Mahendravarman was succeeded by his son Narasimhavarman I in AD 630 who ruled for 39 years, i.e., till AD 668. He not only succeeded to his father's kingdom but also to many traditions set by him and to political and military disputes.
Of these one must remember the architectural style which was evolving in Mamallapuram and also the Pallava- Chalukya hostility which was to be successfully resolved by him. Narasimhavarman is known best by his title 'Mamalla'. It is generally claimed that Mamallapuram was named after him. It is wrong to say that the port was founded by him.
It existed before his time and the first three Alvars have referred to it as Kadal Mallai meaning Mallai on the coast. It is clear, therefore, that the name Mallai derived from Malla already was given to that port. It may also be remembered that the title Malla was borne by Mahendravarman also. It is equally not true to suppose that the popular name Mahabalipuram is a corruption of Mamallapuram.
The association of Bali and other Asuras whom Vishnu vanquished were part of the local mythology even in the Sangam days in a dim way. Hence it transpires that (1) the name Mamallapuram was not necessarily derived from Narasimhavarman's title; and (2) that Mahabalipuram is not a corruption of Mamallapuram but is older than the latter and is perhaps a more primitive and genuine name of the place.
Narasimhavarman's reign is noted for (1) his invasion and conquest of Vatapi in AD 642-43, i.e., the 13th regnal year of the king; (2) a successful naval invasion of Ceylon; (3) introduction of a new architectural style in Mamallapuram; and (4) the historic visit of Hiuen-Tsang to Kanchipuram. Narasimha helped his father even as a crown prince in checking Chaluky- advance towards the capital.
The Kuram plates of Paramesvaravarman I mention his victories over the Chalukyas at Manimangalam about twenty miles from Kanchi. Not content with repulsing the enemy from his home territory he proceeded to invade the Weste- Chalukyan kingdom. His commander-in-chief was Paranjoti who by dint of his Saivitt devotion came to be included in the Saiva canon.
The king personally participated in this fateful expedition and sacked and possibly destroyed Vatapi in a battle in which Pulakesin I II is reasonably presumed to have perished. There is no doubt that Vatapi suffered damage' at the hands of the Pallava monarch as attested by the Periyapuranam.
This treatment of the enemy's capital is in clear contrast to the invasion of Kanchipuram by Vikramaditya II inc. 735, in the course of which the Chalukya occupied the Pallava capital peacefully and even | liberally endowed the local temples.
Narasimha left behind among the ruins of Vatapi an epigraph which narrates this story. He brought with him the Ganesa icon which became | famous as the Vatapi Ganesa. This was in all probability a recovery of the icon which had earlier been taken to the Chalukyan capital by Pulakesin.
The Mahavamsa of Ceylon speaks of a prince Manavarman, son of Kasyapa II, exiled from Ceylon and residing in the Pallava court as a refugee. This prince was a close friend of Narasimhavarman and he seems to have helped the Pallava in his many engagements! Against the Chalukyas.
Naturally the Pallava felt grateful to him and engaged in two naval expeditions against Ceylon to secure the throne which Manavarman had been deprived of. The fleet sailed evidently from Mahabalipuram which was then a busy port.' Narasimhavarman's successful naval expedition to Ceylon was in the tradition of Karikala's conquest of northern Ceylon and anticipated the Imperial Chola conquest of that island. '
He was a great builder like his father and there are many monuments in Mamallapuram, which stand to his credit. His contribution to Pallava architecture is significant and in the words of A.H. Longhurst 'the cave temples of Narasimhavarman resemble the earlier ones but there facades are usually more ornamental and contain pillars of a different variety....the most striking feature about the Mamalla style is the curious shape of the pillars. The square heavy pillars with carbal capitals of the earlier period are replaced by pillars of a more elegant shape and better proportion'. The Dharmarajaratha was excavated by him.
Saiva revivalism continued during his period also. The equation of Siruttondar with the commander-in-chief of the armies of Narasimhavarman I has been questioned by some scholars.
They would treat Siruttondar as a general of Paramesvaravarman's army and relate him to the second Pallava invasion of Vatapi on the ground that Narasimhavarman I led his armies personally to Vatapi and that this is not mentioned by the Periyapuranam reference. The objection seems to be too thin and might be overlooked till more convincing arguments are advanced.
The economic condition during the reign period was not very satisfactory perhaps due to the king's excessive warlike activities. There was a terrible famine probably in c. AD 650. The famine had to be mitigated by private relief work organised by men of religion. The state seems to have done little about it. Famines were not infrequent in Pallava times. We hear of one in the 'glorious' days of Narasimhavarman II.