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Mahabalipuram: Travel Guide, Places To Visit, How To Reach and Best Time To Visit

By Pranav Erassery Balakrishnan

Mamallapuram, or Mahabalipuram, as it was known earlier as a melting pot of trade links between the Pallava kings and China, is set to rekindle the lost connection when Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mamallapuram on 11 October. And as a result of this informal meet, Mamallapuram's' name will be etched in the history books.

Mahabalipuram or Mamallapuram is a town with historical importance situated around 50 kms from Chennai, it was one of the major seaports of the Pallava rulers, whose base is traced back to Kanchipuram.

The town is now not only known for its historical importance but is also gaining its share of momentousness in the growing surf scene and also for the variety of food this place is ready to offer you. From the typical south Indian dishes of Dosas and Idlis to the Italian dishes of Pastas and Pizzas you name it and it's out there.

History Of Mahabalipuram

The place once served as an ancient seaport to the Pallavas. The Pallavas have a long history of being great conquerors and were also advocates to art and architecture. They remained in power for almost 500 years mainly in the eastern coastal regions of India.

According to historians, the beautiful monuments here stand witness to architectural legacy which was left behind the Pallava King Mahendravarman I (580-630AD), followed by his son Narasimhavarman I (630-668AD) and their descendants.

Mahabalipuram Alias Mamallapuram

The name comes as a tribute to the erstwhile Pallava ruler Narashimavarman I. He earned the title of Mamallan since he was a great wrestler during his times. There is also another popular belief of how the place got its name, it is believed that the demon King Mahabali ruled the place, the King was known for his kindness and love for his people.

Best Places To Visit Mahabalipuram

The monuments located here have found its place in the list of World Heritage Sites listed by UNESCO.

1. Shore Temple

1. Shore Temple

This temple is situated on the banks of Bay of Bengal and was constructed by Narasimha Varman II (670-715 AD). The Temple is the only one remaining out of seven temples, the rest have been concealed or washed away by the sea. One can notice two rock cut shrines dedicated to Shiva and Vishnu respectively, another attraction here is the rows of Nandis or the bull surrounding the entrance to the temple.

2. Five Rathas

2. Five Rathas

These rathas are sculpted out of gigantic stones which are made to look a like the chariots of a temple. These chariots take their inspiration from the Pandavas of Mahabharata, and are known by their names respectively, they are Dharmaraja Ratha, Arjuna Ratha, Bhima Ratha, Nakula-Sahadeva Ratha and Draupadi Ratha.

3. Mahabalipuram Caves

3. Mahabalipuram Caves

The caves are yet another attraction not be missed out, it is located in the central part of Mahabalipuram towards the hillside is an assortment of caves.

Mahishasuramardhini Cave - The pleasing cave is known for its carvings which have depictions of various mythological scenes.

Varaha Cave - It depicts two incarnations of Vishnu, namely the Varaha or the boar which protects Bhoo Devi and the other as Vamana Murthy who overcomes the asura King Bali has been depicted in the walls of this cave.

4. Krishna Mandapam

4. Krishna Mandapam

It depicts the story of Krishna lifting the mount Govardhan to protect his people from the wrath of Indra.

Arjuna's Penance

This is a huge rock carving which is dedicated to the protagonist of Mahabharatha Lord Krishna. It measures 96 ft long and 43 ft high which not only depicts the Gods but also human beings, birds, and animals.

5. Krishna's Butterball

5. Krishna's Butterball

This is a very perplexing tourist attraction in Mahabalipuram. The butterball is a massive boulder balanced on a smooth slope. The boulder is seen parallel to the lad of butter which young Krishna would takeaway.

6. The Light House

6. The Light House

The lighthouse is one of the major attractions, the first light was commissioned in 1884 and it became fully functional in 1904. The oldest lighthouse in India built around 640 AD by the Pallava King Mahendra Pallava has its place next to the modern structure.

Mahabalipuram is located on the famous East Coast Road (ECR), hence it's paradise to the ones who love the long and vast beaches.

7. Places to Stay

7. Places to Stay

There are ample options to stay in and around the Mahabalipuram. One can find from the premium ones to the pocket-friendly ones which can be easily located near the bus stand and also by the beachside.

How To Reach Mahabalipuram:

Reaching Mahabalipuram without an airport or railway station doesn't pose any barrier to tourism in the temple city, making it an ideal outing destination during holidays from various nearby towns.

By Air:

Mahabalipuram does not have an airport. Chennai Airport (52 km) is the nearest airport to Mahabalipuram, which is well connected to all major cities of India like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune and Kolkata. Taxi/cabs and buses are available from the airport to reach Mahabalipuram.

By Railroad:

Chengalpattu (22 kms) is the nearest railway station. However, Chennai railhead (60 kms) is the nearest major station having trains to Mahabalipuram from major cities of India like Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata. Taxi/cabs and buses are available from these stations to reach Mahabalipuram.

By Road:

There are various buses to Mahabalipuramfrom the cities in and around the region through both Tamil Nadu Public Transport Services and private tourist buses (operating from Chennai Central). The city is well connected with Chennai through East Coast Road (ECR) and old Mahabalipuram Road.

Best time to visit Mahabalipuram:

Mahabalipuram is an ideal destination for rejuvination and fun time. It has a moderate and humid climate throughout the year; however, the best time to visit Mahabalipuram is from the month of October to March.

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