All you need to know about Mahabalipuram – Travel Guide

mahabalipuram-travel-guide

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About Mahabalipuram

Mahabalipuram is a UNESCO World Heritage Site of the seventh and eighth century Hindu Group of monuments. It was one of the two major port cities in the Pallava kingdom. The town was named after the Pallava King Mahabali Narasimhavarman I. It is located in the south-eastern part of Tamil Nadu. 

Architectural Splendor of Mahabalipuram

The Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram was carved out of a rock along the Coromandel Coast. It is famous for its temples in the form of chariots called five rathas, cave sanctuaries called mandapas, huge open-air reliefs, and the temple of Rivage. It occupies a special place in classical Indian architecture and marks the high quality of craftsmanship during the period.  

Temples and Monuments in Mahabalipuram

Mahabalipuram has around 40 monuments and old Hindu temples. It also houses one of the largest open-air rock reliefs in the world called Arjuna’s Penance or the Descent of the Ganges. They were built during the Pallava Dynasty. Here is a quick look at the temples and monuments.

Temples

  1. Shore Temple Mahabalipuram – A UNESCO World Heritage site built in the seventh century, the Shore Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. Mahabalipuram Temple timings: 6 am to 6 pm on all days.
  2. Thirukadalmallai – Also known as the Sthalasayana Perumal Temple, the Thirukadalmallai Temple features in the top ten Mahabalipuram places to visit list. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi, it is a perfect example of the Dravidian style of architecture. It is open for visitors from 6 am to 12 pm and 3 pm to 8.30 pm.
  3. Varaha Mandapa – This is also known as the Varaha Cave Temple or the Adivaraha Cave and is one of the most ornamented and complete caves in Mahabalipuram. It is excavated in the mandapa style with a single hall and a shrine at the rear. There are many mythical figures carved on the walls of the cave. It is open for visitors from 6-8 am to 6 pm on all days.
  4. Trimurti Cave Temple – This is a triple-celled cave temple dedicated to the three superpowers of Hinduism – Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu, and Lord Shiva. Additionally, there is a shrine dedicated to Goddess Durga slaying the demon Mahishasur. It is open for visitors from 6-8 am to 6 pm on all days.
  5. Ganesha Ratha Temple – The Ganesha Ratha Temple is one of the most famous rathas. It is a monolithic structure designed in the shape of a chariot and symbolizes the trade and commerce of the Gupta Empire. It is open for visi tors from 6-8 am to 6 pm on all days.
  6. Atiranachanda Cave Temple – This cave temple is located a little far from the city in a hamlet called Saluvankuppam. It is excavated in the mandapa style. Also, there are many inscriptions on the walls of the cave temple. It is open for visitors from 6 am to 6 pm on all days.
  7. Karukathamman Temple – Dedicated to Goddess Karu Katha Amman, this is a small but famous temple. It is open for visitors from 7 am to 12 pm and 2 pm to 6 pm on all days.
  8. Krishna Mandapam – Among all the cave temples, the Krishna Mandapam is the oldest and the largest one. It has a lot of carvings with the most significant being the incident where Lord Krishna lifted the Govardhan Mountain to protect people from heavy rainfall.
Shore-Temple-mahabalipuram
Shore Temple

[Also read: Golu Celebrations in Tamil Nadu]

Dress Code Mahabalipuram Temple

Since 2016, people traveling to the temples in South India are expected to follow a prescribed dress code. Men are expected to wear a dhoti, a traditional long lower garment, or pyjama (two-piece garment) with an upper cloth or formal shirts and trousers. Women are expected to wear sarees or half sarees with a blouse, churidars (light loose trousers) with an upper cloth. Children should wear fully-covered dresses too.

Mahabalipuram Monuments

  1. Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram – The Pallava Kings founded a group of sanctuaries along the Coromandel Coast during the seventh and eighth centuries. This is known as the Group of Monuments. The monuments include temples made in the form of a chariot (5 rathas), cave sanctuaries (mandapas), giant open-air reliefs like the famous ‘Descent of the Ganges’, and the temple of Rivage, with thousands of sculptures to the glory of Shiva.
  2. Pancha Rathas – These are five unique monolithic free-standing temples that are named after the Pandavas and Draupadi from the Mahabharata but have no connections with the epic. These five rathas are Draupadi Ratha, Arjuna Ratha, Bhima Ratha, Dharmraja Ratha, and Nakula-Sahadeva Ratha. It is open for visitors from 6 am to 6 pm on all days.
  3. Krishna’s Butterball – This is one of the most intriguing tourist attractions. The butter ball is a giant rock (diameter of around five meters) perched on a smooth slope, balancing itself without any support. It defies all laws of physics. Krishna butter ball is open for visitors from 6 am to 6 pm on all days.
  4. Descent of the Ganges – This is a giant open-air rock relief that is carved out of two monolithic rock boulders. It measures 96 by 43 feet. The relief depicts the legend of the descent of the sacred river Ganga to Earth from the Heavens. It is open for visitors from 6 am to 6 pm on all days.
Krishna's-Butterball-Mahabalipuram
Krishna’s Butterball

