is located at a distance of 58 km from Chennai. It is one of the most exciting
and memorable destinations with rich tradition history, piety and western
annals. It is one of the popular tourist places known for great architecture
much visible in its rock carvings and monolithic sculptures. It also has the
famous shore temple the only one to have survived the wrath of nature. Also
known as the Seven Pagodas (temples), six of them now lie drowned in the sea.
The architecture of the temples at Mahabalipuram are inspired by the Pallava Art
and were built during the period 830 - 1100 AD.
The history of Mahabalipuram dates back to two thousand
years it contains nearly forty monuments of different types including an "open
air bas relief" which is the largest in the world, for centuries it has been a
centre of pilgrimage, it figures in the early annals of the British search for
the picturesque in India in the 18th century, today it attracts shoals of
foreigners in search of relaxation and sea bathing, and most strange of all, it
has an atomic power plant for neighbour. A small library has been written on it.
Over its history and that of its monuments a number of scholarly controversies
rage. Mahabalipuram was already a centre of pilgrimage when, in the 7th century
Mamalla made it a seaport and began to make temples fashioned of rock. It was
through Mahabalipuram that many Indian colonists, who included sages and
artists, migrated to Southeast Asia. Sri Lanka's national chronicle, the
"Mahavamsa" testifies to this fact.
The proper name of the site is "Mamallapuram", after Mamalla, an honorific of
the Pallava king, Narasimha Varman I (630-668), who created the earliest of its
monuments. But it is popularly called "Mahabalipuram", or "The city of Bali",
whom Lord Vishnu chastised for his pride and of whom there is a relief in one of
the excavated temples here.
The Shore Temple -
The Shore Temple, beside the sea shore is a lovely temple, caressed by the sea water and the
wind. There is three-in-one abode of God, containing a Vishnu temple and two
Shiva temples. It is a visual delight, having wonderful architectural
masterpieces. There is sea on either side, having no limits to its extent.
Within the compound wall of this temple lies the pleasing sculptures of Nandi
the bull while the figure of Vishnu is present in the sanctum sanctorum.
The Varaha Caves - The Varaha
Cave is a small rock-cut mandapam (hall). Here one can find the incarnations of
Vishnu-Varaha (boar) and Vamana (dwarf). The four panels of Pallava doorkeepers
are the most important and famous. The Dharmaraja Cave, built in the early
seventh century, consists three empty shrines. The Mahisasurmardini Cave
(mid-seventh century) has fine bas-reliefs on its panels of imperishable beauty.
The Somaskanda sculpture here represents peace, power, and wisdom. Here Lord
Vishnu is shown in omniscient repose in a masterpiece of dhwani (the art of
suggestion). There's also a huge theatrical panel showing, Goddess Durga's fight
with the demon Mahishasura. The Tiger Cave is about 5 km north of Mahabalipuram,
which is a rock-cut shrine, dating back to 7th century.
The Rathas are a group of structures placed at the southern extreme of Mahabalipuram. They are
situated amidst Casuarina trees. There are Pancha Pandava Rathas, which are five
in numbers. Among these five, four are carved out of a single rock, while the
fifth on the west is scooped out from a small rock. The complex consists of
square Draupadi and Arjuna Rathas, the linear Bhima Ratha, the taller Dharamraja
Ratha and the niche Nakula-Sahadeva Ratha.
Krishna Mandapam -
The Krishna Temple is a rock-cut temple and is one of the first in Mahabalipuram. The
walls of the temples describe scenes of reverend life, one of the pictures here
shows Lord Krishna lifting the Govardhan Hill on his fingertips to protect his
people from Indra.