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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
- 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.