Mostly considered as the weekend getaway, Mahabalipuram is one of the most alluring seaside towns of south India. The treasure trove of UNESCO heritage sites, the place is a heaven for history lovers. Located just 60 km away from Chennai, Mahabalipuram is one of the most popular tourist destinations for city dwellers and also road trippers. People mainly consider the seaside town for a quick break from their mundane lifestyle. If you love indulging in the luxury hospitality on a beach facing property in Mahabalipuram, the Chariot Beach Resort is the perfect choice.
Whether you want to spend the day wondering about the intriguing stone & rock carvings, monolithic rock structures, visiting historical sites, ancient temples, indulging in Ayurveda massages, and lazying around the beach, Mahabalipuram offers plenty of activities to make your holiday worthwhile.
One of the top places to visit in Mahabalipuram is the famous Shore Temples. Built in 7th century during the Pallava dynasty, the shore temple is the symbol of architectural masterpieces. Declared as the UNESCO heritage sites, shore temples are one of the main attractions in this historical city. This is said to be the only surviving shore temple out of seven as rest of the temples got submerged into the sea.
The shore temples are mainly rock cut-out and monolithic in nature. The exquisite designs and the intricate details on the temple walls were quite eye-arresting. Overlooking the Bay of Bengal, the shore temple is surrounded by a garden and few scattered ruins. This is one among the earliest and most important structural temples in southern India. The sun bath temple with the golden color against the blue backdrop of sky, paints a picture perfect postcard for you.
If I got speechless seeing anything in Mahabalipuram, then it has to be the Arjuna’s Penance. My jaw literally dropped seeing the bas air relief dating back to the mid-seventh century. The wonderfully carved stonework on two huge adjacent boulders are example of India’s finest artwork. It is said to be an extract from the Mahabharata where the detailed carvings depict as to how Arjuna performed severe austerities in order to obtain Lord Shiva’s weapon.
It is also called the ‘Descent of Ganges’ that narrates the saga of Bhagiratha, who performed austerities in order to bring Goddess Ganga down to earth. The height of the Arjuna’s Penance is at 43 feet and length around 96 feet. It is impossible to capture it in one frame.
Another example of architectural marvel is the Cave Temples. This is one of the most visited historical places in Mahabalipuram. It is a cluster of eight cave temples, which are cut and decorated with panels, dating back to 7th century during Pallava dynasty.
Among all the cave temples, my favorite was Krishna cave temple where you will see a sculpture of Krishna lifting the Govardhana hill to protect cows and his kin from rain and flood. The detailed rock carvings in that ancient cave temple were absolutely stunning and worth a visit.
I was absolutely stunned by the first sight of Krishna’s Butterball. I was wondering how a giant monolithic boulder, weighing 250 tons, has been sitting on a 45-degree slope for ages. The mysterious bounder is also known as Vaanirai Kal. It is surprising that even the attempt to roll down the rock by seven elephants failed. It’s truly nature’s wonder. You have to see it to believe it.
Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Another must visit place in Mahabalipuram is Pancha Rathas. It lies at the southern end of Mahabalipuram and is a complex of five chariots, carved in a Dravidian architectural style. The five chariots are named after the Pandavasas, ‘Dharmaraja Ratha’, ‘Bhima Ratha’, ‘Arjuna Ratha’, ‘Nakula Sahadeva Ratha’, and ‘Draupadi Ratha’ from the ‘Mahabharata’ saga. The architectural complex is listed under UNESCO heritage sites.
Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
The panorama of the city from the lighthouse is one breath-taking frame. If you are fond of visiting lighthouses, a visit to Mahabalipuram lighthouse should be on your list. The ban on the lighthouse was lifted in 2011 which allows the flocking tourists to see one of the oldest lighthouses. It was commissioned in 1887. Interestingly, Pallava King Mahendra Pallava, built India’s oldest lighthouse around 640 AD, which stands next to the modern lighthouse in Mahabalipuram.
Whenever you are in Mahabalipuram, don’t miss the catamaran ride to see the submerged shore temple. The early morning boat ride on the sea with dancing waves and the rising sun was one of the most thrilling experiences I had there. It was due to the Tsunami, the shore temples got submerged into the sea, so it’s rare to spot the tip of the temple, hardly visible in the sea. But more than anything, the boat ride with the sound of waves and the golden hue on the face makes it worth taking the ride early in the morning.
Lazing around the beach
If you are a beach person, who loves to spend time at the beach watching the crashing waves and unending horizon, you can spend the entire day at the beach, admiring Bay of Bengal. The high tides bowing down to the earth and the constant sound of water create a unique rhythm. The ideal way to enjoy the beach is to sit under the shacks and do nothing.
You can also do street shopping in Mahabalipuram. If you wish to buy souvenirs, you should pick some of the best shell decorative products and miniature stone curved idols or other artefacts in the city.
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