Mahabalipuram or Mamallapuram, the city of Mamalla, is after the title of great Pallava ruler Narasimhavarman-I (AD 630-68). It was a seaport during the time of Ist century AD and AD 140, many Indian colonists sailed to South-East Asia through this port town.
While there is some evidence of architectural activity going back to the period of Mahendravarman-I (AD 600-30), the father of Mamalla, most of the monuments like rock-cut Rathas, sculptured scenes on open rocks like Arjuna's penance, the caves of Govardhanadhari and Ahishasuramardini, the Jala-Sayana Perumal temple are attributed to the period of Narasimhavarman-I Mamalla.
The monolithic Rathas, from single to triple-storeyed, display a variety of architectural forms, While the Dharmaraja, Arjuna and Draupadi Rathas are square on plan, the Bhima and Ganesha Rathas are rectangular Sahadeva Ratha apsidal
After Rajasimha there is a lull in the architectural activity of the place, save a few additions during late-Pallava and Chola times. The grandiose Vijayanagara phase here is represented by the Raja Gopurams and the Sthala-Sayana temple, juxtaposed to the carved boulder of Arjuna's penance.