If you are planning a trip to Tamilnadu, plan well ahead, because a long stay in this state in India will not disappoint you a bit. This is in particular to people who are living out of India, otherwise for Indians who can’t plan a long trip, you can come back for few times here. Pondicherry, Tanjore, Madurai, Trichy, Mahabalipuram, Kanchupiram there’s quite a few places to see and all of them are hysterically rich in culture and history; even Chennai the city itself, needs at least 2 to 3 nights, to stay and definitely to shop (even if I keep the later as second priority or no priority at all).
So, as you can see I haven’t even covered 1% of the state, but still I’m so confident. Actually there’s no harm saying now that, I had another plan to visit Tamilnadu this coming August, but with the current situation, this is postponed for now. So let’s just straight away go to Mahabalipuram, and know the place.
How to go:
If you haven’t booked a private car or availing any of those tours run by the local travel companies, then take the local bus to Mahabalipuram. If you are going by your own, your whole day will be well spent in this one place only. It takes about 1-1:30 hours by local city buses. And from Mahabalipuram also, buses to Chennai are easily available.
Mahabalipuram or Mamallapuram was already a flourishing port city of India even before the Pallavas or Cholas started ruling the place. History gives lot of such evidence where the western countries preferred this port city for their regular business. At present whatever monuments, temples we see at this town, were mostly built by the Pallavas, which was around 7th & 8th century. Below are the places I was taken by my guide come friend come volunteer.
Your tour to Mahabalipuram should start from this Shore temple which is also famous as a world UNESCO heritage site. Built right by the sea shore this is a glamorously photogenic place. The temple having a commendable height even being built by the sea, used to serve as a landmark for the arrival ships during that old time. The eminence of this unspoilt beauty (and I think I will repeat this adjective for all the structures here) is the handwork on the granite rock. Be it arranging the rocks or shaping them to build the temples or the hand carving on the walls or the entire construction work which was completely by hand, are quite unviolated till date. One more interesting fact about this temple, the main temple faces to the east, and the design is as such that the sunlight falls directly on the main deity of the temple, i.e. lord Shiva.
*** Don’t forget to give a peek to the sea line overlooking the temple.
Pancha Rathas or Pandava’s Rathas:
Pancha meaning Five, these five rock cut chariots were built in dedication to Draupadi & the Pancha Pandavas (Draupadi and her five husbands, the Pandava brothers) from one of the epic mythologies of India, Mahabharata. The five chariots are of different sizes and of different exteriors. The biggest among them belongs to the 2nd born, the muscular brother Bhima.
Arjuna’s Penance/ Descent of the Ganges:
This is actually a huge rock on which an old mythological story is professed to be inscribed, which is related to one of the greatest warriors and the most popular Pandava brother Arjuna. Even if not for the story, the acute work of sharp and trig inscription drives lot of tourists here.
Krishna’s butter ball:
This one is quite funny, so this is actually a huge bolder rock standing in a very same scary position (like about to roll down to the ground) for centuries, and it is said to be one of those stolen butter balls by lord Krishna!! I know there will be a lot of questions coming? How can one even hold such big ball in his palms! If butterball, better it should have become some cheese than stone! Who used to make such big butter balls in their houses! Actually let’s just leave it here..
This is a small temple built on a mound, and it is also said to be the old light house of 7-8th century. Though presently this place serves more as a view point for tourists.
There are other cave temples named, Mahishashurmardini temple, Varaha cave temple, Krishna cave Temple etc around this area. All of them can be easily covered by walk as they are close to each other, and all of them have the similar architect, the same rock cut carving on them, but all of them have some or the other stellar work on them which make you wonder, leave you in awe; but anyway don’t forget to capture them before you go lost in some regal old-time imagination.
Mahabalipuram Light House:
This is not from the pre-historic era, this is comparatively new built and functional, and the best part is it is accessible by tourists, that too Till The TOP!! The walk till the top crossing rocky knolls under the sun then walking the stairs up, yes that’s a little tedious job, but you will miss a breezy, earthy view otherwise. Please go for it if you are not someone, who suffers a lot from knee problem and long walk.
Though my visit to Mahabalipuram isn’t very old, but most of the temples at that time were going under some renovation, hence we hardly had to pay any entrance at any place, but many of them are now permitted to enter only upon paying a minimal entrance fee (minimal is for Indian nationals, if any foreign national it will be from USD 5.00 per person minimum).
Lunch at: Moonrakers or Blue Elephant:
Facing each other at the opposite side of the road and most probably belonging to the same brand, these two restaurants are packed during weekend. Hardly needs the mention that they are very famous here, so do try their fresh catch of the day from sea food options.
Stay at Mahabalipuram:
Even if you want to plan one or two nights’ stay in this town, you can easily do that. There are few guest houses available. Even Moonrakers, Blue Elephant has rooms above the restaurants.
The town of Mahabalipuram is very simple but there is a vivacious vibe, so a leisurely walk across the town when the sun is mellow or during evening will be amazing. Don’t miss it if you are opting for the stay here.
Things to carry:
Do carry an Umbrella as the daytime is very humid and dry along with a sunglass, then have some water available with you. And yes wear comfortable cotton clothes, also mostly these are temples you will visit (though offering prayers in these temples are abated now), so clothes below knees are better; and better to wear sneakers).
Now that I have said so much about Mahabalipuram, May I suggest some evening places in Chennai?
Well of course a chunk of people prefer spending there evening on the shore of India’s largest and World’s second largest, Marina beach if not on those air conditioned mall.. But I liked Besant Nagar beach on my friend’s recommendation. It’s really a better option to spend a relaxed evening.
But if you really want a great feel of Marina beach, then go to Dr. MGR memorial built by the beach. The memorial was built during 1988 but it was renovated in the year 2012, and it’s really a good place to spend your evening.
*** Again my sincere apologies to share some years’ old travel story with you. Considering the current situation, there will hardly be any Travel this year and I honestly didn’t want to lament on my travel plans being put off. But my travel memories, Chennai being one of them, is still so vivid and fresh and as I wasn’t a blogger back then, I thought to bring some tit-bits to you with the hope that this will give you a reason to smile for a while may be… (By the way.. You are allowed to share your views for anything you feel about this post).