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 in India. Especially, the city dwellers and also road-trippers find it an ideal place for weekend getaways.
People mainly consider the seaside town for a quick break from their mundane lifestyle. If you love indulging in luxury hospitality, the Chariot Beach Resort is a perfect choice in Mahabalipuram.
Mahabalipuram offers some of the best ancient sights in India. There are numeours things to do and see in this tourist destination. In addition, if you wish to indulge in Ayurveda massages, and lazying around the beach, this town is a great choice.
However, if you are fascinated by the stone & rock carvings, monolithic rock structures, visiting historical sites, ancient temples, etc, Mahabalipuram offers plenty to make your holiday worthwhile.
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One of the top places to visit in Mahabalipuram is the famous Shore Temples. Built-in the 7th century during the Pallava dynasty, the shore temple is the symbol of architectural masterpieces. It is declared as the UNESCO heritage site.
Moreover, the Shore temples are one of the main attractions in this historical city. Most importantly, this is said to be the only surviving shore temple out of seven. Because the rest of the temples got submerged into the sea.
The shore temples are mainly rocked cut-out and monolithic in nature. In addition, the exquisite designs and the intricate details on the temple walls were quite eye-arresting. The shore temple is surrounded by a garden and a few scattered ruins and it overlooks the Bay of Bengal.
This is one of the earliest and most important structural temples in southern India. Besides, the Sunbath temple with the golden color against the blue backdrop of the sky paints a picture-perfect postcard for you.
The Arjuna’s Penance is one of the finest piece of stone carvings in the world. The jaw-dropping bas air relief dating back to the mid-seventh century will blow your mind. As a result, the wonderfully carved stonework on two huge adjacent boulders is an example of India’s finest artwork.
It is said to be an extract from the Mahabharata where the detailed carvings depict how Arjuna performed severe austerities in order to obtain Lord Shiva’s weapon.
It is also called the ‘Descent of the 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 an 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. They are cut and decorated with panels. It dates back to the 7th century during the Pallava dynasty.
Among all the cave temples, my favorite was the Krishna cave temple where you will see a sculpture of Krishna lifting the Govardhana hill to protect cows and their kin from rain and flood. The detailed rock carvings in that ancient cave temple were absolutely stunning and worth a visit.
The first sight of Krishna’s Butterball was mesmerizing. I was wondering how a giant monolithic boulder, weighing 250 tons, has been sitting on a 45-degree slope for ages. They call the mysterious bounder 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.
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.
The panorama of the city from the lighthouse is one breathtaking 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 the 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 artifacts in the city.
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