Mamallapuram, Information about Mamallapuram

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Information about Mamallapuram

Mamallapuram is a historical retreat set amidst natural beauty, about 58 km south of Chennai. Mamallapuram is also known as Mahabalipuram, the city of Bali. This ancient city is located on the shores of the Bay of Bengal. It covers an area of 8 square kms situated at the sea level. It is an international historic and heritage center as it is the place where the art and architecture first originated. This ancient place was the major seaport of the Pallava dynasty and was the second capital of the Pallava kings of Kanchipuram. Mamallapuram is globally known for the famous shore temples. It later became an architectural center owing to its beautiful

Mamallapuram, Mamallapuram Tour

coastal area studded with small hills ideal for the creation of cave temples, stone carvings, etc. The Pallavas created many marvellous monuments like the sculptural panels, caves, monolithic rathas and temples. These monuments carved out of solid rock, though ravaged by the sea and wind, still bear testimony to the magnificent heritage of Dravidian architecture. Besides the monuments, Mamallapuram is also known for the beautiful beaches and fine resorts. These monumental splendours and sunny beach resorts attract tourists from all over the world. The climate in Mamallapuram is tropical. In summers it is around 36.6 degree Celsius and in winters it is around 19.8 degree Celsius. Tamil and English are widely spoken languages in Mamallapuram. The famous dance festival is celebrated in the month of December in Mamallapuram.

History of Mamallapuram
Mamallapuram Temple

The temples at Mamallapuram were built during the rule of Narasimhavarman and his successor Rajasimhavarman. These temples showcase the movement from rock-cut architecture to structural building. The mandapas or pavilions and the rathas or shrines shaped as temple chariots were carved from the granite rock face, and the famous Shore Temple was built half a century later. All the rathas except one ratha from the first phase of Pallava architecture are modelled on the Budhist viharas or monasteries and chaitya halls with several cells arranged around a courtyard. The famous art historian, Percy Brown, traced the possible roots of the Pallavan Mandapas to the similar rock-cut caves of Ajanta and 

Ellora. Mr. Brown said that the Pallavan king may have brought the sculptors and artisans back to Kanchi and Mamallapuram as the spoils of war which occurred between Narasimhavarman and the Chalukyan king Pulakesin II in 642 AD.

Tourist Attractions in Mamallapuram

The Mahabalipuram art can be divided into four categories which are open air bas - relief, structured temples, man-made caves and rathas. The most important attraction in Mahabalipuram are the famous Arjuna's Penance, the Krishna Mandapa and the beautiful Shore Temple. Sixteen man-made caves in different stages of completion are also scattered throughout the area. The Shore Temple, one of the oldest in South India, stands on the sea shore with its paved forecourts.

The Shore Temple

The Shore temple is located on a rocky hill very close to the sea. This is one of the oldest temples in South India. It belongs to the 8th century AD and is a good example of the first phase of structural temples constructed in Dravidian style. The structure of the temple is so unusual so that it can catch the first rays of the rising sun and to illuminate the waters after dark. As the main shrine faces the sea on the east, the gateway, the fore count and the assembly hall of the Shore Temple all lie behind the sanctum. The beautiful shore temple consists of two temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and Vishnu in the

Shore Temple, Mamallapuram

reclining form. The main sanctum and one of the two lesser ones on the west are dedicated to Shiva. The enclosing wall has a series of Nandi bulls on it. Recently, a stone wall has been built to protect the shrine from the rising seas and further erosion. The temple is flood lit at night so that one can enjoy its beauty after sunset.

Other temples
Mamallapuram Temple

The Mahishamardini cave temple has several bas relief panels with scenes from the Puranas. The north panel features the goddess Durga with eight arms and riding on a lion in battle with the buffalo headed demon Mahishasura. The triple celled temple is dedicated to the Trinity of the Hindu pantheon, the Lord Brahma, Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. A single cell is dedicated to each deity. The temple is an example of King Narasimha style.

Krishna’s Butter Ball
This huge boulder perched precariously on a hill slope near the Ganesh Ratha is an amazing marvel of nature. It is believed that the Pallava kings tried their best with the help of elephants, to move this boulder, but were unsuccessful.

Mamallapuram Beach
The beautiful beach lined by the lush Casurina groves is another attractions of Mamallapuram. One can enjoy swimming in the serene warm blue sea, laze around on the golden sands and admire the nature’s beauty. The charming atmosphere during sun rise and sunsets is truly amazing and worth enjoying.

Five Rathas
The Five rathas are the monolithic temples built in a chariot style. These rathas will always remain an architectural mystery, as each of these rathas are a faithful reproduction of a structure built of wood. Each of these rathas are dedicated to a particular god or goddess. Stone animals represent the vehicle of the god. Out of the eight rathas, four rathas are supposed to have been scooped out of a single rock formation. The five rathas have been named after the Pandava brothers, the heroes of the epic Mahabharata, and their shared wife, Draupadi. The largest ratha is the Dharmaraja ratha and it sets the tone for the others. This ratha is modelled on a Buddhist vihara or monastery, and support a square hall topped by a vaulting roof. The Bhima, Arjuna and Nakula Sahdeva rathas are the lesser copies of the Dharmaraja ratha. The Draupadi ratha is the smallest and the quaintest. It is simple structure, built as a thatched hut borned on the back of elephants and lions. It was probably the fascimile of a portable village shrine. The Nakula - Sahadeva Ratha is a two storeyed vimana. This ratha is located beside an elephant which is the mount of Indra and suggests its dedication to the rain god. Many of the temples and sculptures of Mamallapuram are unfinished due to the sudden withdrawal of patronage from rock-cut temples when King Rajasimhavarman came to power.

