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Mahabalipuram - The Destination

Mahabalipuram

Mahabalipuram (or Mamallapuram, its ancient name) is one of history's fascinating mysteries. Situated just 60 km off Chennai on the Bay of Bengal coast in the state of Tamil Nadu, Mahabalipuram was a flourishing port town of the Pallava rulers of South India who carved in stone a fabulous open-air museum of sculptures under the vault of a burning sky. That much is identified. But no one actually has any answer whether it was a king’s fancy or a celebration of victories. The mystery of Mahabalipuram lingers, unraveled, but its sculptural varieties  are a  living  evidence  of artistic temper of the Pallavas who

were the forerunners of South Indian art.

Mahabalipuram with its picturesque location on a rocky outcrop between the beach and a lagoon is a happy combination of history, good beaches, hassle-free tourism and fabulous fish and lobster! Despite the many visitors, drawn by the former Pallava dynasty town, the place is friendly, relaxed, and the villagers are remarkably unperturbed by the crowds. Mahabalipuram is renowned for its series of charming rathas and the fantastic carved relief representing Arjuna's Penance. The magnificent Shore Temple, built by king Rajasimha in the seventh century, is a unique temple that houses the shrines of both Shiva and Vishnu while the Varaha Cave is one of the many rock-cut caves in Mahabalipuram. The Krishna Mandapam has a bas-relief of Lord Krishna lifting the Govardhan hill on his fingertips.

Astounded by the lucid workmanship and creative expression through symbols and metaphors depicted in the friezes, one wonders wistfully, about the temples that lie hidden, like some forgotten secret. Turning back to the lively town, however, the sight of modern-day sculptors is some relief as they chisel away into the night.
Mahabalipuram - Facts at a Glance

State : Tamil Nadu
Area : 8 sq kms
Temperature : 21°C - 37°C (Summers)
20°C - 30°C (Winters)
Rainfall : 32.5 cms
Altitude : Sea level
Language : Tamil, English
Best Season : October - March

History of Mahabalipuram


The ancient Mahabalipuram was a flourishing port town of the Pallava rulers of south India who chiseled in stone a fabulous "open-air museum" of sculpture under the vault of a burning sky. Apart from this, nothing is known of the place. What was the purpose behind this whole exercise, and, more important, why all the royal patronage this place enjoyed suddenly disappeared, no one actually has any answer.

It is believed that there were seven pagodas or temples on the shores of Mahabalipuram. All but one were pillaged by the turbulent sea, though there is little underwater evidence to substantiate their existence. Most of the temples and rock carvings of this place were built during the reigns of Narsinha Varman I (AD 630-668) and Narsimha Varman II (AD 700-728). Though the initial kings of Pallava dynasty were followers of Jainism, the conversion of Mahendra Varman (AD 600-630) to Shaivism led most of the monuments to be related with Shiva or Vishnu.
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