A spiritual odyssey through South India (Part 6: Mamallapuram – Temples galore!!)
Mamallapuram (also called) Mahabalipuram is a popular tourist destination in the south India tour. It is coastal town around 60 km south from the city of Chennai in Tamil Nadu and was a 7th century port city of the South Indian dynasty of the Pallavas. The name Mamallapuram is believed to have been given after the Pallava King Narasimhavarman I, who took on the epithet Maha-malla (great wrestler), as the favourite sport of the Pallavas was wrestling.
Mamallapuram is famous for the many rock temples portraying events described in the Hindu epicMahabharata, built by the Pallava kings built largely between the 7th to 9th centuries, and has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The most convenient mode of travel to this place is via road, both from Pondicherry and Chennai, as it is located halfway between both the destinations. We took a taxi from Pondicherry to reach Mamallapuram and it was a 2 hours journey on East Coast Road.
The major temples and historic structures of tourist attraction here are as follows:-
Thirukadalmallai - the temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It was also built by Pallava King in order to safeguard the sculptures from the ocean. It is told that after building this temple, the remaining architecture was preserved and was not corroded by sea.
Descent of the Ganges – a giant open-air relief carved of the a monolithic rock, is a world heritage site since 1984.
Varaha Cave Temple – a small rock-cut temple dating back to the 7th century.
Pancha Rathas (Five Chariots) – five monolithic pyramidal structures named after the Pandavas (Arjuna, Bhima, Yudhishtra, Nakula and Sahadeva) and Draupadi. An interesting aspect of the rathas is that, despite their sizes they are not assembled – each of these is carved from one single large piece of stone.
Shore Temple – a structural temple along the Bay of Bengal with the entrance from the western side away from the sea. Recent excavations have revealed new structures here. The temple was reconstructed stone by stone from the sea after being washed away in a cyclone. The shore temple owing to its locations is the most majestic looking structure of Mamallapuram.
Standing by the shore temple looking towards the ocean, feeling the gentle ocean breeze and listening to the sound of the waves crashing, it felt like this place was the perfect culmination of the South India tour.