India is a vast country and always on top of the travelers’ list. Tourists from across the globe come here to explore the country. India is the answer to everyone’s interest. One such place is Mahabalipuram (also Mamallapuram). The city is situated just 60 km off Chennai on the Bay of Bengal coast in the Tamil Nadu. The city is well connected through a network of roads from Chennai and other important cities of South India.
The history of Mahabalipuram is an intriguing one. Although its ancient history remains unclear, numismatics, temples and other sources of historical evidence suggest that it was a place of significance even before the temples were built.
Mahabalipuram is a historic city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In history, it has been referred to Mahabalipuram as the “land of the Seven Pagodas”. Several coins excavated from here reveal the existence of trade with Romans in ancient times.
The place is also known for its stone sculpture industry and rock-cut monuments. Two of the main attractions are the Five Rathas (sculptured temples in the shape of chariots, carved from single large rocks) and Arjuna’s Penance (a huge carving on the face of a rock depicting scenes from The Mahabharata). Most carvings were done in the 7th century during the reign of the Pallava kings.
Shor Temple: Mahabalipuram even has one of the most beautiful beaches. The turquoise green water makes the beach even more stunning. The stately shrine set elegantly on the edge of the sea is a lone survivor among the seven magnificent temples built over here. It is one of the oldest temples in South India and represents the first phase of structural temples constructed in Dravidian style. Originally, there were seven such temples called pagodas and only one has been spared. It has a 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. The Shore Temple is in fact complexes of three exquisitely carved shrines and is approached through a paved forecourt flanked by weathered perimeter walls supporting striking sculptures of numerous ‘Nandi’ bulls. A temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu is flanked by two Shiva temples, one facing the east and the other facing the west. Both the Shiva Temples are crowned by soaring spires, while the Vishnu Temple has none, as it may have crumbled with time. The Vishnu temple was built by Narasimha Varma I or “Mamalla”, while the Shiva temples were later built by his son Narasimha Varman II.
When to visit: The best time to visit Mahabalipuram is during the winters, from the months of November to February. During this time, days are pleasant while the nights are cool. The conditions are just perfect for sightseeing and exploration.
How to reach: The nearest airport from Mahabalipuram is Chennai (Madras), located around 60 km away. The nearest railway station, Chengalpattu, is situated around 29 km away from Mahabalipuram.
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