Hey guys, today we are going to look at a very strange structure in Mahabalipuram, this is an incredibly mysterious building built on top of a huge rock and is commonly known as the Olakkannesvara Temple. Let us climb up and see what is inside this structure. Archeologists confirm that this is at least 1300 years old, and it could even be much much older. Why was this structure built on top of a slippery boulder? Perhaps we can understand it, once we see the main idol inside the temple.
There is a metal door and it is locked, let us look at the idol inside, there is a huge pillar in the middle, and there is no idol inside. This is just extremely unusual for a temple. Just a pillar in the middle? But wait.. there is something on the left. What is it? There are steps going up, you can clearly see stone steps leading up and on top there is a square opening. The hole opens up to the sky, the top is open, because you can see sunlight coming through this hole. One thing is crystal clear, this is not a temple at all. There is no main idol and there are stairs going up with a hole on the ceiling, and what is on the right side? A wooden door, which is closed. There must be another chamber inside. What is inside that chamber? Why is this doorway locked with a metal gate? Why are there no carvings or idols inside? The entire design of this structure is very odd, almost all Hindu temples have a pointed top, an aerodynamic structure called Vimana. But this structure does not have it, instead of a pointy tower, it is designed with a flat top, as though people must go and stand on top of it. Then, there are steps leading up and there is a hole to facilitate, this hole is deliberately made big enough so people could climb up on the roof. But what were they doing on top of this structure? What is the mystery behind it?
The name of this structure is even more mysterious. It is named as ‘Olakkannesvara’ and this word is completely unheard of. Nobody knows anything about this term. The word Ulaikanneswara comes from Ancient Tamil language which means ‘The One with Three Flaming Eyes’. And, I think it means Lord Shiva, because he has Three eyes, but there is no idol of a Three-eyed Shiva inside and there is no Vimana. So why is this building called ‘Three flaming Eyes’?
Perhaps we could understand the purpose of the structure by looking at these carvings. The most bizarre carvings are the guardians on both sides of the doorway. They are very unique because they are facing sideways. These guardians are called Dwarapalakas and I have shown you so many of these statues in various Hindu temples. They are supposed to look directly at us, facing away from the doorway. However, they are facing sideways, and they are shown folding their hands and intently looking inside the chamber. Something exciting must be happening inside because this is a very strange depiction.
And on the walls, there are even stranger carvings. Who are these little guys? What are they holding in their hands? Each one is holding a Conch Shell, these guys are ready to blow the Conch and make a sound, to signal someone’s arrival. The expression on these little guys is awesome, they are keenly watching something in a distance. What are they observing? Who is arriving? Are they looking for Aliens from distant space?
Walking around, I can see more Little guys holding Conch Shells. And on top of them, There is a guy pointing with his fore finger, he is pointing to a distant object. His expression is rigid, as though he is a strict officer. Underneath him, these 2 guys are ready, both wide eyed and firmly looking ahead, ready to blow the conch shell and make a siren like sound at the officer’s command. What are they looking for?
Here is another one with the same motif. Why are the walls carved with these officers and little guys? We simply do not understand what the ancient builders are tell us, and carvings are the clues which can help us understand what this structure actually is.
Here, this is a very interesting carving. This is a form of Lord Shiva sitting in a meditative posture. The ancient builders could have carved any of the hundreds of avatars of Shiva. And this is not the most popular form of Shiva. So why did they put this carving on this wall? Of course, experts will tell you this is what the temples are all about. Various gods are carved to make you worship them. But ancient structures were built for scientific reasons. This deity was carved here to show you the direction, this carving always points exactly to the South. This is why he is called Dhakshinamoorthy, which means the ‘One who faces South’ – The word Dhakshina means South in Ancient Sanskrit.
Let us go on the opposite side, and look at what is carved there. This is just spectacular! Here King Ravana at the bottom, is shaking Mount Kailash. And on top of Mount Kailash, you can see Shiva. What is so spectacular about this, right? This is the carving that shows the Direction of North, because Mount Kailash is exactly to the North from here If you take a map and mark Olakaneswara structure in Mahabalipuram and draw a line to Mount Kailash, it is almost perfectly aligned to the North. What we are looking an incredible mix of science and spirituality, these are carvings of Shiva, but they are intended to show the exact directions. We have forgotten this science , but a layman who lived here a thousand years ago would instantly understand the directions, when he looks at these carvings. But WHY does this structure need to show the exact directions ?
