Mamallapuram Information

Mamallapuram is popularly called Mahabalipuram and is 58km south of Chennai.  It can be reached by bus or taxi.  A beautiful spot of wonder and amazing sculptures which no touristto Chenai should miss.

Mamallapuram was once the flourishing port of the Pallavas an old lighthouse built of stone exists intact till date, proclaiming the glory of Pallava trade and maritime supremacy.  It is also the birthplace of one of the first three alwars Boothathalwar.  Since Pallava kings were both Saivaites and Vaishnavaites, Mamallapuram has shrines of both beliefs.  Though no formalworship is done today, large number of Visitors come every day to enjoy the sculpture and splendor of Pallava art and architecture.  The monolithic and scooped out cave temples are of different dates, 10 centuries old.

Mamallapuram Tourism Information

A visit to this once-thriving port city of the Pallavas, a dynasty that ruled much of South India between the 4th and 9th centuries A.D., is an excellent introduction to South Indian temple architecture. Established by Mamalla, “the Great Wrestler,” the tourist town of Mamallapuram attracts thousands to view the earliest examples of monumental architecture in southern India—incredible rock-cut shrines that celebrate Hinduism’s sacred pantheon and legends. Even today, the sounds of sculptors chipping away at blocks of stone—creating carvings for temples, hotel foyers, and tourists—echo through the streets, a reminder of the sort of devoted craftsmanship that must have possessed the original masons who created the World Heritage monuments of Mamallapuram. It’s possible to survey the best monuments in a morning, provided you get an early start (ideally, long before domestic tourists arrive en masse around mid-morning). This leaves you time to unwind on the pleasant beach and dine on succulent seafood at a village cafe (for a song). But if you don’t plan on hanging around, you can move on to Pondicherry after lunch and be sipping Gallic cocktails before sundown. If, on the other hand, you are returning to Chennai via the scenic East Coast Highway, you may want to schedule a stop at the cultural centers of Cholamandalam and Dakshina Chitra. At Cholamandalam Artists’ Village (Injambakkam, 13 km/8 miles south of Chennai; & 044/2449-0092; daily 9am–7pm), artists live, work, and exhibit their paintings, sculpture, graphic arts, and batik, and an open-air theater hosts regular dance performances. Dakshina Chitra is a heritage center showcasing different living styles from India’s four southern states: Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Andhra Pradesh. You can also observe weavers, potters, and traditional puppeteers at work, a good way to get in-depth knowledge of local arts and culture before they completely erode.

The Stone Temple: Lapped by the surging sea it stands gloriously on the verge of the Bay of Bengal.  It has a Dravidian style vimana towering over 60 feet built in basaltic rock.  a prismatic lingam is on the sanctum facing the sea and Vishnu is seen reclining on the ground (Stala sayana) in his chamber in the rear. Pandava Raths or Monolithic Shrines are five in number out of which four are carved, out of a single rock, while the fifth is scooped from a small rock.  The hut-like Draupadi Rath sports door-keepers, Durga with a worshipper cutting and offering his neck, and the outer walls of Arjuna's  rath stands with a huge monolithic elephant in front.  Bhima's rath has two storeys and lion-based pillars.  Dharmaraja's rath is the biggest and has 8 panels of exquisite sculptures.

Arjuna's Penance is the splendor of Mamallapuram.  It is a huge rock in the canvas unfolding a scene of gods and demigods, birds, beasts and natural scenery.  Some are of the opinion that it is in fact Bagirath's penance to bring the celestial Ganges to the earth.  A natural cleft in the rock has been cleverly carved into the turbulent river Ganges with serpent gods worshipping like devotees along the banks frozen in their prayer a superb poetry in sculpture which no visitor should miss.

The Mahishasuramardhini cave is carved into three shrines a bass relief of somaskanda in the rear, Anantasayana - Vishnu canopied by Shesha, reclining on the serpent bed.  Mahishasuramardhini is struck in bold relief in such an awe inspiring way with the thrill of the beholder in the battlefield.

