mahabalipuram also known as mamallapuram is famous for its 7th century rock cut temples. its a world heritage site and is maintained nicely by ASI. the city is situated at the bank of ocean and few temples have got submerged in ocean too.
these rock cut temples are not as majestic as ajanta ellora temples. but from architecture and aesthetic point of view they are simply brilliant. lot of thought and fine work has been done in making these temples. most temples are made from single rock and are considered as the best example of pallavas art. the pallava dynasty existed between the 3rd and 9th centuries CE. their rule was mostly in southern india.
mahabalipuram is a town in kancheepuram district in tamil nadu, india. it is approximately 60 km chennai city and will take 2 hours via bus and 1.5 hours via taxi. while travelling from chennai to pondicherry , you can visit this place as it lies on the same route. it will take full one day to visit all the temples. the pooja or worship is not done in the temples. but they are maintained nicely. if you plan to visit chennai, pondicherry or kancheepuram then its worth a visit to these historical temples.
major attraction in mahabalipuram are five pandava 5 rathas, shore temple, varaha cave temple, descent of the ganges (arjuna’s penance), tiger’s cave and balancing rock. many scenes of mahabharata are depicted in these rock cut temples. few temples are devoted to lord shiva and lord vishnu.
best time to visit is early morning or in evening (before sunset). carry hat or umbrella to protect from sun. also carry a water bottle. on weekends there is more crowd. guides are easily available. its best to hire a guide to know the history and importance of temples. remember that lot of walking will be needed and it will be under sun so better be prepared.
few photos of mahabalipuram temples:
rock cut five rathas temple are finest example of pallava art. the 5 rathas (shrines or chariots) are draupadi’s ratha, arjuna’s ratha, nakul – sahadev’s ratha, bhima ratha and dharamraja yudhistar’s ratha.
pancha rathas at mamallapuram
shivlinga at the krishna mandapa.
located next to krishna mandapa is bas relief shown in below photo.
bas relief (also known as bhagirathas penance or arjunas penance ) – depicts the story of the descent of the sacred river ganges to earth from the heavens. it was the penance done by bhagirathas which brought ganges down to earth.
this is one one of the largest open-air bas-reliefs in india and probably in the world.
balancing rock also known as ‘krishna’s butter ball‘. this huge boulder is standing at on odd angle and is balancing itself without any support. it seems that it will roll down any moment but it does not. it has survived the test of time and possibly many hurricanes and tsunamis. according to local guides british tried to remove this boulder with the help of elephants but they failed. there is also a beautiful garden in this complex.
how to reach mahabalipuram:
1. by road – you can take bus from chennai, chengalpattu, kancheepuram, pondicherry, thiruttani etc. deluxe and air conditioned deluxe buses also go to mahabalipuram.
2. by air – nearest airport is chennai (this is an international airport and is 60 km away) and pondicherry airport (97 km away)
3. by train – nearest train station is chengalpattu junction (approx 29 km away).
planning the trip –
1. kancheepuram is 66 km from mahabalipuram. hindus consider kanchipuram as one of the seven holiest cities and it is nicknamed as “the city of thousand temples”. city has many famous temple along with ‘ekambareswarar temple’ which is one of the pancha bhoota temple ( temples devoted to 5 elements fire, earth, water, sky and ether).
2. pondicherry is 100 km from mahabalipuram and is famous for sri aurobindo ashram in auroville.