Mahabalipuram: Where history lives at the shore

16th Sep 2018

I enjoyed strolling barefoot along the sandy beach as I breathe in the salty air; and admire the beautiful structures as they echo the history with flair. These two lines surmise about my recent trip to Mahabalipuram, a shore town in Tamil Nadu, South India.

Also known by the name Mamallapuram or Seven Pagodas, Mahabalipuram, is a perfect blissful destination for those who want to lap up not only the frothy ocean but a little bit of history too during their stay; since this town is home to UNESCO world heritage sights, found in the form of rock-cut and monolithic monuments and temples.

Shore temple: It's a place where you can witness the perfect combination of sand, sea and rocks; a unique phenomenon where the rock-cut temple stands majestically amidst golden sand near the shores of Bay of Bengal. Built in 7th century during the reign of Pallava dynasty, the complex consists of three elaborately carved temples: two dedicated to the god Shiva, and one to lord Vishnu . Explore the shrines at your own pace, delving into the fine details of architectural brilliance and of course, capturing beautiful images into your camera. And Once you are done exploring the entire premises , sit calmly on the stairs of the temple and listen to the tales which silent stones try to tell you.

Photo of Mahabalipuram: Where history lives at the shore 1/7 by Milan Singhal
Photo of Mahabalipuram: Where history lives at the shore 2/7 by Milan Singhal

Interesting facts and tips about the temple:

The whole temple is designed in such a way that the first rays of the rising sun falls on it making the temple looks magnificently attractive in the mornings. Since its constructed on bed-rock and not on sand , it even withstood the devastating effects of Tsunami which struck the coromandal coast in 2006. Avoid going during afternoon as it becomes really hot at that time. There are many shops around shore temple from where you can buy local memorabilia. The entrance ticket for Indian is rupees 30 and for NRI's 500. Do hire an authorized guide to know in details about the temple. If you plan your trip to Mahabalipuram during the month of Dec-Jan, you can catch the Mamallapuram Dance Festival held every year, in which exponents of Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathak, Odissi, Mohini Attam and Kathakali perform against the magnificent backdrop of stone sculptors.

Though Shore temple is the main attraction of Mahabalipuram , there are other places too which are worth paying visit.

Panch Rathas: According to a plaque displayed at the site by the ASI, the Pallava dynasty had planned the structures as models of chariots in rock based on prototypes of ancient rathas built in wood. The five named as 'Dharmaraja Ratha', 'Bhima Ratha', 'Arjuna Ratha', 'Nakula Sahadeva Ratha', and 'Draupadi Ratha' are made out of large block of stone and are known for its rich carvings. All rathas are chiseled with sculptors of gods, demi-gods, animals and other beautiful motifs.

Photo of Mahabalipuram: Where history lives at the shore 3/7 by Milan Singhal

Mark my words when I say that the carvings are so beautiful that there is high probability of you standing in front of these structures for some time and do nothing but gape in astonishment.

Located at the short distance from the shore temple on coromondal coast of bay of Bengal , the Panch Rathas are open daily from 6am to 6pm.

Arjun penance: It's an Another amazing monolithic structure in Mahabalipuram which is located so close to main road that I could take its picture from the window of the car only. Feeling a little tired after visiting the above two monuments, we dint feel like getting down from the car and admired its beauty from a distance only.

Photo of Mahabalipuram: Where history lives at the shore 4/7 by Milan Singhal
Photo of Mahabalipuram: Where history lives at the shore 5/7 by Milan Singhal

Let me tell you a little bit about the monument : Arjun Penance showcases, scene from Mahabharata including that of Arjuna performing a penance. Adjacent to Arjuna's Penance is another monolithic rock structure known as Descent of Ganges , and the two combinedly formed the world's largest 'Bas Relief' at Mahabalipuram (100 meters long)

Krishna's butterball: The phenomenon of zero gravity is not only restricted to Moon but you can see the situation on earth also if you visit Krishna's butterball in Mahabalipuram. Here a granite boulder weighing 250 ton ,standing 20 feet high and occupying just 5 meters area underneath it,balances itself on an extremely slippery area of hill.

Photo of Mahabalipuram: Where history lives at the shore 6/7 by Milan Singhal

It is said that in 1908, then-governor of the city Arthur Havelock made an attempt to use seven elephants to move the boulder from its position due to safety concerns, but failed.

Mahabalipuram could also be described as a sculptors city with many roadside shops packed with rock-cut statues, idols and small items all for sale.

Photo of Mahabalipuram: Where history lives at the shore 7/7 by Milan Singhal

Mahabalipuram is one hour's drive from Chennai. The whole drive on the east coast road from Chennai to Mahabalipuram is scenic and serene. Within Mahabalipuram all sites are within a radius of 2 kilometres.

Chennai airport is the nearest to Mahabalipuram . Taxis, cabs and buses are easily available from airport to reach Mahabalipuram.

Accomodation is available for every budget, from luxury beach side resorts to Airbnb and home-stays.