Mamallapuram, or Mahabalipuram as it is often called, is a well-known and historically significant tourist destination located on the Coromandel Coast along the Bay of Bengal in the state of Tamil Nadu. It is notable for its beautifully carved temples and rock-cut caverns. The previous home of the legendary demon king Mahabali, Mahabalipuram, later took the name Mamallapuram.
One would wish to visit this great town for many reasons, including the tranquilly, the seductive mood, and the spectacular location with several gorgeous white sandy beaches scattered with casuarina trees. A few well-known tourist locations are the Crocodile Bank, which is home to some amazing crocodile and alligator species, the beach resorts at Kovalam and Sadras, and the Group of Monuments, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that includes the Shore Temple and the Five Rathas.
On the Coromandel Coast, the town of Magabalipuram faces the Gulf of Bengal. It is a historic seaside community. Throughout the Pallava dynasty's seven to tenth centuries, this magnificent location served as a well-established seaport. The Pallavas, who reigned over Kanchipuram, had this as their secondary capital.
There is a backstory. King Narasimha Varman of Mamallpuram is his name. I was a magnificent and brave fighter. The name Mahapalipuram was changed to Mamallaburam in honour of the great monarch and his accomplishments. The word Mamalla means "the mighty wrestler." The new name, Mahabalipuram, is being used today.
With the collapse of the Gupta Kingdom, the Pallavas became the pioneers in south India. During the third century to the end of the ninth century A.D., they reigned over. The Pallavas' Golden Era was known as the finest part of their dynasty, which lasted from 650 to 750 AD. The Pallavas were extremely strong. These were thoughtful people.
During the Pallava era, in the city of Mamallapuram, famous poets, playwrights, painters, artisans, scholars, and saints rose to prominence. In both art and architecture, the Pallavas are considered the forerunners and pioneers of new trends.The finest location to recognise their potential and competence is there. Innovative and vivacious paintings and new sculptures were produced. They used the available resources well and turned this location into their own field of exploration. They gave their fantasies form and creative vigour. As it saw advancements in every style, it turned into a reality. Many people were unaware of Mamalapuram's wealth since the Pallavas chose not to market and showcase their excellent and inventive works to the outside world for obvious reasons. Up until the latter part of the 18th century, this aestheticism was concealed. What makes Mahapalipuram unique? Of course, everyone may mention the rock-cut caverns, monolithic temples, temples and shrines of various structures, and very beautiful and creative bas-reliefs. It is said that Mamalpuram is a "open-air museum." These aesthetic features, which were beautifully preserved by the great Pallava rulers Narasimha I and Rajasimha, allow one to enjoy this location even now.
Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram
The town is home to a group of Hindu temples from the seventh and eighth centuries that have been included as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 40 historical structures and Hindu temples may be found there.Important ones as below:
- Descent of the Ganges / Arjuna's penance :
A large open-air bas-relief monolith from the 7th century is called Arjuna's Penance. It is located in the town of Mahabalipuram, 58 kilometres from Chennai, Tamil Nadu's capital. The Mamallapuram monolith, which is 43 feet tall, was carved onto the faces of two enormous nearby boulders sometime around the middle of the seventh century. About 96 feet long, Arjuna's Penance is also known as "The Fall of Ganga" and is a monolith.
As scholars can't agree on the stories it represents, Arjuna's Penance has been given two different names. One opinion holds that the enormous rock carving has the name of one of the Mahabharata, a famous Hindu epic.
It is thought to represent a scene from the Mahabharata in which Arjuna, one of the Pandavas, underwent arduous penance in order to get Shiva's sword and vanquish his foes. According to the second interpretation, Arjuna's penance represents the occurrence in which King Bhagiratha of India performed penance to send the Ganges river from heaven to earth in order to cleanse the souls of his forefathers.
