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You are here : home > Travel > Museums and Archives > Mahabalipuram


Mahabalipuram (also referred to as Mamallapuram) is one of the greatest architectural and sculptural places in India. The various artistic creations and exquisite display of temples make Mahabalipuram more or less like an 'open air museum'. Famous for its rock-cut art, most of the structures here date back to the Pallava period more than 1200 years ago.

Places to visit

Most of the art in Mahabalipuram is classified under four categories: open air bas - relief, structured temples, man-made caves and rathas.


Mahabalipuram has a main hill with pillared halls carved into the face of the rock, known as mandapas. These mandapas speak volumes about the art and culture of the Pallavas. Their graceful columns and intricate figure sculptures bear testimony to the artistry of the Pallava period. Mahabalipuram has ten such pavilions or mandapas of which only two are unfinished. The Ganesh mandapa is an active one where the idol of the elephant god is still of great reverence to people. The unfinished Panch Pandava mandapa has pillars adorned with lions. The Krishna Mandapam is popular for its realistic presentation of the stories of Lord Krishna.


Mahabalipuram has eight rathas that are monolithic temples fashioned as chariots. Though made out of stone, these rathas seem just like wooden structures and are an architectural marvel. Five rathas are named after the Pandava brothers, the largest being the Dharmaraja Ratha. There is even a Draupadi ratha, considered to be the smallest among all rathas.

Shore Temple

The Shore Temple, one of the oldest temples of the state, was designed to capture the first rays of the rising sun and illuminate the waters after the dark. The temple is that it has the shrines of both Shiva and Vishnu. The temple has interconnected cisterns all around that could transform it into a water shrine. As most of the structures in the temple have eroded over the years, a stone wall has been added to protect it from the rising seas and any further damage.

Cave temples

Carved from blocks of granite, the beautiful cave temples are gigantic open-air reliefs dating back to the 17th century. Located on a group of boulder formations most of them have been excavated. The popular ones include the Trimurti, Varaha, Durga and Pancha Pandava caves.

Arjuna's Penance

Considered as the world's largest bas relief (measuring 27m X 9m), Arjuna's Penance is a huge whale-backed rock that contains figures of gods, demigods, men, beasts, birds, etc.

Crocodile Bank

Situated about 14 kilometers from Mahabalipuram, the crocodile bank has over 5,000 crocodiles representing six different species. Many types of rare reptiles are also found here.


Nine rock-cut temples and the Mahishasuramardhini cave are the places to see in Muttukadu. The TTDC (Tamil Nadu Tourist Development Corporation) runs a Boat House making Muttukadu a popular picnic spot with facilities for boating and wind surfing.

Mahabalipuram Beach

Located on the shores of the Bay of Bengal, this beach is one of the longest in India with magnificent line-up of monuments alongside the beach. The beach has a coastline spanning over 20 kilometers and is an ideal place for sunbathing and lazing around.


This is a heritage centre where crafts persons and folk artists work and perform in the reconstructed period settings of 19th century homes, streets and workspaces of the Southern States of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

How to reach

Chennai (58 kilometers) is the nearest airport that has both domestic and international terminals. The nearest rail station, around 29 kilometers away, is located in Chengalpattu. Tourists can also reach the Chennai rail station and go by road to Mahabalipuram. Daily buses are available from Pondicherry, Kanchipuram, Chengalpattu and Chennai to Mahabalipuram. Private taxis can also be hired from Chennai.


Tourists can opt for a beach resort. Options that range from economy to luxury hotels are also available.

Fairs and festivals

  • The Mahabalipuram Dance Festival is held every year in January-February. Dance artists from all over the country come here to perform at the festival. The shore temple forms the backdrop for the festival and the music blends with the nature and is a treat for every tourist.

  • The Sthalasayana Perumal temple festival is celebrated in March every year and more than 20,000 pilgrims arrive here.

  • The Brahmothsavam festival, spanning a period of 10 days, is celebrated during April- May.

  • The Palanquin Festival is celebrated in October- November every year.

  • The Holy family church (Roman Catholic) festival is celebrated for 10 days during first week of January.


Shop at Mahabalipuram for stone sculptures of various sizes and shapes. There are many handicraft emporiums situated all over the place as well.

Remember this!

  • Avoid danger warning areas for swimming as sometimes the undercurrent may be really strong.

  • The sea at the Mahabalipuram Beach is rough and swimming is not recommended.

  • The best time to visit Mahabalipuram is in winter, between the months of November and February.

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Aradhya.5 years ago
very beautiful temples. a must visit place.
Hemant.5 years ago
The beauty of shore temples have been well captured by your article. It will be a treat to visit the temples and see the architectural marvel
Kartick.5 years ago
I have heard a lot about the shore temples and would surely like to visit them some day.
jagi.9 years ago
yes i do
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