Mahabalipuram – A gateway to ancient India
Last year I was invited by Karantaka Tourism to travel in the luxury train – The Golden Chariot and we stopped over at different destinations on the way covering three states – Karanataka, Tamilnadu and Kerala.
In Tamilnadu, we took a stopover in Chennai at the beginning of trip and it came to me as a pleasant surprise when we visited the historical site of Mahabalipuram. Mahabalipuram or Mamallapuramwas the capital region during the reign of Pallava Dynasty in the 7th century AD. The Pallavas rulers used to hold the ultimate command in the southern part of India, after the decline of Gupta Dynasty. The places which attracted me or should be in the list of any travelers are-
A huge open-air sculpture, Arjuna’s Penance shows the various events that occurred during Arjuna’s Penance. This magnificent relief, carved in the mid-seventh century, measures approximately 30m (100ft) long by 15m (45ft) high. The rock sculpting done on the rocks is intricate and is amazingly detailed and is unlike any other that is found in India.
The composition of the relief includes the main elements of the story (left) and scenes of the natural and celestial worlds (right). A natural cleft populated by nagas separates the two halves of the relief. Water was poured down this cleft in order to simulate a natural waterfall (the Ganges’ descent).
Krishna’s butter ball
This is one of those unexplained mysteries in science. At Mahabalipuram the 20 feet high and 5 meter wide rock estimated to weigh over 250 tons seems to pull off a balancing act like no other. Known locally as Krishna’s Butter Ball is not a rock that stands on an extremely small and slippery area of a hill. It’s hard not to wonder how such a big structure is stationary at a place where it’s impossible to be so. And it’s been there for over 1200 years.
The exquisite Pancha Rathas are open air rock cut reliefs and are fashioned in the form of 5 chariots named after the Pandavas from the Hindu epic Mahabharatha. The carved monoliths have all been carved out of pink granite and the tallest one of them is around 40 feet high. Hindu mythology that are placed in the niches in the chariot shaped temples are a marvel to behold.
The 2004 tsunami caused a massive damage to many of the archeological monuments here.
The name of the temple is so because of it overlooking the shores of the Bay of Bengal. The Shore Temple is carved out of granite and is alternatively called the 7 Pagodas due to some unconfirmed evidence that the complex had 7 Pagodas till a Tsunami hit the shores in the 13th century AD.
Mahabalipuram houses a total number of 8 Rock-Cut Cave Temples built in the 7th century by the Pallava Kings. The temples feature a number of finely cut rock columns which vary in detail. The various rock carved sculptures are dedicated to the various Hindu deities and are considered as the finest masterpieces of Indian art
How to Reach
By Air: Chennai International Airport (58 kms) is the nearest airport from Mahabalipuram.
By Rail: Chengalpattu (29 km) is the nearest railway station.
By Road: There are regular buses to Mahabalipuram from Chennai, Puducherry and Kanchipuram.
Where to Stay:
Savera Hotel is a great option if you are seeking both comfort and luxury. Bamboo bar is another reason to visit this place for the evening drinks and delicious meal.