- Cave Temples :
There are more than 10 cave temples in Mamallaburam. They have varying degrees of completeness. Adivaraha Mandapam is the pinnacle of sculptural perfection, whereas Kodikal Mandapam is quite plain. At Mamallaburam, the vast majority of the cave temples are carved in the south-to-north direction. A bit further out, in Chaluvakuppa, there are another two cave temples. Initiated here by Mahendravarma I, the rock-cut cave tradition is represented by more than thirteen caverns. They are renowned for their straightforward design and ornamentation. Among the cave temples, Konerimandapa, Tirumurthi Cave, and Krishnamandapa are notable examples.
The Aluvan Kuppam cave temple complex is located around 4 kilometres distant. An excavated cave shrine with lion head motifs is called the Tiger Cave. In the past, cultural programmes were presented at this open theatre.
- The Shore Temple :
One of the oldest temples in Tamilnadu, South India, is called Shore Temple. The Mahapalipuram Shore Temple is surrounded by a line of sculpted bulls in the rock. Of the seven beautiful temples constructed over here, the dignified shrine perched elegantly on the shore has endured for a very long time. First begun in the middle of the 7th century, the building was later restored under Narsimhavarma II, also known as Rajasimha. One of South India's oldest temples is situated right by the water. This Koil is an example of a Dravidian-style structural temple's initial construction stage. One of the most popular tourist attractions in Tamil Nadu, this monument serves as a symbol of the Pallavas' lofty aesthetic aspirations and is classified among UNESCO's World Heritage Sites. There were once seven similar pagodas, but only one has been preserved. It boasts a basalt rock-built vimana that is over 60 feet tall. Vishnu is depicted in his chamber in the back, lying on the ground (Stala sayana), with a prismatic lingam on the sanctum facing the sea. The Shore Koil is really a collection of three beautifully carved shrines that may be accessed by a paved courtyard surrounded by weathered perimeter walls that are supported by eye-catching statues of several "Nandi" bulls. Two Shiva Koil, one facing east and the other facing west, surround a Koil devoted to Lord Vishnu. While the Vishnu Koil's spires may have fallen over with time, the Shiva Koil is both capped by towering spires. While his son Narasimha Varman II subsequently erected the Shivan Koil, Narasimha Varma I, often known as "Mamalla," built the Vishnu temple first. It is able to take in this splendour after sunset since the monuments are illuminated at night. Six of the seven such temples, according to legend, have either been weathered by the wind and sea or sunk in the water. One of the key locations to see in Mahabaliburam is Shore Temple.
- Krishna Butterball :
Only the tip of Krishna's butter ball, a massive boulder, touched the rock, giving the onlooker the sensation that it may roll over him at any time. The Ganesha Ratha is next to the Krishna butterball. It is close to the slender rock foundation. All of the Pallava monarchs and their elephants tried to lift the boulder, but they were unable to do so even one inch.
- Thirukadalmallai temple :
One of the 108 Divyadesams is the Thirukadalmallai or Sri Sthala Sayana Perumal Temple, which is devoted to Lord Sthalasayana Perumal (Vishnu) and Goddess Nilamangai Thayar (Lakshmi). It is regarded as one of the tourist attractions in Mahabalipuram because of its excellent craftsmanship. One of the best illustrations of Dravidian architecture is Thirukadalmallai.
The fact that this location is so serene and tranquil sets this temple apart from all the others. The monks make efforts to keep the area quiet even when people from all around the world come to visit, which gives the temple a special feel. It is one of Mahabalipuram's oldest temples, and upon entering, one may immediately sense a boost in spiritual energy.
Other Places to visit in Mahabahalipuam
- Mahabalipuram Beach :
Mahabalipuram Beach, which the locals sometimes refer to as Mamallapuram, is located 58 kilometres from Chennai in Tamil Nadu. The beach, which features several rock-cut sculptures, is located along the Gulf of Bengal. The dazzling beach boasts golden sand all the way down its length and is well-known for its caverns, enormous rathas, chariots, and temples. The beach will no doubt be a blast for swimmers and surfers alike.
