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Oldest Lighthouse of Asia

Asia’s oldest lighthouse


This is the Olakaneeshvara temple in Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu. It was built by Pallava king Mahendravarman in 630 CE. Apart from being a Shiva temple, it also served another purpose. The temple functioned as a lighthouse to emit light and serve as a navigational aid for ships in the sea. They used oil to kindle up a huge pot which was placed on the square platform at the top of the cave temple. It was kept kindled all night. The burning pot emitted a lot of light in the nighttime skies. As such, this is the oldest lighthouse in all of Asia.

The British constructed a lighthouse just adjacent to the ancient lighthouse in 1887. For a while, they had also used the ancient lighthouse on the temple to guide their ships. The second oldest lighthouse of Asia was only built by the Portuguese in 1864.


  2. “The archaeology of seafaring in ancient South Asia” by Himanshu Prabha Ray