Mahabalipuram, also known as Mamallapuram, is a beautiful coastal town in Tamil Nadu and also one of the popular weekend getaways from Chennai. The town is situated on a strip of land between the Bay of Bengal and the Great Salt Lake. Named after King Mahabali, Mahabalipuram is famous for its intricately carved temples and rock-cut caves. This UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the famous places of heritage in Tamil Nadu and also one of the best places to experience Tamilnadu Tourism. There are several places to visit in Mahabalipuram in the form of scenic golden beaches, azure waters and majestic historical attractions. Besides these, Mahabalipuram is also famous for the annual Mamallapuram Dance festival.
Here is the list of top places to visit in Mahabalipuram.
Arjuna’s Penance is a massive open air bas-relief monolith belongs to 7th century CE situated in Mahabalipuram. Also known as or Bhagiratha’s Penance, it is one of the top Mahabalipuram Tourist Places and has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of ‘Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram’. Measuring 96 feet long by 43 feet high, it has over 100 figures of gods and semi-divine creatures, birds, and beasts. In one interpretation, a figure in the bas-relief who is standing on one leg is said to be Arjuna performing an austerity Tapas to receive a boon from Shiva to fight the Mahabharata war. The sculptures within the cleft are said to represent the River Ganga and Lord Shiva. This provides the basis for an alternative interpretation, rather than Arjuna, the figure performing austerities is said to be Bhagiratha.
There are 14 rock-cut caves and Mandapams in and around Mamallapuram and these caves have been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of ‘Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram’. Krishna Mandapam is the biggest among all mandapams and is dedicated to Lord Krishna. Inside the Mandapam, the myth of Lord Krishna during his brave and energetic adulthood are beautifully carved. Varaha Mandapam is the third famous mandapam in which the side walls have large sculptured panels depicting Vishnu as Varaha, the boar holding up Bhudevi. Trimurti, Kotikal, Atiranachanda and panchapandava Mandapams are some of the mandapams located in Mahabalipuram.
Pancha Rathas, also known as Pandava Rathas, is a wonderful monument complex located in Mahabalipuram of Tamilnadu. It has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of ‘Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram’ and are also popular places to visit in Mahabalipuram. This group of ornate, monolithic structures was cut from a single stone in the late 7th century during the reign of King Mahendravarman I and his son Narasimhavarman I. An interesting aspect of the rathas is that, despite their sizes they are not assembled – each of these is carved from one single large piece of stone. The structures are named after the Pancha Pandavas and Draupadi from the great Indian epic, Mahabharata. These are some of the most surprising structures not only in Mahabalipuram but in the whole Southern India.
Mahabalipuram Beach is an enchanting beach located in Mahabalipuram and is also one of the must visit Mahabalipuram Tourist Places. The golden sandy beach is a charming place encircled by the rolling hills and shimmering sea. The beach is recognized as one of the pristine beaches of Tamil Nadu. Mahabalipuram beach attracts large number of tourists due to its water sports activities like diving, wind surfing, motor boating and sunbathing too. Sunrise and sunset cruises are another attraction here.
Shore Temple is one of the most prominent places to visit in Mahabalipuram and is also a part of ‘Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram’. Built with blocks of granite, the Shore Temple is a five-storeyed structural Hindu temple built by Pallavas during the reign of Narasimhavarman. Its pyramidal structure is 60 feet high and sits on a 50 feet square platform. There is a small temple in front which was the original porch. The Shore Temples has two Shiva shrines with one small Vishnu shrine. It is the earliest important structural temple in Southern India. The most distinctive feature of the temple are the Dharalinga and the Somaskanda panel, which are enshrined in the interior walls of the sanctum of the east facing Kshatriyasimhesvara temple. The Dharalinga is deified in the garbhagriha, which is in square shape of 12 feet and the height is 11 feet.