- Arjuna’s Penance :
The Arjuna's Penance, one of the biggest rock carvings in the world, is located at Mahabalipuram in the Kanchipuram region of Tamil Nadu.
- Shore temple :
Shore Temple, one of the earliest South Indian temples constructed in Dravidian style, was established in the 7th century and exhibits the opulent taste of the Pallava dynasty.
- Five rathas :
The Panch Rathas, sometimes referred to as the Five Rathas, are a remarkable collection of rock temples. These are outstanding illustrations of how Dravidian architecture has developed.
- India Seashell Museum :
The India Seashell Museum is a well-known tourist destination in Mahabalipuram and the only institution of its type in the nation. This must-see museum in Tamil Nadu is spread across an area of more than one acres of land and consists of three buildings. It is bejewelled with more than 40,000 different types of shells. The museum, which is the first, is renowned for exhibiting a variety of rare and distinctive seashells. Explore the magnificence of these seashells, including the "Breath Maria," one of only four in the world, as you stroll the area. The aquarium complex, where you may observe a variety of ocean and river species, is the next stop on your journey.
A little market called Maya Bazaar is located above the aquarium building, where you can purchase alluring pearls, chic jewellery, and other unique seashell-based artefacts. Moreover, there is a tiny boutique area where visitors can have a fish pedicure. Both the aquarium and the museum have separate entrance costs that must be paid at the ticket booth before entering. After your museum and aquarium viewing trip, you may fill your stomach at the final structure, the restaurant. You must sample the restaurant's award-winning seafood.
- Sculpture Museum :
One of the most significant locations where visitors may see different statues of Hindu gods and goddesses is Mahabalipuram. In this location, you can view both the old rock engravings and the fine sculptural elements. The key draws that draw visitors from all across the nation to this location are the temples, historic monuments, and their designs.
The sculpture museum at Mahabalipuram is a must-see destination for travellers. The museum's primary draws are its collection of stone, wood, and old paintings.
With its rich collection of sculptures and representations of Hindu mythology's gods and goddesses, Mahabalipuram's sculpture museum is well-known. At this museum, there are more than 3,000 sculptures.
Each sculpture tells a story from the past and has historical relevance. There are sculptures made of wood, metal, brass, and cement on show in the museum. Ancient and modern artists have both produced works of art.
The centre of culture and sculpture is in Mahabalipuram. The intricate architecture and representations of gods and goddesses show forth the Gupta Empire's wealth. At the temple town, there are sculptures and pictures based on Buddhism as well as Hindu mythology. At the museum, you may view the monolithic sculptures, the Rathas, sculptured reliefs, and their miniatures.
East Raja Street is where the Mahabalipuram sculpture museum is located, and all forms of transportation may easily get to there. Trips to the Mahabalipuram Sculpture Museum are included in local travel packages.
Events and Festivals
Mamallapuram Dance Festival :
The beautiful town of Mamallapuram, often known by its more well-known name Mahabalipuram, is only a short distance from Chennai. Every year at the end of the year, when the Mamallapuram Dance Festival or the Indian Dance Festival is held there, this little hamlet is filled with the sounds of music and dance. This one-of-a-kind dance festival, which honours India's exceptional and traditional dances, brings enthusiasm to the state a month before the new year.
The "The Arjuna Penance," a bas-air relief that goes back to the middle of the seventh century and is one of the most spectacular monuments in the city, is a historical sculpture at the Shore Temple against which the festival is conducted. Every evening, well-known performers from throughout the nation perform on a decorated stage with a mysterious atmosphere, captivating the audience. This festival offers not only a great chance to get to know a variety of Indian traditional dance forms, but it also gives performers in the performing arts the chance to network.
Hotels to stay
- Four Points by Sheraton Mahabalipuram Resort & Convention Centre :
The famed Mahabalipuram beach is only a short drive from this 4-star resort in Mahabalipuram. They have balconies, plush furniture, and upholstered beds in their rooms. Moreover, some suites have living areas and in-room spas. They provide a wide variety of cuisines for their customers to sample. They have a spa, an outdoor pool, and a wellness centre so that visitors may enjoy an unforgettable trip.
