The temple city of Mahabalipuram, which is also well-known as Mamallapuram is an ancient city that was once the capital of the Pallava rulers. It is located 65 km from Chennai on the Bay of Bengal coast in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
Most of the temples and rock carvings here were constructed during the reign of Narsinha Varman I (AD 631-669) and Narsinha Varman II (AD 701-729). Though the initial kings of Pallava dynasty were followers of Jainism, the conversion of Mahendra Varman (AD 601-631) to Shaivism led most of the monuments to be related with Shiva or Vishnu.
The most renowned tourist fascinations of the town of Mahabalipuram are its beautiful beach temples. The five rathas (chariots) are architectural precursors of the temples of south Indian. The smallest and the simplest is the Draupadi ratha and the main is the multi-storeyed Dharmaraja ratha scopped from a monolithic rock. These small unfinished shrines ravaged by war and weather are things of undiminished beauty. The Kailasanatha temple, Sri Varadaraja temple, Sri Vaikuntaperumal temple, etc are all amazing examples of patience, skill and labour.
The Varaha Cave is a small rock-cut mandapam (hall) that is a faceted and finished gem with four panels of the well-known Pallava doorkeepers.
Arjuna's Penance, maybe the world's largest bas-relief, is an unbelievable work of art. According to the legend, King Bhagiratha had to bring down to earth the celestial Ganga to purify and redeem the cursed souls of his ancestors. But the torrential river would flood the earth, and so he had to undergo a penance to propitiate Shiva who finally received the flood in his matted locks and let it trickle down. The world's beings gathered around to watch. The cleft in the rock depicts the descent of Ganga, a theory supported by the ruins of a stone water tank on the hill.
However, it is the Shore Temple that suggests the spell of Mahabalipuram. A three-in-one house of god-a Vishnu temple sandwiched between two Shiva temples- it is a visual pleasure, its precincts abounding in architectural masterworks.
Mahabalipuram has a number of stimulating sites that are of traveller interest nearby.
About 6 km north of Mahabalipuram is Tiger Caves, a rock-cut shrine, possibly dating from late 6th century.
Tirukkalikundram is a pilgrimage centre that lies around 15 km from Mahabalipuram. It is a hilltop temple devoted to Lord Shiva that is value visiting.
Muttukadu is an perfect place for water sports that is located 25 km from Mamallapuram. The Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation (TTDC) has a boathouse here. People can enjoy boating, canoeing, kayaking, and windsurfing. The Dakshina Chitra of Madras Craft Foundation here has replica of an old agricultural house of Tamil Nadu, replica of Kanchipuram weaver’s house and replicas of ancient houses presenting the daily life of South India.
Road: Mamallapuram is linked by road to Chennai, Tirukkalikundram (Pakshithirtham),Kanchipuram (68 km), and Pondicherry.
Rail: The nearest railway station, on the other hand, is at Chengalpattu, which is around 30 km away. Trains for Chennai and several other major cities in South India are available from here.
Air: The nearest airport from Mahabalipuram is Chennai (Madras), which is located around 62 km away. One can get flights for almost all major destinations in India and abroad.
India Tour Makers offers complete travel and tour packages to Mahabalipuram that are inclusive of hotel booking, air booking services as well as cab and car hire services for the entire duration of your stay.
Mahabalipuram Dance Festival is an time for the dance lovers to enjoy the performances of the artists from all parts of the country. The festival is celebrated in the month of January/February every year. The Shore Temple forms the backdrop of this festival and the music from the musical instruments mixes with the natural music of wind and the sea.
Mahabalipuram offers exceptional opportunities for shopping for carvings and stone sculptors. These carvings may be in soap stone or on wood. Jewellery and other items are also accessible.
The climate here remains hot and sultry throughout the year with a maximum temperature of 36°C and a minimum of 17°C. The best time to visit this place is during October to March. It is advisable to avoid the monsoon period.
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