An epitome of rock-cut caves, reliefs, and stone inscriptions, Mahabalipuram is an ancient town on the Coromandel coast of Tamil Nadu. Being a 7th-century erstwhile port city of the Pallava Dynasty, Mahabalipuram is bestowed with monuments and architecture that have made their way into the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Having the Bay of Bengal at one of its periphery and the Great Salt Lake on the other, this city enjoys a pleasant climate throughout the year making it a popular tourist destination.
Mahabalipuram Places To Visit
A prominent tourist hot spot of Mahabalipuram is the Indian rock-cut sculptures. One of its kind in the world, these sculptures are a celebration of India’s cultural richness and the artistic ability of its craftsmen. Sculpted with liveliness and naturalism, these sculptures either showcase Arjuna’s penance to please Lord Shiva into obtaining the God slayer or the descent of sacred river Ganga to earth led by Bhagirathi.
But irrespective of their symbolism, these sculptures will win your heart with their intricate carvings and majestic appeal. These Indian rock-cut temples are true evidence of the marvel that is created when culture meets history.
Thirukadalmallai is a significant seaside shrine and tourist spot of Mahabalipuram. It holds great importance for Hindus especially for ones belonging to the Vaishnavite sect as this temple is amongst the 108 Divya Desams ( temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu that were built by Tamil Azhvars or Saints).
The colossal structure of the temple is again the one showcasing the Dravidian- Pallav style of architecture, with a white-colored gopuram set against the azure Bay of Bengal. This sure makes for a sight to behold but it is the extreme calmness and peaceful atmosphere of this temple that sets it apart from the other prominent temples of Mahabalipuram.
A great place to meditate, this structurally elegant temple high on the spiritual aura and submerged in the scenic location make the experience of every visitor worth the while.
Mahabalipuram though is a small quaint town on the coromandel coast, enjoys a rather expansive and beautiful coastline. This extensive coastline gives rise to a number of beaches that are a great tourists attraction. What sets the beaches of Mahabalipuram apart from the ones in Chennai is their non-commercialized and peaceful ambiance. The rising or the setting sun is a treat to the visitors but Mhabalipuram beaches are also an ideal location for long romantic walks as they are calm and lit beautifully by the moonlight.
One quite distinctive feature of Mhabalipurma Beach is that it holds a crocodile bank having approximately 5000 crocodiles of 6 different species. This often intrigues the visitors making it one of the most visited beaches of Mahabalipuram.
An elegant shrine overlooking the Bay of Bengal, Shore temple is one of the finest early examples of medieval south Indian temple architecture. Built of cut stones rather than being carved out of caves, the Shore temple is an important spot to visit especially by the Shaivites and Vaishnavite sect of Hindus as Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu are the deities that reside in this temple.
Decorated with various rock-cut reliefs and sculptures of the deities, this temple also stands as evidence of the harmonious existence of different ideologies in the past. Visit this temple for its breathtaking location, view its weathered facades, marvel at the beautiful sculpting of its patron Hindu gods, and gaze at the pyramidal towers as they reflect the golden rays of the sunset.
Panch Rathas Temple
Panch Rathas or the five open-air rock-cut reliefs fashioned as chariots are a unique heritage site amongst the many found in Mahabalipuram. Named after the five Pandava, these temples are a group of five ornate, monolithic free-standing temples that are cut out from solid granite rocks.
Draupadi Rathas- The smallest of all the raths but a true symbol of women’s empowerment. The walls of the rathas showcase standing goddess Durga while a four-armed standing Durga can be seen inside the sanctum.
Arjun Rathas- stands on the same plinth as that of the Draupadi rath. It holds beautiful sculptures of shiva leaning casually on his Nandi, Vishnu with his guard and there is a huge monolithic lion indirectly in front of the temple.
Bhim Rathas- It has the largest structure but no sculptures on the walls. From its elongated shape, it is believed that it could once have held Anantasayi Vishnu(Vishnu sleeping on the serpent Anant).
Dharamraj Rathas- It is the highest of all the rathas. It has eight sculptures on the corner blocks that hold Brahma, Harihara, Skanda, King Narsimhavarma I, three four-armed Shivas, and a beautiful Ardhanarisvara.
Nakula-Sahadeva Rathas- Last but not least is Nakul Sehdev rathas that has an elephant sculpture right beside it, which is suggestive of the elephant-back shape of this rather incomplete-looking temple.
Mahabalipuram, a small town 37 miles south of Chennai, gives its visitors a great opportunity to witness the refined stone artistry of earlier times. I guarantee you will be bewitched for a long time by the charm of the Pallava dynasty that still lingers in this town. The age-old monuments and temples that reflect the heritage and architectural wonders of our past evoke a sense of how the past can integrate itself in the present and leave such prominent footprints. Visit Mabalipuram at least once and be a part of history. Fall in love with its beautiful sandy coastline and make happy memories. Bon Voyage!
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