Mahabalipuram - South Indian State of Tamil Nadu
This land of the temples is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Comprising of more than 10 ‘Mandapas’ it is located nearly 60 km from the famous metro, Chennai. This temple town is also famous for fabulous hill sites, Golden Beaches and Historical Monuments too. There are intricate life sized carvings of 7th century. Famous sites in this place are Arjuna’s Penance, Varaha Rock Cut- Out Caves, Group of Monuments, Panch Pandava Rathas and Shore Temples. During mid- January temples are full of celebration and gaiety in festivals like Pongal. There is a classical performance of Indian Dance Form at the Mamallapuram Dance Festival held during the months of December and January.
Major Attractions of Mahabalipuram:
Arjuna’s Penance/ Descent of Ganges :
There are amazing intricate carvings on this massive structure of nearly 100 ft. archeologists and historians do not have a sure conclusion on the story behind this structure. A Pandava called Arjuna did penance to have Shiva’s weapon. The other story is Bhagirathi did penance to bring Goddess Ganges called ‘Descent of Ganges.’ There is either of the two stories that the monolith carving on two adjoining giant boulders depicts.
Sea Shell Museum & Mamalla Fish World :
Some people are fascinated by unique seashells. There is a latest attraction in Mahabalipuram known as sea shell museum. You can find 40,000 various specimens of seashells in first of its kind largest sea shell and aquarium (fish world) in Asia. Moreover visitors get information through the repository. There is also an attractive seashell boutique where jewellery of pearls and sea shells are stocked. The Mahabalipuram Aquarium houses rare and ornamental aquatic species. 'Fresh n Live' restaurant is dedicated to serving exotic seafood delicacies.
Arjuna Ratha :
This is one structure of the Group of Monuments in the temple town Mahabalipuram. One of the Pandava brothers, Arjuna is driven on a king size chariot called the Arjuna Ratha. This structure forms an important portion of ‘Group of Monuments’ recognized as UNESCO Heritage Site. This rock cut structure has an octagon shaped top dome on sculpted pillars with small roof shrines. Dating back to Pallava Dynasty this is an excellent representation of Dravadian Architecture lying by the Bay of Bengal Coastline.
Varaha Rock Cut Cave Temple :
This is another example of the craftsmanship and Rock Cut Cave architecture of the Pallava Dynasty. One of the oldest structures in the temple town of Mahabalipuram this is also part of the ‘Group of Monuments’ UNESCO Heritage Site. This rock cut carvings have a little hint of Buddhist design on its architecture. The significance of this structure is mainly a disguised Varaha saving Mother Earth from Naga. It shows the famous three giant steps on top of earth, sky or moon, and head of Bali.
Best Time to Visit Mahabalipuram
The best time to visit this temple city is during the months of winter when the weather is favorable. This is during October and March. After March the place becomes too hot with temperatures soaring up to 47O Centigrade.
How to Reach Mahabalipuram
The closest airport to catch international/ domestic flights to major cities in India is the Chennai Airport. There are well connected rail networks from the Chengalpattu Railway Station around 30 km from Mahabalipuram. Indian Railways are well-connected to the Mahabalipuram and it is one of the major attraction around Chennai and Tamil Nadu.
Shopping in Mahabalipuram :
This place is the Heart of Temple Sculpture. So the artefacts you get here too are mainly sculptures, stone cut outs, carvings, images, and handicrafts. These items are made from extraordinary material like soapstone, seashells, wood carvings and some jewellery too. These products are popular with the international countries worldwide. There are a few Kashmiri stalls here also.