- Oceanside Mahabalipuram :
This resort is the perfect place to stay when on vacation with family and friends because it is conveniently located to the beach and all of the other tourist attractions in Mahabalipuram. The hotel offers lodging at reasonable costs and gives its customers a straightforward, comfortable stay together with first-rate services.
- Marutham village resort :
Marutham Village Resort offers accommodations with complimentary bikes, free private parking, an outdoor swimming pool, and a garden in Mahabalipuram, which is 43 kilometres from Arignar Anna Zoological Park. This hotel has a kids' club, room service, free Internet throughout the resort, and other amenities. The hotel has a 24-hour front desk and entertainment staff.
- Sheraton grand Chennai resort and Spa :
This upmarket hotel is adjacent to the city's museum, herpetology centre, and airport and situated along the Bay of Bengal's beaches. Its opulent suites have private patios or balconies and are outfitted with contemporary conveniences. Suites that have been upgraded include two bedrooms, living spaces, kitchens, and private pools. They feature a bar outside and a restaurant. With the event centre, spa, and gym, visitors may unwind.
- Wharf restaurant :
For well-prepared pesto pasta, orange salads, and tandoori roti, the Wharf is a good choice. Try delicious cheesecakes, pudding, and ice cream.. The most consumed beverages at this establishment are delicious chardonnay, beer, or liqueur. You may have a delicious americano, juice, or lemonade here.
Several reviews say the employees are enthusiastic at this location. Customers here agree that quick service is given. In this location, anticipate reasonable prices. You will undoubtedly like the wonderful atmosphere and magnificent design.
- L’attitude 49 :
This eatery is well-known for serving Indian food. Many people discover that you can get honey chicken, fried fish, and properly cooked spicy prawns here. Try some delectable brownies, ice cream, and tiramisu soon. Excellent wine, beer, and cordial are some of L'attitude 49's most well-liked beverages. Consider superb coffee, iced tea, or fruit juice.
- Sunrise restaurant :
After a tiresome stroll around the Open-Air Museum, come here to relax. In the cosiness of this restaurant, explore new Italian foods on the menu. At Sunrise Restaurant, patrons may get delectable tav kosi, chilli chicken, and butter prawns. If you're hungry, come here for delicious panna cotta. Visitors may sample some great beer here. One of the greatest liquids to taste is a good cup of coffee.
- Motel mamalla :
The Indian food served at this establishment is endorsed. You may sample expertly prepared masala dosa, vada, and sambar at Motel Mamalla. Examine decent tea, lassi, or coffee.
Even during peak hours, it's simple to get to this venue because to its excellent location. The kind crew gives this facility its lovely atmosphere by working hard and always upbeat. The swift service is one outstanding feature that significantly boosts the success of this establishment.. You'll be grateful for average costs. This restaurant is well known for its pleasant atmosphere.
Best time to visit
The winter season, which lasts from October to March, is the ideal time to book a vacation to Mahabalipuram. The weather is still pleasant with warm days and chilly nights, making it perfect for outdoor activities and town exploration. The busiest travel season, when the weather is pleasant, lasts from November through February. Summertime trips to Mahabalipuram are typically avoided because to the oppressive heat and extremely high temperatures, which make it impossible to move around the town for sightseeing.
How to reach
- By air:
Mahabalipuram is not serviced by direct flights. Around 40 kilometres away in Chennai is the closest airport. To go to Mahabalipuram, you may take a cab from the Chennai airport.
- By road:
You may take a direct vehicle ride or use the Chennai route to go to Mahabalipuram. Bus services are accessible from some cities, including Bangalore and Coimbatore, as well as Chennai.
- By rail:
To Mahabalipuram, there are no direct rail services. The closest railroad station is in Chennai at the Egmore station.. After arriving in Chennai, you have two options: either take a cab waiting outside the train station, or board one of the many buses that travel from Chennai to Mahabalipuram.