Krishna Mandapam is a rock cut temple with pastoral scenes depicting the life of Lord Krishna.

Varaha Cave illustrates the legend of rescuing the earth Bhoodevi by Vishnu incarnated as a boar.

Besides one would be wonderstruck to see Krishna's butter ball a huge boulder with just a tip of it touching the rock giving the on-looker an impression that it may roll on him any moment.  There is a huge rock tub said to be the bathing tub of Drapathi. Above, on the rocky hill is a shrine of Vishnu without the deity.  One can also see the old rock built lighthouse and the modern lighthouse side by side.  Mahabalipuram is a real feast to the eyes that could read an epic in lively sculpture.

EXPLORING THE SHRINES AND TEMPLES

Mamallapuram’s monolithic shrines and rock-cut cave temples lie scattered over a landscape heaped with boulders and rocky hillocks. Among these, the excellent Shore Temple, built to Lord Shiva, and the Five Rathas, a cluster of temples named for the five Pandava brothers of Mahabharata fame, are definitely worth seeking out. The celebrated Arjuna’s Penance is the largest relief-carving on earth—try to see these as early in the day as possible, before busloads of noisy holiday-makers descend. Also try to view Mahishamardini Mandapa (and give the nearby government-run Sculpture Museum a miss). If you feel the need to visit an active temple, head for Talasayana Perumal Temple, dedicated to Vishnu. It stands on the site of an original 9th-century Pallava temple but was rebuilt during the 14th century by the Vijayanagar King Parang Kusan, who feared that the sea would eventually erode Shore Temple. Halfhour puja (prayer) sessions are conducted daily at 9am, 11:30am, and 7:30pm. About 4km (21⁄2 miles) north of Mamallapuram, Tiger Cave (Covelong Rd.) is the site of an 8th-century shrine to the tiger-loving goddess Durga. It’s thought that the shallow cave, with its sculpted yalis (mythical beasts) framing the entrance, might have been used for open-air performances. Seventeen kilometers (11 miles) west of Mamallapuram, in the Kanchipuram district, Tirukkazhukundram, named for the holy kites (eagle-type birds) that make their home here, are popular with pilgrims who come to witness the Brahmin priests feeding the two birds of prey at midday. Note: Herpetologists and beleaguered parents may wish to make a pilgrimage of a very different kind: Set up by the famous herpetologist Romulus Whitaker, Crocodile Bank (15km/ 9 miles north of Mamallapuram; Rs 20/45¢; Wed–Mon 9am–5:30pm) is an extremely successful breeding and research center that currently sustains around 2,500 crocodiles, including 14 of the world’s 26 species.

Arjuna’s Penance

Arjuna’s Penance Opposite Talasayana Perumal Temple, the world’s largest bas-relief is commonly referred to as “The Descent of the Ganges,” depicting the sacred penance performed by one of the Pandava brothers. Standing on one leg, the meditative Arjuna contemplates Shiva—a painful reparation performed while lively representations of the gods, celestial nymphs, elephants, monkeys, and other creatures look on. A naturally occurring cleft down the rock is said to represent the Ganges, a symbol that comes to life during the rainy season when water flows into a tank below. Just a few meters away, to the left of Arjuna’s Penance, is Krishna Mandapam , another bas-relief, carved in the mid–7th century; this one depicts Krishna using his divine strength to lift a mountain to protect people from imminent floods. The duality of the god’s nature is expressed in carvings of him going about more mundane activities, including flirting with his milkmaids. Near Arjuna’s Penance, to the north, is the huge spherical boulder known as Krishna’s Butter Ball, balancing on a hillside. W. Raja St.

