On my last year’s visit to Pondicherry, my sister took me for a weekend trip to Mamallapuram also popularly known as Mahabalipuram. It was sunday and we decided to pay a short visit to this place which is famous for its ancient architecture which was ruled by the Pallava Dynasty during the 7th and 8th century.
Mamallapuram was known as Mahabalipuram earlier but later later on it was changed by King Pallava Narasimha Barman who was conferrred with the title of Mamalla, which means the great wrestler. After the decline of the Gupta Dynasty the Pallava dynasty came to power which ruled from 3rd to around 9th century.It was during that period that Mahabalipuram became the seat of great architecture, skill, talent and innovation. The architecture that I got to see there was indeed marvelous and tell stories of how advanced and artistic the people were during those days.
Here I have listed the top attractions in Mahabalipuram
There were around seven pagodas built near the sea shore of which the lone existing one is the shore temple. Built in the Dravidian style by this is the oldest temple in south India and it has also been listed in the UNESCO heritage site. There are three temples two of Lord Shiva and One of Lord Vishnu. there are carved sculptures of Indian gods and goddesses. Surrounding the temples are mandapas and walls. I was spellbound to see the structures that are all carved out of huge boulders and how the temple was built at the margin of the Bay of Bengal and the waves sweeps the walls of the temples.
2. Arjuna’s Penance
The Arjuna’s Penance is carved out of a rock and shaped like that off a wall. On either sides there are figures of demi-gods, birds, beasts, figures of sun and moon can be seen. Carvings of hunters with bows and arrows chasing animals like tigers, rabbits, deers, herd of elephants can also be seen. It is assumed that it tells the story of Arjuna of Mahabharata who meditated to be favored by Lord Shiva. Whatever the story line is the artistic talent of the those who made it is indeed praiseworthy.
3. The Pancha Rathas
‘Pancha’ means Five and ‘Rathas’ means Chariots. The Pancha Rathas are a set of five monolithic rock temples. These Rathas are related to the epic Mahabharatha and its Pandava heroes along with their wife Draupadi. There are the Draupadi’s Ratha dedicated to Goddess Durga, Arjuna’s Ratha dedicated to Lord Shiva, Yuddhisther’s Ratha which is the most huge, well designed and magnificient one, Nakul-Sahadev’s Rathadicated to Lord Indra and Bhima’s Ratha. All the rathas tell various stories of bravery, of Gods and Goddess, all of which are associated with ancient Hindu mythology and culture. The monuments are massive, and also for photography lovers I am sure this place is going to win all hearts.
4. Krishna’s Butterball- A balancing rock
The balancing rock is a giant monolithic granite rock, 5 meters in diameter and around 250 tons in weight. Its original name is Vaan Irai Kal which in Tamil means “The Stone of the Sky God” It miraculously stands on a hill slope resting at an angle of 45 degree. Many people tried to remove it in the past but it is unmovable. It is given the name Krishna’s Butterball after the story in Hindu Mythology where Lord Krishna steals butter and it is said it looks like that bolus of butter, little Lord Krishna would steal. I tried to move it too but failed. Well jokes apart, it is indeed a marvelous work of nature.
There are around 14 mandapams around Mamallapuram. But I couldn’t manage to visit one as there was a shortage of time.
6. India SeaShell Musuem
If you are a sea shell lover, its the right place for you. But avoid buying anything from the shops as I found them to be slightly overpriced. Along with the seashell museum there is also an aquarium .The musuem has an amazing collection of conch shells and various other patterns of seashells. Its around one and half kilometers from the ‘five ratha monuments’ .
It is enough to spend to spend a whole day to see around all the monuments in Mahabalipuram as most of them are located in the same vicinity. Since it was July when I visited, the heat was unbearable. So make sure you carry an umbrella, wear a hat and drink lots of water to keep you hydrated. There is no particular best time to visit, you can visit any time of the year but still the weather is little mild from October to February.
How To Reach Mahabalipuram
Mahabalipuram is well connected by road from Chennai, Pondicherry, Kanchipuram and Chengalpattu. Chennai has the nearest airport and there are both national and international flights to Chennai on regular basis from almost all airports. Also nearest railway station is the Chennai Central. Chennai is 45km from Mahabalipuram and from there you can take a bus, cab or taxi. Chengalpattu is another railway station which is connected with all important cities of Tamil Nadu.
What to buy in Mahabalipuram
The moment our car entered Mahabalipuram I noticed there were lots and lots of shops that sells sculptures made out by carving stones. I saw huge sculptures of Lord Buddha, Ganesha, Shiva. I wish I could bring them home. Along with bigger ones, small statues of various gods and goddesses are available you can buy for your home or as gifts. But make sure to bargain. Also you can buy conch shell necklaces, bangles from the shops in the market outside the monuments. But again the key word is to bargain.
Hope you found the article informative. Do drop in comments and share with your friends. The information I have given about the monuments are collected from the information as I was told by my driver anna, who was a local guy and some I gathered from the internet. All the photographs are taken by Yours Truly.