Mysterious Raya Gopuram – unfinished, abandoned yet beautiful

Raya Gopuram – it means a monumental entrance tower. There are many gopuram temples in India, but I am going to elaborate on 3 unfinished Raya gopuram that are famous shooting spots and wedding destinations nowadays. All three sites are called Raya gopuram, one in Mahabalipuram, one in Melukote, one in Madhurai. They all have different stories to tell.


Firstly, Mahabalipuram. It is on top of the hill, there is nothing much to see except for foundation with pillars. And when you search on google, it is #25th thing to do in Mahabalipuram, So it is evident that there are not many tourists who visit this place. Also, no boards is explaining these temples’ history, so it’s pretty much lost in plain sight.

This was supposed to be yet another magnificent temple in Mahabalipuram belonging to the Vijayanagara Empire. However, the temple was abandoned because of a simple mistake by the sculptor. In one of the pillar, Dashavatar or 10 reincarnations of Lord Vishnu was depicted. The sculptor had carved Balarama before Lord Ram. Hence years of effort went in vain and the temples’ construction was stopped. Why? What is this obsession over the order in which they were carved? This is a fascinating subject. The order is important because it’s believed to be the evolution of mankind.

Darwin’s theory

Much like Darwin’s theory, Dashavatar details on how mankind evolved on planet earth. But the point worth noting is that Bhagawad Gita was written 2000 years before Darwin’s theory(ok, I can’t prove it). The temple was built in 7th century AD (This can be verified). Darwin’s theory was written in the year 1859, So I hope I make my point clear. Even if you don’t believe in tales of locals, you cannot deny what’s on the pillar.  So next time you go to Mahabalipuram, don’t forget to visit Raya Gopuram. 


Similar to Mahabalipuram, there is no historical record on who built it and why the construction was stopped, but there are a variety of stories around it. One of which is that there was a competition to finish the construction of gopuram in 24 hours, but due to a bad omen, they stopped the construction. This seems too vague to be true.

Every detail in the walls are so intricate that it cannot be done in one night even with today’s technology.

Maybe there was another mistake by an artist? Or maybe there was indeed a competition, and they couldn’t deliver the construction project on time, so they lost the bid. But if that was the case, some other builders, other kings of different eras, at some point in history could have restarted the construction. It makes sense to reconstruct because the complex that exists is still magnificent, its a famous shooting spot nowadays. So why wasn’t the construction taken up later? Maybe there was a blunder that couldn’t have been ignored?


Lastly, Madhurai Raya Gopuram, this is right in front of Madhurai Meenakshi temple. The temple had to be finished by the construction of the entrance gopuram, which never happened. Anybody who has seen Madhurai would know how big the temples are. There are 12 gopurams in temple premises, Out of which 4 major ones are facing 4 directions, 5 on top of one sanctum, and 5 on the other. I am giving numbers to say that for the people who built such massive towers, one more gopuram would not have made any difference unless they decided to leave it unfinished.

Looking at all three gopuram stories, it is evident that our ancestors were obsessed with precision, accuracy, and maybe omens? There must be a reason why. If they were constructing something for educational purposes, they wouldn’t want to propagate wrong theories. If they had finished the tower, it would have been like writing 2+2 = 5 in maths book for the next generations to read. But that’s my opinion. 

What are your thoughts on this unfinished work? Is it worth rediscovering what is carved on temples? Do you believe in Dashavatar? Let us know in the comments below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Close Bitnami banner