Mahabalipuram is located at a distance of 58-km from Chennai. It is
one of the most exciting and memorable destinations, with rich
tradition, history, piety and western annals. It is one of the popular
tourist places, known for great architecture much visible in its rock
carvings and monolithic sculptures. It also has the famous shore
temple, the only one to have survived the wrath of nature. Also known
as the Seven Pagodas (temples), six of them now lie drowned in the
sea. The architecture of the temples at Mahabalipuram are inspired by
the Pallava Art and were built during the period 830 - 1100 AD.
At Mahabalipuram, there are two low hills of about 400m above the
sea. There are about 11 excavated temples, called Mandapas on both
sides of one of the hills. A 'cut-out' temple, called Ratha is carved
out of a big rock standing nearby.
other hill is much smaller and stands about 200m to the south. There
are five more rathas, three big sculptures of a Nandi, a Loin and an
Elephant carved out of it. On the top of the bigger hill there is a
structural temple, and at a little distance there is the magnificent
beginnings of a Vijayanagar Gopura which is also believed to be
survivals of a so called palace.
Mahabalipuram also has about forty monuments known for their
architecture including an "open air bas relief" which is the
largest in the world. Since many centuries it has been a center of
pilgrimage, and even today it pulls innumerable devotees and tourists.
¤ The Varaha Caves
The Varaha Cave is a small rock-cut mandapam (hall). Here one can
find the incarnations of Vishnu-Varaha (boar) and Vamana (dwarf). The
four panels of Pallava doorkeepers are the most important and famous.
The Dharmaraja Cave, built in the early seventh century, consists
three empty shrines. The Mahisasurmardini Cave (mid-seventh century)
has fine bas-reliefs on its panels of imperishable beauty. The
Somaskanda sculpture here represents peace, power, and wisdom. Here
Lord Vishnu is shown in omniscient repose in a masterpiece of dhwani
(the art of suggestion). There's also a huge theatrical panel showing,
Goddess Durga's fight with the demon Mahishasura. The Tiger Cave is
about 5 km north of Mahabalipuram, which is a rock-cut shrine, dating
back to 7th century.
The Rathas are a group of structures placed at the southern extreme
of Mahabalipuram. They are situated amidst Casuarina trees. There are
Pancha Pandava Rathas, which are five in numbers. Among these five,
four are carved out of a single rock, while the fifth on the west is
scooped out from a small rock. The complex consists of square Draupadi
and Arjuna Rathas, the linear Bhima Ratha, the taller Dharamraja Ratha
and the niche Nakula-Sahadeva Ratha.
¤ Krishna Mandapam
The Krishna Temple is a rock-cut temple and is one of the first in
Mahabalipuram. The walls of the temples describe scenes of reverend
life, one of the pictures here shows Lord Krishna lifting the
Govardhan Hill on his fingertips to protect his people from Indra.
¤ Shore Temple
The Shore Temple, beside the sea shore is a lovely temple, caressed
by the sea water and the wind. There is three-in-one abode of God,
containing a Vishnu temple and two Shiva temples. It is a visual
delight, having wonderful architectural masterpieces. There is sea on
either side, having no limits to its extent. Within the compound wall
of this temple lies the pleasing sculptures of Nandi the bull while
the figure of Vishnu is present in the sanctum sanctorum.