Mahishasuramardini Cave

Mahishasuramardini Cave A lighthouse tops the hill where you’ll find a number of superb rock-cut shrines—seek out Mahishasuramardini Mandapa, remarkable for the two impressive friezes at each end of its long veranda. In the panel to the right, Durga, the terrifying mother of the universe, is seated astride her lion vahana wielding an assortment of weapons. She is in the process of destroying the buffalo- headed demon, Mahisha, who disturbs the delicate balance of life. At the opposite end of the veranda, Vishnu is depicted sleeping peacefully on his serpent bed, the sea of eternity; gathered around him, the gods appeal to him to continue the creation. Also atop the hill, Adivaraha Mandap features various sculpted figures and mythical scenes, including one large panel of Vishnu as a gigantic boar.

Panch Pandava Rathas

Panch Pandava Rathas The initial sight of these five (panch) monolithic stone shrines, set in a sandy fenced-off clearing, is dramatic, even though the structures themselves—named for the five brother-heroes of the Mahabharata and resembling temple chariots (rathas)—are incomplete. The ancient sculpting techniques are astonishing: Carved out of single pieces of rock from the top down, these shrines reveal perfect, precise planning. The dome-shaped shikhara (tower finial) found on some of the temples became the template for later South Indian temples, successful experiments that were further refined and enlarged.

Shore Temple

Shore Temple Perched at the edge of a sandy beach on the Bay of Bengal, where it has been subjected to centuries of battering by salt water and oceanic winds, this early-8th-century stone temple is considered one of the oldest temples in South India, and a forerunner of the Dravidian style. Its two carved towers inspired a style that spread throughout the region and to more distant Asian shores. Vishnu is found reclining inside one shrine, while two others are dedicated to Shiva. A low boundary wall topped by rock-cut Nandi bulls surrounds the temple, and a veritable pride of lions rear their heads from the base of the pillars.

Shore Temple
Shore Temple Mahabalipuram
Mamallapuram Information

Mamallapuram Distance Guide

Mamallapuram Chidambaram 202 Km
Mamallapuram Coimbatore 464 Km
Mamallapuram Cuddalore 155 Km
Mamallapuram Dharmapuri 279 Km
Mamallapuram Dindigul 370 Km
Mamallapuram Ernakulam 647 Km
Mamallapuram Erode 372 Km
Mamallapuram Hogenakkal 324 Km
Mamallapuram Hosur 301 Km
Mamallapuram Kanchipuram 65 Km
Mamallapuram Kanyakumari 661 Km
Mamallapuram Karaikudi 451 Km
Mamallapuram Karur 368 Km
Mamallapuram Kodaikanal 381 Km
Mamallapuram Kodikkarai 361 Km
Mamallapuram Krishnagiri 253 Km
Mamallapuram Kumbakonam 262 Km
Mamallapuram Madurai 459 Km
Mamallapuram Chennai 57 Km
Mamallapuram Mysore 464 Km
Mamallapuram Nagappattinam 306 Km
Mamallapuram Nagercoil 680 Km
Mamallapuram Palani 426 Km
Mamallapuram Pollachchi 408 Km
Mamallapuram Puducherry 134 Km
Mamallapuram Poompuhar 240 Km
Mamallapuram Pudukkottai 361 Km
Mamallapuram Rajapalayam 544 Km
Mamallapuram Rameswaram 539 Km
Mamallapuram Ranipettai 107 Km
Mamallapuram Salem 306 Km
Mamallapuram Tenkasi 618 Km
Mamallapuram Thanjavur 304 Km
Mamallapuram Thekkadi 425 Km
Mamallapuram Tiruchchendur 673 Km
Mamallapuram Tiruchirappalli 291 Km
Mamallapuram Tirunelveli 610 Km
Mamallapuram Tirupathi 174 Km
Mamallapuram Tiruppur 438 Km
Mamallapuram Tiruttani 107 Km
Mamallapuram Tiruvannamalai 159 Km
Mamallapuram Thrissur 573 Km
Mamallapuram Tiruvananthapuram 718 Km
Mamallapuram Tuticorin 592 Km
Mamallapuram Udagamandalam 570 Km
Mamallapuram Ulundurpet 169 Km
Mamallapuram Valparai 448 Km
Mamallapuram Vellore 134 Km
Mamallapuram Yercaud 335 Km

 

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