pillars and two pilasters. The cornice of the facade has ornamentation of oblong shrines connected with cloisters, nine such shrines are found. Surprisingly, we do not find chaitya window (dormer window) ornamentation here.
The pillars and pilasters of the front row are in characteristics seated-vyala style, famously known as Mamalla order. However, here we find an extra element which is very curious in nature. Above the abacus of these pillars, there are three rearing vyalas, one facing front and two facing sides. The side vyalas are shown with riders. This element is not found in any other Pallava cave temple, except in the porch pillars of Mahishasuramardini Mandapa and in structural temples of the Pallava period. Interestingly, this element is also found in the Badami caves.
Behind this row is another row of pillars, consisting of four pillars and two pilasters. The pillars are simple cylindrical without seated vyalas as bases. Behind this is excavated a shrine in the center, occupying space of three pillars of the front row. Beyond this shrine, on either side, are provided pillars in-line with the other rows. From the plan, it appears that the designers thought of providing an ambulatory path around this central shrine however the work was left incomplete.
Srinivasan1 suggests that this excavation should be assigned to Parameshvaravarman I, or to his successor, Rajasimha. His opinion is based upon the rearing vyala element which became a characteristic element in the structural temples of Rajasimha period.
1 Srinivasan, K R. Cave-Temples of the Pallavas. p 166