Mahabalipuram or Mamallapuram is a town in Kancheepuram district in Tamil Nadu, 60 km south of Chennai. It is an ancient town and famous for its Group of Monuments that is UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the very beginning of first century, the town was a major seaport for the ancient trade between India and South East Asian countries. Coins of China and Roman Empire belonging to 4th century also found in the region.
This town was ruled by famous Pallava Dynasty from Kancheepuram and constructed many beautifully curved temples on the sea shore during 7th-8th century. The town and its temple also mentioned in many Tamil literature. These temples are masterpiece of Dravidian architecture with thousands of sculptures, at the same time you can see Buddhist effect on that.
Top tourists attraction of Mahabalipuram:
Thirukadalmallai Temple -An important temple and one of the 108 Divya Desams dedicated to Lord Vishnu, that was built by Pallavas in 8th century. This temple is nice example of Dravidian architecture.
Arjuna’s Penance- Its a famous artistic piece of ancient period (8th century), there is no. of sculpture curved on the surface of two rock size boulders. And these statue tells about the story of Arjuna (Mahabharata) who performed severe austerities of Shiva in order to obtain Shiva’s ultimate weapon ‘Pasupata’. And for some historian it is about the story of Bhagiratha who also performed austerities to bring Ganga to the Earth.
Varaha Cave Temple – there are around 8 Rock-Cut Cave Temples in Mahabalipuram, out of which Varaha temple dedicated to incarnation of Lord Vishnu. These temples built by Pallavas in 7th century. It has numerous pillars with beautifully curved sculpture. The main sculpture belong to Varaha Avtar of Lord Vishnu. It is very similes to the rock cut temple at Udaygiri cave ( Madhya Pradesh)
The Shore Temple – These granite temples stand on the Sea shore in Bay of Bengal. these temples also known as 7 Pagodas, it is believed that temple had 7 Pagodas that had been destroyed by Tsunami. Temple are proudly stand and overlooking the Sea, having many beautiful sculptures.
Tiger Cave : It is mainly temple complex situated at Saluvankuppam, around 4 km from Mahabalipuram. here you can see statue of Tigers at the cave entrance. This is one of the many rock cut structure built by Pallavas.
Open Air Museum : This is a kind of exhibition about heritage and culture of Mahabalipuram in open space covering big area, you can see around 2000 stone structure/ sculpture like Stone Chain, Ornamental Wheels etc.
Pancha Rathas: This is among the most notable attraction of the place, here are five stone cut statue/ sculpture of chariots which got its name from Pandavas ( character from Mahabharatha). These chariots carved from pink monoliths granite rock. There are many beautifully carved sculpture of different Hindu Gods on them made in Dravidian style.
Krishna’s Butterball is a huge stone boulder weight around 25o ton resting on inclined surface and seems like it can roll down any time but it is believed that it is resting like this since last 1200 years.
How to reach Mahabalipuram:
Air: The nearest airport is Chennai, located around 60 km away which is very well connected to all major Indian cities and abroad as well.
Rail: Chengalpattu is the nearest railway station around 30 km away. You can reach to Chengalpattu from Chennai and other major cities of South India via train. And from here you can take a Cab or Bus.
Road: Town of Mahabalipuramis is well connected by road route with other south Indian cities like Chennai, Tirukkalikundram, Kanchipuram and Pondicherry.