Let us take a few steps back and observe this structure from an architect’s perspective. This is built on a huge boulder which is already 30 feet tall. And look at the shape of the rock, it is shaped like an egg, it slopes down in all directions, this is not where you should try to build anything. This is like placing an object on top of an egg, it will definitely fall down.
Let’s go to the ground level and observe this from the bottom. Look at how they have constructed the base here. They have put stone blocks on the curved natural rock, and made a flat base first, before constructing the structure on top of it. Why go through all this hardship, why did they not just build it at the ground level? The architect chose to build this structure here, because its location and its height must have been crucial, this location and this height was needed for a specific reason. And look around, this is the tallest ancient structure found in this entire area.
So what is the secret of Olakkannesvara? As I dig deeper into this mystery, I started to look at old Government archives and historic photographs. This picture is about 50 years old. No difference right? But then I found something crazy. This photograph was taken one hundred and thirty years ago, it was taken by a British officer in 1890.
And this is mind boggling, because it shows that originally there was a dome on top, today it is not there. And not only that, there is an arrow on top of that dome which shows directions. Yes, this was an ancient light house. Now we understand why this structure was specifically built on top of a rock directly overlooking the Coast, you can see the beach clearly, standing from the Olakaneswara building. This is an ideal spot to watch the entire coastline, and guide all the ships and boats arriving. Of Course, Mahabalipuram was an ancient sea port dominated by Tamils, the Tamil people have an extremely long history, and India is surrounded by water on all three sides and ancient Indians have always been experts in Navigation for thousands of years.
This is an original photograph I found from Government Archives and it is interesting how things have changed. This dome on top is now gone, but If you look below, there is a temple at the bottom, and you can see the temple priest standing there and posing for the photograph. Most people think Mahabalipuram rock cut temples were abandoned for many centuries and they were taken up by the archeology department in the last 100 years.
No, just like most structures in Mahabalipuram, this temple was also a working temple with all the rituals at that time, a practice that continued for more than 1200 years. It became an archeological site only in the last few decades.
And the structure on top was an ancient lighthouse which also operated continuously for more than 1200 years. Now, we can understand why this structure was built specifically on top of a huge boulder on the highest altitude in this area. Now we understand why the Gods have to show us directions of North and South. Now we realize why there is no idol inside the building, and now we know what the officers were looking for in a distance, and why the little guys were ready to blow the Conch. Every time a new ship came to the port, the officer would give a hand signal , and the people would be alerted by the sound of the Conch shell.
A huge Fire, was set up on top of this structure which would visible from miles away. It could be some advanced technology, but it could even be a simple giant burning torch. We know ancient Indians used giant metal containers with Oil and sometimes wicks to have a continuous burning flame. Even today, sometimes they still burn a huge fire all night with this technique, this flame lights up the entire town and is visible from miles away. And this is the reason for the steps going up to the ceiling, they had to go up to light and maintain this fire.
When Europeans started to come to India regularly, in fifteen hundreds, they were pleasantly surprised to see this ancient light house. The British were almost the last of the Europeans to reach India and when they brought this area under their control, they modified the ancient light house, they replaced the old Fire model and built a new dome and put arrows on top. British officers have clearly recorded that they used this as their light house for some time while they began constructing a new light house. And this is the new light house they constructed in 1900, and look at the location, it is only a few hundred feet away from the old light house, the British were surprised that the ancient engineers had already found the perfect location with the highest altitude.
And, some of you may think that the Olakaneswara structure was originally just a temple and the British converted it into a light house. But I found an old map which shows the Indian Coast Line… this is not a British map, it is in Portuguese..Dutch. This map was drawn in 1602, and the British had not even come to India yet. And here you can see the words Das Lampadas meaning ‘The Lamps’ right next to Mahabalipuram. This confirms that the light house was operational to guide ships and boats even before the British arrived. And the British actually took control of this area only in 1774, more than 150 years after this map was drawn.