What is famous in Mahabalipuram

The temple town of Tamil Nadu is famous for:

  • Its historical importance. The city has gone through a lot of changes over time that can be experienced via various structures and ruins.
  • Golden sandy beaches. In fact, Mahabalipuram’s beach is one of the longest beaches in India.
  • A great city to marvel at the architecture of the famous Pallava Dynasty.
  • Most monuments are monolithic – carved out of a single rock.
Mahabalipuram Beach
Mahabalipuram Beach

How to Reach Mahabalipuram from Chennai

Here are some ways to travel from Chennai

By Train 

Chengalpattu is the closest railway station to Mahabalipuram. There are around 155 trains that ply between Chennai and Chengalpattu regularly. Of these, around 50 trains run every day. The fastest train is the Manduadih – Rameswaram Weekly Express that takes an hour to reach. Chengalpattu is at a distance of around 27 km from the city. From Chengalpattu, you can book a cab to reach your destination.

By Road 

Chennai is around 57 km by road from Mahabalipuram. You can take the East Coast Road for a scenic drive. You can book a Chennai to Mahabalipuram taxi and reach within around one hour.

By Flight 

Chennai International Airport is the closest airport to Mahabalipuram. You can book a Chennai airport taxi and reach Mahabalipuram within one hour.

[Also Read: Chennai: The Gateway to South India]

How to Reach Mahabalipuram from Kanchipuram

Here are some ways to travel from Kanchipuram:

By Train 

Chengalpattu is the closest railway station to Mahabalipuram. There are around 23 trains that ply between Kanchipuram and Chengalpattu regularly. Of these, around 3 trains run every day. The fastest train is the Mumbai LTT – Madurai Weekly Express (PT) that takes around 40 minutes to reach. Chengalpattu is at a distance of around 27 km from Mahabalipuram. From Chengalpattu, you can book a cab to reach your destination.

By Road 

Kanchipuram is around 67 km by road via the Kancheepuram – Chengalpattu Road. You can book a Kanchipuram to Mahabalipuram taxi and reach within 1.5-2 hours.

Places to visit in Mahabalipuram

Apart from the temples and monuments detailed above, here are some places to see

1. Mahabalipuram Beach

Mahabalipuram-Beach
Mahabalipuram Beach

Located on the East Coast near E Raja Street, Mahabalipuram Beach is the perfect place to unwind and enjoy nature and art together. 

You can also visit the snake venom extraction center, school of art and culture, and a crocodile bank that has more than 5000 crocodiles of six different species.

2. India Seashell Museum

India-Seashell-Museum
India Seashell Museum

Located on Kalpakkam Road, the India Seashell Museum is the largest museum of seashells and a unique place to visit. 

The museum has been designed to create an illusion of the sea and marine life. There are more than 40,000 varieties of exhibits in the museum. It is open for visitors from 8 am – 8 pm every day and is one of the must-see places.

3. Mahabalipuram Light House

Mahabalipuram-Light-House
Mahabalipuram Light House

Located on Mada Koil Street, the Light House stands next to India’s oldest lighthouse constructed in 640AD

You can get an amazing view of the surroundings from the lighthouse. It is open for visitors from 9 am – 5:30 pm every day. Each visitor can be in the lighthouse only for ten minutes. Also, the best time to visit the lighthouse is during the winter months of September to March – preferably during the evening hours.

Best Time to visit Mahabalipuram

Winters are the best times for sightseeing. The winter months of September to March offer a relatively pleasant climate with warm days and cool nights. In fact, the peak season to visit Mahabalipuram is between November and February. Summers can get really hot here making sightseeing difficult.

Things to do around Mahabalipuram

  • Camp at the beach, light a campfire and enjoy the amazing views
  • Visit the Kadumbadi village and experience the quaint life of rural Tamil Nadu
  • Take a Fishing Safari offered by many local service providers 

Things to shop in Mahabalipuram

  • Stone sculptures – miniature monolithic rock-cut carvings from Mount Road and Arjuna Penance
  • Seashell items from artisans at the Shore Temple Road

Best Place to Eat in Mahabalipuram

  • Nautilus, Othavadai Cross Street – continental food
  • Blue Elephant, Othavadai Street – seafood
  • Le Yogi, Othavadi Street – North Indian, Seafood, South Indian, and Nepalese food
  • Rose Garden, Beach Road – Indian food
  • Water’s Edge Café, Radisson Blu Resort – multi-cuisine food

Best Places to Stay in Mahabalipuram

  • Four Points by Sheraton Resort, ECR – OMR Junction
  • Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay Mamallapuram, 57 Covelong Road
  • Sheraton Grand Chennai Resort Spa, East Coast Road
  • Welcomhotel by ITC Hotels, Kences Palm Beach, East Coast Road
  • Esthell Village Resort, Sadras Road

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Mahabalipuram - Travel Guide
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Mahabalipuram - Travel Guide
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Mahabalipuram is a UNESCO World Heritage Site of the seventh and eighth century Hindu Group of monuments. It was one of the two major port cities in the Pallava kingdom.
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Reading between lines - the ones that rhyme, on a journey with no stop sign.

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