Mahabalipuram located on the shore of Bay of Bengal, 60 Kms south from Chennai is a fabulous day trip for art and history lovers. It contains several magnificent monolithic temples, cave temples,numerous sculptures strewn around a small settlement along the beach.Several buses leave frequently from Koyambedu CMBT and few from Broadway Bus Terminus and takes couple of hours through ECR(East Coast Road). Once the entire road was beautiful drive along the shore, but now only occasional views of the sea is remaining as urbanization claimed whatever land available and it is reduced a drive through dense markets, IT Parks and numerous shabby buildings.
The small settlement of Mahabalipuram is scattered with marvels of Pallava architecture and sculpture. The artisans created magic on rocks under patronage of Pallava dynasty rulers. There are three categories of creation — rock cut caves, monolith temples and structural temples.
The Five Rathas are five monoliths i.e carved out of a single rock shaped in shape of chariots dedicated to five Pandavas and Draupadi.
A little distance away lies the Mahishasurmardini Cave which contains beautiful reliefs of Goddess Durga’s battle scene with Mahishasur(Buffalo Demon) as well as Vishnu in sleeping posture.
A little away is the Ganesh Temple and Varaha Cave which also consists splendid reliefs of Varaha Avatar( Bore Incarnation) of Lord Vishnu.
Next to it lies a natural wonder — Krishna’s Butter ball. It is a huge stone hanging on a very thin area of contact with the surface defying gravity. It looks like it can tunble down at any moment but many efforts of displacing the stone failed.
On the road side lies the Krishna Mantapa, another rock cut cave consisting of beautiful relief of Govardhan Leela of Lord Krishna.
Next to Krishna Mantapa lies the most famous relief named Arjuna’s Penance or Descent of Ganga carved exquisitely on the rock surface. The scale and finesse of the sculpture baffles the visitor. The details of Puranic incidents and characters are so lively that makes one bow for the artisans who created the same.
Now a little walk across the road leads to the shore of Bay of Bengal where lies the magical shore temple. It is a landmark of architecture at it pioneered the Dravidian style of Architecture(structural temples) during later dynasties like Cholas, Pandyas till today. There were seven such temples but only one remains now as others are now submerged into the sea.
Mahabalipuram reminds us the glory of Pallava dynasty and its monarchs who left their everlasting impression of Tamil architecture and society. It is a pilgrimage for every history and art lover and one of the most formidable landmark of India.