Mahabalipuram is the land of art works created on stones. Mahabalipuram, also known as Mamallapuram, is a typical example of Pallava art. Mahabalipuram is a coastal town in Kancheepuram District of Tamil Nadu. It is a place full of gods in the streets. This place is known after the name of a king of Pallava Dynasty, Mamalla.
The statues of this place are pieces of wonder of 7 A.D. to 9 A.D. People who now sit on the sides of the streets sculpting statues of gods for a livelihood are actually the descendents of sculptors who were brought by Pallava Kings from different places for sculpting. From Kochi, it is 650 km to Mahabalipuram, touching Coimbatore, salem and Puducherry. From Chennai, it is 60 km to Mahabalipuram.
The Statue Of Vishnu Lying In Water
Shore Temple is a temple complex facing the sea at Mahabalipuram. Instead of 7 temples, now there stands only one. The rest of the temples were washed away during tsunami in olden days. After several years, the ruins of destroyed temples and sculptures were discovered from the depths of the sea by the British traveler, Hancock. The temple that now survives is a thing of amazement. There is not even an inch of space that is without any sculptural art work.
The statue of Vishnu lying in water [jalasayana] is one of the rare pieces of sculpture found here. Images of Nandi, Narasimha avatar, Durga, lion that guards the temple, all these add to the aesthetic value of the temple. Next, I visited Arjuna’s Penance. There is a giant rock on which there are beautiful carvings of all living things. The story that the guide told me about this goes as Arjuna prayed and Lord Shiva appeared before Arjuna; the rock carvings are depiction of all living beings that came to see the meeting of Arjuna and Shiva.
This sculpture had been done and experimented on another rock before doing it on the giant rock. Both the rocks can be seen here. I went ahead and saw Pancha Rathas, meaning 5 chariots. It is the wonderful monolithic sculpture of 5 chariots. It is said that these 5 chariots represent 5 temples. On one side of the Rathas, there is a huge statue of an elephant and a lion and on the other side stands the statue of Nandi with a serene face.
A Lighthouse Of Olden Days
Mahisha Mardini Temple is a cave temple situated on top of a hill in the heart of the town of Mahabalipuram. The art works on the walls of this temple have been carved out of rock. The main sculpture is that of war between Mahishasura and Goddess Durga. Even now, these sculptures look lively and afresh. A lighthouse of olden days stands above the temple. This lighthouse has the size of a big room and is chiseled out of rock. On all 4 walls, there are art works.
Mahabalipuram looks graceful when viewed from here. After visiting all these, I climbed down the hill and saw the Krishna Mandapa, Varaha Cave, Dharmaraja Mandapa, Aadhi Varaha Temple, Koneri Mandapa, Mukunda Temple, Sapthamathrukas and Kodikkal Mandapa. We can rightly say that Mahabalipuram is the storehouse of sights. Another piece of wonder in Mahabalipuram is the Balancing Rock which is a large boulder that rests on the slope of a rock.
India Seashell Museum
It has been there for a long time looking like as if it is going to roll down. Another major attraction of this place is the India Seashell Museum which is the first and the largest in Asia. Here, there is a vast collection of more than 40,000 seashells collected from different countries. This museum was established by a person by name K. Raja Muhammad. The museum is open to visitors from 8.00 a.m. to 8.00 p.m. every day and the fee is Rs. 100 per person.
Collection Of Seashell
The collection in the museum is magnificent making it a marvel. It will be a great loss if one misses out this while touring Mahabalipuram. All the sights in Mahabalipuram lie at a distance of 4 to 5 km. Therefore, I would suggest not to take an auto rickshaw for sightseeing; either walk or take a cycle for rent or else use one’s own vehicle.
If the trip is planned for the month of January, then along with the beautiful architectural works, one can also enjoy the amazing dance festival as it is celebrated in this month. It is a festival of all classic art forms. Even after visiting all sites in Mahabalipuram, there will be something or the other left. Therefore, I started my return trip with eyes that are never satisfied.