The main hill at Mamallapuram is dotted with pillared halls carved into the rock face. These mandapas, with their graceful columns and intricate figure sculptures bear witness to the Pallavas. The ten pavilions at Mamallapuram, of which two are unfinished, were designed as shrine, with a sanctum and one outer hall. The shallow porticoes are adorned with exquisite sculptures of gods, goddesses and mythological figures. The main active shrine is the Ganesh mandapa, with the idol of the Lord Ganesha standing for almost fourteen centuries after it was first constructed. Beyond the circular rock called Krishna's Butterball is the Varaha mandapa dedicated to the two avatars of Vishnu as Varaha, the boar and Vamana, the dwarf. The pillars of this pavilion display a motif that became the signature of the southern architecture. The Mahishasuramardini mandapa is dedicated to the goddess Durga in bas relief, slaying a buffalo-headed demon. The Vishnu Sayana Mandapa shows Lord Vishnu lying under the protective hood of the seven-headed serpent Adishesha. The Panch Pandava mandapa, that is unfinished, has a more elaborate facade. Its pillars are adorned with rearing lions springing from the capital, and the shrine is the only one surrounded by a passage which allows circumvolutions.

Tiger Cave Temple
The Tiger Cave Temple is located 4 kms north of the main monument complex. Earth and animal life forces are represented in this great example of Pallava style cave architecture. The temple was earlier an open air theatre, where cultural programmes were held. Though it is very near the sea, the place is very serene and calm.

Crocodile & Snake Bank (15 kms.)
The ‘Crocodile Breeding and Research Centre’ is run by Chennai Crocodile Bank Trust, to augment the crocodile population of india’s wildlife sanctuaries. The bank has managed to save crocodile species like gharial and marsh crocodile from the verge of extinction. The farm also has breeding programmes for turtle species found in India. The Snake Bank is located adjacent to the Crocodile Bank and is managed by Irula Snake Catchers’ Industrial Cooperative Society. There are several species of poisonous and non-poisonous snakes. Irulas are the local tribesman who have perfected the art of snake catching.

Sculpture Museum
It is located south of the bus stand in East Raja Street and has about 3000 exquisite sculpture made by local artisans in wood, metal, brass and even cement. The museum is associated with the College of Traditional art and Architecture. Which has produced many fine sculpture.

Arjuna's Penance
Arjuna's Penance is the largest bas relief sculpture in the world. This structure has been skillfully carved out of a single rock. It gets its name from the figure of an ascetic who is believed to be Arjuna, the hero of Mahabharata. The Arjuna performed a penance in order to obtain an arrow from Lord Shiva. Some other people also believe that the figure is actually of Bhagiratha who entreated Siva to let the river Ganges flow over the earth. Arjuna can be seen here standing on his left leg. The event is witnessed by creatures from heaven, earth and the underworld.

Yamini Krishnamurti Art Museum
The tiny museum is located opposite to Arjua’s Penance and houses few small sculptures.

Government College of Sculpture
It is located 2 kms. North of Mamallapuram on the Kovlam Road. The processes involved in making sculptures in classical Hindu tradition can be seen here.

Kovilam (Covelong) (15 kms.)
This small fishing village 38 kms. South of Chennai has emerged as one of the finest beach resort in the country. There are ruins of a large historic fort, part of which have been converted into a luxurious resort – the Fisherman’s Cove Resort of the Taj group. The Olive Ridley Turtles visit the beach every year between November and March to hatch their eggs.

Vedanthangal Water Bird Sanctuary (53 kms.)
Vedanthangal is one of the major water bird sanctuaries in India. The birds migrate here every year from November to February from all over the world. The sanctuary was established in 1858 and is the oldest in the country. It sprawls across 30 hectares of marshy land and has a lake, which is visited by over 1,00,000 migratory birds every year. The regular visitors to the park are garganey teals, shovellers, pintails, stilts and sandpipers. Resident birds like coots, moorhens and terns can be seen all around the park. The nesting season starts from October and the majority of birds are through with breeding by the month of February. The best time to visit is between November and February. The park has two watch towers and one viewing platform, which enables a better view of the avifauna. Regular buses are available for Vedanathangal from Chennai, Tambaram or Chengalpatu.

How to reach Mamallapuram

By Air:
The nearest airport is located at Chennai which is about 58 kms. The Chennai airport has both domestic and international terminus. Chennai is connected with all the major places in India and world through various domestic and international flights.

By Rail:
The nearest railway station is located at Chennai and Chingleput which is about 29 km. Mahabalipuram is well connected by rail to various other cities in South India. 

By Road:
Mamallapuram is well connected by road to various cities in South India like Chennai, Chingleput and Pondicherry. The road to Mahabalipuram is good.

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