Once a bustling port of Tamil Nadu, the town of Mahabalipuram rose to prominence from 4th to the 9th century, during the heydays of the Pallava Kingdom. Centuries later, today Mahabalipuram with its numerous architectural marvels is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From ancient temples to ruins of age-old shrines, the places to visit in Mahabalipuram will fill you with an absolute sense of pleasure. Also, an archaeologist’s delight, this shore town boasts of a large number of ornate stone-carvings made out of uncut rocks.
Such structures are sprinkled all over the complex that demands the awe of travellers who flock to the place almost round the year. Mahabalipuram’s strategic location along the east coast of India and proximity to major cities of South India, make it an ideal weekend getaway. One of the most prominent places to visit in Mahabalipuram happens to be the Shore Temple. It is a complex full of temples and religious shrines. The Shore Temple is one of the oldest temples in India built out of blocks of granite, dating back to 700-728 CE. Shore Temple symbolises the excellent Pallava architecture and the maritime ambitions of the their rulers. Its small size belies its excellent proportion and the supreme quality of the carvings, many now eroded into vaguely impressionist embellishments.
However, today the shore temple has been ruined to a great extent owing to constant soil and wind erosion. Despite that, the remains that are left, are strikingly beautiful and thus attracts thousands of visitors. Other places to visit in Mahabalipuram include Arjuna’s Penance and Krishna’s Butterball. Apart from the shore temple, these two happen to be major tourist attraction in the town. Depicted from the epic Mahabharata, the structure is a rock-cut one and considerably huge. Unique in its own way, both the structures are definitely worth admiring. On the other hand, the Varaha Cave temple and the Mahisasuramardini Mandapam are equally admirable for their imposing structures.
Apart from the historical sites and structures, Mahabalipuram boasts of other places of interest that includes lighthouses, pristine beaches, temples and even museums. Its possible to survey the best monuments preferably early in the morning near the coast when you can possibly grab the best sights of the ruins. It would seem you are almost inside an open museum. As a beach destination, it goes without saying that Mahabalipuram is definitely one of its kind. In our Mahabalipuram travel guide, we have compiled every detail about the places to visit and things to do in an around the coastal town of Mahabalipuram.
Best Time to Visit Mahabalipuram
Because of its geographical location (along the coast), Mahabalipuram enjoys a humid and tropical climate almost throughout the year. Summers can get scorching hot and humid, thus making it somewhat difficult for the tourists to explore around. Monsoons are humid and the moderate rainfall also makes it somewhat uncomfortable for the tourists. Winters are best time to visit Mahabalipuram as the weather is pleasant with humidity in the air reduced considerably.
Best Places to Visit in and around Mahabalipuram
Mahabalipuram is an ideal escapade for all kinds of travellers – be it family vacationers, solo travellers, couples or even backpackers. The ample places to visit and things to do in Mahabalipuram will fill you up with an absolute sense of delight.
THE SHORE TEMPLE
One of the most prominent places to visit in Mahabalipuram is the Shore Temple. Since the temple is located right next to the coast of Bay of Bengal, it is termed as the Shore Temple and it is the biggest attraction of the coastal town. The temple complex was built between 700-728 AD under the patronage of Narasimhavarman II of the Pallava Dynasty. The shrine is dedicated to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu.
DESCENT OF THE GANGES
A major part of the frescoes of the monuments of Mahabalipuram, the Descent of the Ganges is one of the most popular tourist attractions of the town. It is one of the largest open-air rock relief in the world. This giant relief is an excellent work of fresco depicting a particular scene from the great Hindu epic The Mahabharata. An entire mythological narrative is depicted in the form of frescos on the walls.
MONUMENTS AT MAHABALIPURAM
Monuments at Mahabalipuram are a group of religious shrines nestled along the Coromandel Coast. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, there are more than 400 monuments at the place. Apart from the temples, the many caves at the Monuments of Mahabalipuram are equally amazing to behold. Admire the temples for their beautifully carved architecture as you lose yourself in the tide of timelessness.
One of the most prominent reliefs at the archaeological site of Mahabalipuram happens to be the relief-Arjuna’s Penance. The bas relief is a must visit while you are on a tour of Mahabalipuram. The relief was carved out of a single stone and stands almost 45 feet tall from the ground. Just above the shrine, Arjuna’s figure is carved standing. Arjuna’s Penance is a must observe while on a tour of Mahabalipuram’s ancient monuments.
Another major site to behold among the main monuments of Mahabalipuram are the Pancha Rathas, that literally translates as the Five Chariots. These are monolithic rock-cut temples carved out of a single huge rock standing majestically on the southernmost extreme of the monuments complex. The five rathas are dedicated to the five Pandava Brothers and their wife Draupadi. Built in the south Indian style of architecture, these chariots are definitely worth admiring.