But there are more interesting details about this ancient lighthouse and harbor. I found this in a nearby Museum, You see what this is? Things like these were found in the ocean near the beach in Mahabalipuram. I don’t know if you can guess what this is. This is an anchor, made out of solid rock. This may be a replica but several ancient stone anchors were found in Mahabalipuram, Each one weighing tons.. And these anchors were used to bring the ships to a halt, because Mahabalipuram was an ancient sea port and a harbor.
Look at the base of this, this looks a little bit different from modern anchors, and they have also found metal anchors in the beach as well, they are in poor shape because metals disintegrate, unlike the rocks which have a much longer life.
And Marco Polo, the famous Venetian Traveler wrote about Mahabalipuram when he came on a ship, 700 years ago. He called Mahabalipuram, as the land of 7 Pagodas, because of the temple towers near the coast. So this clearly confirms that Mahabalipuram was an ancient sea port and Olakaneswara was the ancient light house.
But I still don’t understand why they call it Olakaneswara .Where are the 3 flaming Eyes of Shiva? Even if you think it is the fire on top of the light house, There is only one flame. Where are the other 2 flaming eyes?
Perhaps the secret lies inside this closed door, which could give us a clue. So I started to go back several times, and one day I found the door open, because I guess there is some maintenance work going on. But there is nothing inside, it is empty and I still do not understand the where the 3 eyes are.
While re-examining the temple, something caught my eye. What is that strange pattern in a distance? It is carved just about a 100 feet away from the light house, This looks very interesting, it is a square like design which extends on all four corners resembling a layout of something. Of course mainstream experts will easily dismiss it as an unfinished carving. They will claim that sculptors began carving this , and they only carved the outline of the panel, and before they could finish carving the figures, suddenly there was a war and the sculptors stopped working. After all, this was ancient times, and people were living a barbaric life which was full of war and chaos. Sounds convincing right? Usually we may have to agree to this story, but here, we have more evidence that this is something else. Did you notice these small little things in the corner? Guess what they are? They are iron pieces driven into the bedrock, yes they are ancient nails or rivets. What are they doing in these corners? In fact, if you look carefully, Larger holes have been drilled first and then these iron rivets have been driven in. But not just in one corner, look here too. Rivets, nails are all fasteners, which means there was something else fastened to this bed rock. What was here, 1300 years ago?
There must been a small tower set up here, made of metal and they would have had another smaller fire. These nails were holding the metal structure firmly to the rock. Guessing from the size of the base, This tower would be no taller than 5 feet and must have held a burning torch, a flame on top of it. It would be very wise to have a backup light if the main fire goes off in Olakaneswara for any number of reasons. This would have been a backup light house.
But there is something more that we need to see. What is really on top of the ancient Lighthouse ? What does it have now? Of course, this is the old light house, so this is the tallest structure in this area, so how do you see what is on top of it? But this is the tallest ancient structure, and we have a newer structure right, the new light house which is taller. So, Let us climb the light house and then look at Olakaneswara from there. From the top of the new light house, the view is just amazing, but see what is on top of Olakaneswara,, Two maintenance guys are working… but, It is just a flat roof, with a square hole in the center, there is nothing else. I am disappointed, but what else can you expect from an old light house?
But there.. can you see something there? There is another square pattern carved on the bed rock, about a 100 feet from Olakanesvara. It looks identical to the previous one we saw before and I am confused. But this one is on the opposite side. Let me show you the other carving again, there was a lot of steps there and I had to walk a little bit to examine that carving. In this side, there are only 3 or 4 steps, and you see the same square carving on the bed rock. This was another smaller tower, with a burning flame on top. I think I just figured out why this was called Olakaneswara. Two eyes on 2 sides, both at a lower level, and in the middle, a giant third eye, the bigger source of energy and guidance, coming from the higher level. The third eye of Shiva, is going to illuminate your world, and it is going to guide you, I mean literally guide you, if you are sailing on a ship. It will save you from hitting the rocks, and reach this Shiva, the land, safely.
This is just incredible, there is no doubt that ancient builders were God like figures, they could blend science and spirituality in a way that we can no longer do. Forget about creating something like this , In fact we are not even able to understand their creations. I have actually re-discovered why this is called Olakaneswara, and what was the purpose of this site. For the last few centuries, Nobody knew why this was called Olakaneswara, until now.