Mahabalipuram is also known as Mamallapatna or Mamallapuram. It was one of two major port cities for the Pallava kingdom in the 7th century. Known for its 7 pagodas that once stood on its shores, only one of it survives now and is known as the Shore Temple. The other pagodas have been consumed by the sea. The town has been named after Narasimhavarman 1, who was also known as Mahabali.
Known for its magnificent royal monuments that have been carved out of single rocks, it has temples in the form of Chariots called Rathas, a giant open air rock relief and the Shore Temple.
SthalaSayana Perumal, also called Thirukadalmallai temple, is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and revered as one of the 108 Divya Desams which is located in Mamallapuram. This is considered the birthplace of Boothazhvar, the second of 12 Alwars. The temple is one among 32 monuments in Mamallapuram.
The shrines of Lord Narasimha and Adivarah are located near the shore. The Lord is known as “ValvendaiGnanapiran” and his temple is the only one that has survived the ferocity of the sea. It is said that in the 14th Century, King Parankusan shifted the temple away from the shore and formed four streets around the temple.
Thirumangai Azhwar and Boothathazhvar sanctified this temple in the Nalayira Divya Prabhandam through their hymns. Thirumangai Azhwar, considered the reclining form of Vishnu is special, as it is the only place where Lord Vishnu reclines on the ground instead of the customary Adiseshan and Tiruparkadal [ocean of milk].
It is the world’s largest bas-relief and has over 100 sculptures of gods and other forms. It is believed to illustrate Arjuna’s penance to Lord Shiva to obtain his divine and powerful bow, the Gandiva, with which he vanquished the Kauravas. It is also known as the Descent of the Ganges encapsulating King Bhagiratha standing on a single leg in prayer to the Lord to bring the Ganges down to earth to please the souls of his ancestors.
Built between 700 to 728 AD, it overlooks the bay and that’s how it earned its name. During the time of its creation, it was said to be located in a very busy port during the reign of Narasimha Varman II. It is one of the oldest structural stone temples in South India, has one large and two small temples within, and has been classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
This is a rock-cut cave temple and is believed to be the first among Mamalappuram’s monuments. It exhibits the excellence of the Vishwakarma stapathis. The most prominent sculpture is that of Lord Vishnu, who incarnated as Varaha Swamy [Boar] to rescue Bhudevi from the sea. Many mythical stories have also been captured on its walls and pillars.
This huge boulder hangs precariously and it is believed that neither kings nor elephants could budge it from the spot. It is called the Butter Ball of Sri Krishna and is near the Ganesh Ratha.
Open Air Museum:
Stone exhibits of over 200 sculptors are featured here, and it showcases the brilliance of the Sangam era.
This is believed to have been the open-air theatre during the Pallava period. It gets its name from the tiger heads at the mouth of the cave.
Other Interesting Monuments:
The other attractions in Mamallapuram are the Old Light House atop a cliff, Gopi’s churn, ValyankuttaiRatham, Kodikal Mandapam.
Government College of Architecture and Sculpture:
Established in 1957, it has degree courses in traditional architecture, sculpture and traditional art. It also has a museum that showcases India’s rock architecture.
Cholamandalam Arts Village:
This community was founded by K.C.S. Panikkar of the Madras School of Arts, and is essentially an arts village. It was created in 1966 in an area of 10 acres and has an impressive art gallery. As a center for contemporary arts, it is the meeting point of artists from across the world.
Just 16 kms away this is the ancient abode of Lord Murugan who is called Kandasamy. Lord Murugan is believed to have destroyed the rest of the demons in Tirupporur, after vanquishing Soorapadman in Tiruchendur. It has been glorified by Arunagirinatha by reciting all four Vedas here.
Famous for the eagles that visited this place, it is also known as Kazhugu Kovil. The temple atop this hill is for Lord Shiva, who is called Vedagiriswarar. At its foothill there are four towers dedicated to Goddess Parvati who is called Tripura Sundari. It is said that a conch is discovered in this temple tank once every 12 years, and devotees throng the place for a dip at that auspicious moment.
Pongal: Pongal is celebrated with much fanfare by the rural farming communities and is a harvest festival that takes place for a period of 4 days. It is normally celebrated between the 13th and 16th of January.
Dance Festival: The Mamallapuram Dance Festival is celebrated for around 20 days between December and January. Organised at the Arjuna Penance rock sculpture close to the Shore Temple, it attracts exponents of Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathakali, Mohini Attam, Oddissi and Kathak. It’s a festival that cannot be missed for those with an eye for art. It takes you on a wondrous journey into Tamil Nadu’s cultural grandeur.
Hotel Tamil Nadu [TTDC] Unit-I, Beach Resort Complex, Ph: 27442361 – 64
Facilities In this Hotel include Clean Rooms, Restaurant and Permit Room, Room Service and Laundry Service, Travel and Parking Facilities, Medical Facilities, Satellite TV Channels, Swimming Pools, and A/c. Conference Hall.
Temples: Sthalasayana Perumal Temple
Church: Holy Family Church [RC]
Mosque: Masjid Noor Jumma
Road: There are government bus services and private cabs available from Chennai.
Rail: Nearest Railway Station is in Chennai.
Air: Chennai International Airport.