Four distinct stages of architecture can be gleaned from the Pallava temples. The first is the Mahendra style. The influence of the cave style of architecture is to be seen in an ancient pillar engraved in the Ekambaranatha (Kanchipuram) temple. The second is the Mamalla style. The seven Pagodas are small temples, each of which is hewn out of a single rock boulder. They lie near Mahabalipura Mahabalipuram, founded by Narasimhavarman. These monolithic temples are complete with all the details of an ordinary temples and stand as an undying testimony to the superb quality of the Pallava art. The third is the Rajasimha style. The most famous temple of this style is the kailasha style. The most famous temple of this style is the Kailasha temple of kanchi. It has a pyramidal tower, a flat-roofed mandapam and a series of cells surround it resembling rathas. This style is a very elaborate one foreshadowing the ornate Chola architecuture. The fourth is the Aparajita style. This is more ornate resembling the Chola architecture. A few temples built in the style are found at Dalavanur. The note worthy feature of some shrines is that they are aborned by beautiful life-like images of Pallava kings and their queens. All told they are unique in the history of temple architecture.
Pallava sculpture owed more to the Buddhist tradition. On the whole it is more monumental and linear in form, thus avoiding the typical ornamentation of the Deccan sculpture. The free standing temples at Aithole and Badami in the Deccan and the Kanchipuram and Mahabalipuram in the Tamil country, provided a better background for sculpture than the rock-cut temples. And the Pallava sculpture was monumental and linear in form resembling the Gupta sculpture. Although the basic form was derived from the older tradition, the end result clearly reflected its local genius.
Now for literature it has been recently proved that Bharavi and Dandinlived in the Pallava court. Bharavi's Kiratarjuniyam and Dandin's Dashakumaracharita were the two masterpieces. One of Dandin's poems was written with such skill that when read normally it gives the story of the Ramayana; and whe read in reverse, the study of Mahabharata. Dandin was the author of a standard work on poetics. Till the eight century Pallava influence was predominant in Cambodia. Saivism was the of ficial form of worship. And the Pallava type of sikhara is to be found in the temples of Java, Cambodia and Annam. This dissemination of Hindu culture proves that it was dynamic till 1,000 A.D. in southern India.
Thus, the Pallavas rendered invaluable service to the country both within and without as they were one of the torch bearers of Hindu civilization to south-east Asia. Far more singular is their contribution to architecture-transforming the architecture and suculpture from wood to stone. Smith opines that this grat disparimmense length of the course of Indian history, and the extreme slowness with which changes have been effeated.
The temples of the Pallavas bear resemblance to the Buddhsit cave shrines. The temples of Mahabalipuram reveal traces of barrel-vaults and archways associated with Buddhist cave shrines.