Mahabalipuram is also known as Mamallapuram. The name Mamallapuram is given by the king Narasimhavarman I, who was the great wrestler in the epithet of (Maha-Malla). Wrestling was the favorite sport for the Pallavas. This place has an elevation of about 12 meters. This coastal town is one of the most beautiful places to visit in South India. Mahabalipuram was the second capital and flourishing port of the Pallava kings. It was built in 7th century. This place is situated 60km from South of Chennai. Pallava kings ruled Kanchipuram from the 3rd to the close of the 9th century AD. The Ratha temples are the most famous temples in India partly for their age and the quirky architecture. Chinese coins and Roman coins were found in Mamallapuram during the 4th century. Two Pallava coins Srihari and Srinidhi were found here by bearing a legend name.
These Pallava temples were carved out of huge rocks. The ruling Pallavas ordered their construction around the 8th century. They are prized for their architectural value. The sculptures of this shore temple attract lot of visitors every year.
Shore temple was built in the 8th century which was two spires. This temple was the remarkable sample of Dravidian architecture. The two shrines were dedicated to Lord Siva and Lord Vishnu. The Shore Temple includes 100 ft long and 45 ft. high. It was carved out of granite stones. This temple is much closer to the water; originally it stands about 100 meters inland as the waters have receded. This temple is designed by the monolithic Dharmaraja Ratha with lot modifications in Rajasimha style. This temple stands as a symbol of the soaring aesthetic aspirations of the Pallavas.
Five Rathas is also called as the Pancha Pandava Rathas. They resemble the pagodas and they are chiseled out of big boulders in the form of temple chariots in different style. These Rathas have been carved out of monoliths and they are associated with the Pandava brothers. They are the heroes of the Great Indian epic Mahabaratha. They have all the characteristic features of South Indian Temple like gopurams, a pillared hall and sculptures on the wall the Darmaraja Ratha is the biggest and best of the five Rathas. This Rathas highlights the gallery of art and shows the Pallavas genius in variety of art forms.
Arjuna’s Penance one of the major glories of Indian art and huge rock canvas with chisel sketches of the triple world of Gods and demigods, of men birds and beasts and of Nagas and nymphs. This sculpture shows the harmonious theme of the mythological hero Arjuna. It is one of world largest and finest bas-relief measuring 27m*9m is the pride of Mahabalipuram.
There are two schools of opinion about this event of cosmic significance. One school holds that Arjuna under took a Penance to secure him from the enemies. He prayed Lord Siva and got a powerful weapon. Siva granted the boon, to witness the miracle, visitors rushed from the heaven, the earth and the mid-regions. Another school holds that the scene depicts the penance of Bhagiratha, an ancestor of Rama. Bhagiratha was sent on a mission of redeeming the souls of his ancestors, who ashes lay in the nether world as a result of curse. He wanted to have their ashes submerged by the holy Ganges water and help them to reach the heaven. He accomplished this in two stages. After a long time he got the Gods agree to send the river Ganges to the earth and then he invoked Siva to tame the Ganga fury. Lord Siva received the Ganges on his matted hair and allowed the water to trickle down to the earth. The cleft in the rock depicts the Ganga descending into the world. We can see the majestic elephants, a fissure splits the sculpture down the middle and the other side is filled with celestial beings, men, animals and birds.
Krishna’s Butter Ball
It is situated near the old light house, by a walk from there we can reach Krishna’s butter ball. A huge rock is balanced on the tip of a sloping rock face. It is legend that lot of Pallava Kings tried to move it, but all the kings and their elephants are not able to shift the boulder even an inch.
Other Places in Mamallapuram
Krishna Mandapam, Varaha Cave, Mahishasuramardhini Cave, Tiger’s Cave, Ganesh Ratha and Sri Sthalasayana Perumal Temple one of the 108 Divya Desams are worth to see.
This temple is about 10km from Mamallapuram. Sri Vedagiriswarar Temple is situated at the top of this hill. This temple is famous for the two kites, which are considered as a saint fed daily around the noon. It is a legend that their flight was between Varanasi and Rameswaram.
The best time to visit this place
This temple town is very pleasant during the month of mid-January and mid-February. The annual Mamallapuram dance festival is done by the performers of Bharathanatiyam, Kuchipudi, Odissi, and Kathakali during the weekend of this month.
Chennai airport is about 55 km from Mahabalipuram.
Chengalpattu railway station is about 30km.
Lot of buses are available from here to Chennai.