Why one should visit Mahabalipuram ?
The picturesque East Coast Road along the Bay of Bengal coastline is the most popular route. Get amazing views of the water and sun reflected in it, as you drive along this route. An added advantage is that you pass famous sights like Alambara Fort, Mahabalipuram, Mudaliarkuppam, and Kalpakkam, a nuclear facility. You can stop and explore these locations at your own pace. Get ready for an amazing road trip.
Mamallaa Heritage, Mahabalipuram
The Golden Palate - must try place for a vegetarian person travelling to Mahabalipuram. Wok To Dhaba - A pretty decent place to have non veg food if you are visiting Mahabalipuram. Though the menu does not gives you a lot of options.
Pancha Rathas, Mahabalipuram (5 Rathas that belong to 5 Pandavas)
The Five Rathas or Panch Rathas are five monolithic temple structures built by the Pallavas in early 7th century AD. Situated in a common complex to west of the Shore temple in Mahabalipuram, the Pancha Rathas display exquisite carvings carved out from a single large boulder.
They are named after the Pandavas Yudhisthira, Arjuna, Bhima, Nakul, Sahadeva and their wife Draupadi. However as the names might suggest, the temples are not related to the Pandavas of Mahabharata fame but, unfinished masterpieces of the Pallava dynasty.
The construction of the Rathas is believed to have been started by King Mahendravarman I of the Pallava dynasty. It was continued by his son Narasimhavarman I in early 7th century AD. The temple were however left incomplete after the Narasimhavarman I’s death.
Based on the amazing ornamentation and sculptures however, it can be safely assumed that they were supposed to be temples dedicated to Lord Shiva, Vishnu, Indra and Durga.
Krishna’s Butterball, Mahabalipuram
Forever (hopefully) perched on a steep rock slope in the historic town of Mahabalipuram, India, the massive round boulder known as Krishna’s Butter Ball refuses to give in to gravity or the shoves of tourists.
The giant boulder appears to be frozen in its roll down the hill it sits on, and no one is quite sure why. The huge boulder is likely a glacial erratic that got stranded in a serendipitous position on the hill, but local legend has another version of the story. According to Hindu mythology, when the great god Krishna was just a baby, he was fond of stealing butter. Following this tradition, the big orange stone has been likened to a giant dollop of purloined butter that the god dropped.
The actual name of the stone is “Vaan Irai Kal,” which translates to “Sky God’s Stone,” and according to one source, the more playful name was given to the rock by a local tour guide. However it got its sort of silly name, it stuck.
Reinforcing the stone’s strangely balanced position, the slippery stone slope is used by local children as a slide. Today Krishna’s Butter Ball is a popular tourist attraction. Visitors to the site love to try to get behind the stone and try to push it down the hill. So far no human power has been able to budge the buttery boulder.
Shore Temple & Beach, Mahabalipuram
The Shore Temple is the icon of the ancient monuments of Mahabalipuram. The temple gets its name from its location on the Coromandel shore overseeing the Bay of Bengal. The sculptural excellence symbolizes the heights of Pallava architecture. The Dravidian style of architecture dates back to the 7-8th century. It was built under the rule of King Narsimha Varma. The visual delight of finest architecture, the sculptures and intricate and full of vivacity. The granite rock cut carvings are proof of the sheer brilliance of the artisans who have created this magnificent structure. The structural designs can be only called ‘poetry in stone’. It has been an UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984.
Click here to view more images of Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram
Erected on a 50 feet square platform, the temple is a pyramidal structure rising to the heights of 60 feet. The characteristic specimen of Dravidian temple architecture, Shore Temple is one of the oldest structural stone temples of South India. The temple basks in the glow of the first rays of the rising sun and spotlights the waters after sunset.
The Shore Temple has three shrines, devoted to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. The main temple is a five-storeyed structure sculpted out of granite dedicated to Lord Shiva. The pyramidal structure is 60 feet (18 m) high and sits on a 50 feet (15 m) square platform. In the Garbha Griha, sanctum sanctorum, a Shivalinga is worshipped. At the rear end, there are two shrines facing each other. One shrine is dedicated to Ksatriyasimnesvara and the other to Lord Vishnu. In the shrine, Lord Vishnu is seen reclining on the ‘Seshanag’, which is a symbol of consciousness in Hinduism.
The temples both interiors and exteriors are elaborately carved and sculptured. The images on the sculpted panels illustrate scenes from everyday life in an incredibly real and artistic style. The reliefs of Nandi bull is magnificent and worth checking out. The archeological department has excavated certain other figures from the site.
Shore Temple is no more a temple worshipped. The structure of the temple is awe-inspiring, it was erected basically as a work of art. In the present day, Shore Temple makes the background of Mahabalipuram Dance Festival held annually in January/ February. The festival was organized to promote the traditional dance as well as tourism in Mahabalipuram.
Travel: From Mumbai to Chennai – Best way is by air as you can save a lot of time. For cheap air tickets drop a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org to avail best offers.
From Chennai to Mahabalipuram (to & fro) – PRTC AC bus is good, comfortable and economical. You may do bus booking in advance to get the perfect seat for perfect view. Though there are buses for every half an hour, so no need to worry if you miss it by any chance.
Mahabalipuram is a good destination for one day trip. For a perfect vacation add Chennai & Pondicherry. Do check out my write-up Perfect Blueprint For Chennai & Pondicherry Backpacking Trip.