Among the most outstanding examples of Dravidian art, architecture and the best in temple art, Mahabalipuram stands as a silent, yet eloquent witness to the glory of its creators and sculptors. In a land liberally strewn with stone carved temples, rathas and exquisitely carved stonewalls, this thriving port city, was given the lease of life, through the chisels of Pallavas.
Breathtakingly real and artistic impressions of beauty and harmony, Mahabalipuram attracts tourists, due to its monumental splendor and sunny beaches.
The coastal temple town Mahabalipuram is officially known as Mamallapuram after Mamalla (great wrestler), the name given to Narasimha Varman I Pallavmalla, who ruled it during 630 - 68. The temple art, belonging to Dravidian art and architecture, is a jewel in the crown of the Pallavas contribution to Tamil Nadu.
Once a thriving port of the Pallavas, trading with many distant nations, Pallava chisels, have breathed life into stone, conveying an impression of beauty and harmony. Most of the temple and monuments were completed during the reigns Narasimha Varman I and II.
In contrast to the grand monuments of the Cholas, the architecture of the Pallavas is simple yet very lively and attractive. Basically followers of Jainism, the conversion of Mahendra Verman to Shaivism, explain the Shiva and Vishnu temple at Mahabalipuram.
A renowned and ancient 7th century center for Pallava culture and arts, Mahabalipuram is rich in Dravidian art and architecture. The monuments with sculpted panels, caves, monolith rathas and temples, which are breathtakingly real and artistic, lay emphasis on robust earthly beauties, imbibed with life.
Till date this place has to a great extent revived the ancient art of stonemasons and sculptures, which was very much in the lifeline and blood stream of Mahabalipuram. This place wakes up to the sound of chisels working on granite stones. Classical dances such as Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathakali and Odissi are also a part of the cultural traditions here.
Mamallalpuram is teeming with small restaurants, most of them seafood specific. Prices are higher at the beach hotels, but you pay for the atmosphere as well as the food. It is best to avoid a nasty shock at the end of your meal. Try to find out exactly how much your crab or lobster, is going to cost in advance as most of dishes are charged by the kilo.
Sculpture in stone. The most famous art practiced in Mamallapuram. The sculptors work to carve beautiful figures from stone and are known to do business with people from all over India and abroad. These images include deities for temples and other forms for restoration works. One can buy these images and statues at the Poompuhar Handicraft Emporium or from various other shops along the shore. Some marvelously carved images of Hindu Gods in soap stone or on wood are also offered in the shops.
Jewellery and other items are also available. There is a Himalayan Handicraft emporium and a Kashmirii emporium too. Being a beach destination, you can be sure to find decorative items made from sea shells.
South of Madras on the shores of Bay of Bengal, Mamallapuram was once a port city of the Pallava rulers. The temples and rock cut sculptures of that period create a unique blend of history and natural beauty. The monuments of Mamallapuram are excellent specimen of Dravidian temple architecture and Pallava art.
The art in the marvellous monuments with sculpted panels, caves, monolith rathas and temples lay emphasis on robust earthly beauties, imbibed with life. The sculptures are breathtakingly real and artistic. The Pallavas were followers of Jainism but the conversion of Mahendra Vernman to Shaivism had drastic consequences on the future of Jainism and it also explains the Shiva and Vishnu temple at Mamallapuram.
The Shore temple is perhaps the most photographed monument in India after Taj Mahal. The temple is floodlit in the night and is a pure visual delight. The pleasure of watching the monument in light with cool breeze from the sea has no comparison. Mamallapuram attracts tourists from all over the globe to its monumental splendour and sunny beaches.
On the shores of Bay of Bengal, just 60 kms from the state capital Chennai, is Mahabalipuram.
The nearest airport to Mahabalipuram is that of Chennai, which is 50 kms away. From Chennai one can travel to Mahabalipuram by bus or hire a taxi.
The nearest railway stations are Chennai and Pondicherry. From here one can reach Mahabalipuram by road.
The road to Mahabalipuram is good. The national highway through Mahabalipuram connects it from all places in Tamil Nadu.
This coastal town has equable temperature in summers and in winter. The summers are hot, but winters are warm and sunny.
Out of the eight rock cut cave temples, the Krishna temple is believed to be the best, for its realistic representation. These cave temples are famous for their eternal sculptures. The Krishna Mandapam, depicts Krishna playing in the fields. The Bas relief also shows him lifting the Goverdhan hill ,to protect his kinsman from the anger of Indra. Nearby is a small museum too.
This twin structure is on the shore of the Bay of Bengal and so the name Shore Temple. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva, it is one of the oldest temples in South India. This temple was the last built by the Pallavas, but was the first one to reflect Dravidian architecture. Though some of the carvings have eroded, the carvings inside the temple are still intact. After the recognition of the monument as a world Heritage Monument, a wall has been built to protect it from the harsh sea wind and waves. The temple is breathtakingly beautiful when the setting sun lights it.
21 kms from Mahabalipuram, it is an ideal place for water sports and an excellent picnic spot.The Dakshina Chitra of Madras Craft Foundation here, has a replica of an old agricultural house of Tamil Nadu, replica of a Kancheepuram weavers house and replicas of ancient houses presenting the life style of South India. The visitors can enjoy boating, canoeing & kayaking and wind surfing.
ARJUNAS PENANCE - This is a rock facing the sea and which is in the shape of a whale. It is called as Arjunas Penance, due to the carving of a aesthetic on the rock, believed by some to be Arjuna in penance, trying to seek a boon from Lord Shiva. GINGEE - This place is worth visiting only for its forts. There are separate forts for the queen and the king. The fortification of the city was done on seven hills, among which the prominent ones are Krishnagiri, Rajagiri and Chandragiri. SATTANUR - Sattanur is a dam located near Thiruvannamalai, on the Pennar River. It is a major picnic spot and the gardens laid down around the dam are the main attraction for the tourists and the visitors. The park has models of animals, which have been beautifully modeled in grass. THE CAVES - There are nine cave temples, which are cut from the rocks in Mahabalipuram. TheAhishasuramardhini cave, contrasting the goddess fighting a demon on one side, and Lord Vishnus cosmic sleep on the other, is a particularly remarkable one. THE FIVE RATHA - These are 5 monolithic temples, which represent the five chariots used by the 5-pandava brothers. Four of these temples have been scooped out of one single rock. These rock-cut temples are the result of pallava art. THE TIGER CAVES - This very calm and serene place on the seashore, was an open-air theatre, where cultural programmers were held for the benefit of the royal family. It is called Tiger Caves due to the sculptures of lions and tigers on the entrance of the cave.
THE CROCODILE BANK - This place has a crocodile-breeding Centre, just 14 kms from Mahabalipuram. This Centre has about 5000 crocodiles of 6 different species. There is also a snake farm where anti venom is produced. This Centre, is one of the most successful reptile-breeding Centres. THIRUKKAZHUKUNDRAM - 17 kms from Mahabalipuram, this popular pilgrimage spot is famous for the ancient Shiva temple and a hill top temple. Thirukkazhukundram, which also means" Hill of Eagle", is around the foothill and from here one can see the huge Gopurams of the temple. THIRUPORUR - Thiruporur, which is 16 kms from Mahabalipuram, is a place visited most for the temple of Lord Muruga. This temple has several ancient inscriptions, which attracts not only devotees but researchers and scholars too.