Majorly prominent as the ‘Temple City’, Mahabalipuram is located on the coast of Bay of Bengal not too far from Chennai from a distance of about 60 km. Carrying an intriguing history while being connected with a boundless array of the bygone tales, the varied temples, monuments are serving as an evidence of its mosaic history narrating its significance long before the establishment of the pilgrimage hubs at this place. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is linked with other cities of South India through the well-maintained network of roads facilitating an easier reach for the tourists striving to explore the hidden treasures of this fascinating spiritual destination
Shore Temple, Arjuna's Penance, Five Rathas, Mahishasuramardini Cave Temple, Krishna's Butterball
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Mahabalipuram, with its new name Mamallapuram, is a major heritage tourist attraction, 60 km from Chennai. Mamallapuram is known all over for intricately carved rock-cut temples and caves. As mythology puts it across, this place was once the abode of Mahabali, the demon king. Though not a very big town today, Mamallapuram is a small town that primarily depends on tourists. Once a serene sub-urban local fringed by white sandy beaches of Bay of Bengal and dotted with casuarina trees, is now a chaotic place lined up with restaurants, tuck-shops, souvenir hawkers and packed with tourists. Nevertheless, the exclusivity of Mahabalipuram temples and caves worth the effort and the surrounding like any popular touristy place. The famous sightseeing spots here are the UNESCO World Heritage Site Group of Monument Shore Temple and the Five Rathas. Other places that attract tourists here are the Crocodile Bank that is a home to a few exquisite species of crocodiles and alligators, and also the beach resorts in Kovalam and Sadras are popular for their serenity & relaxing environs.
The Shore Temple is the oldest structure here, built sometime in 700 AD. Unlike the other monuments here at Mamallapuram, the Shore Temple was badly damaged by a cyclone and the present structure is a reconstruction. The temple in particular is not very large, also the intricate carvings have been badly eroded by the moisture laden sea wind, but this adds to the sense of antiquity to this marvelous piece of art. The area surrounding the temple is made into a well-manicured park. There is a Shiva lingam enshrined in the sanctorium.
The Five Rathas (Pancha Pandava Rathas here in Mamallapuram has five chariots, carved in stone dating back to 7th century. These sculptures are rounded of by some huge stone-cut animal figurines. The Thirukadalmallai temple is another attraction here. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, this temple belongs to the era of Pallava King and is believed that it was made to safeguard the sculptures from the ocean. It is said that after building this temple, the remaining sculptures were preserved and this temple created a barrier. The Sculpture Museum here has a rich collection of sculptures in stone, wood, metal etc., and is a good place to gain some more insight about the craftsmanship of that era.
Another very interesting complex of sculptures is present here in Mahabalipuram in the central hillside area. All these structures are carved straight out of rock and one can walk through or between them, barefooted. It is a visual delight and the scenery within the hills is unusual. They are like smooth & huge rock straight out of the forest with carved stairways, which lead you to the pavilions, rock-cut caves, carved living area and more carvings. The complex includes Arjuna's Penance, Krishna's Butterball, Mahishamardini Cave, Varaha Cave etc. There are old and new light houses here that provides views across the area to the sea. One can find a number of several unfinished temples and previously submerged temples.
A trip to this land of rock cut temples, caves and sculptures will indeed create memories for life.
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