Mahabalipuram, also known as Mamallapuram (meaning a great wrestler city) is along the Coromandel Coast of Bay of Bengal. It was an active seaport during the 7th century. Now, it has become one of the famous tourist spots in the Country and declared as the UNESCO world heritage site.
During Pallava rule, Mahabalipuram was the capital region. Due to the interest of Pallavas in the architecture, this place is filled with monuments. They are experts in rock-cut architecture as well as stone architecture. Narasimha Varman-I and Narasimha Varman-II, rulers of the Pallava Dynasty is responsible for such an amazing architecture in Mahabalipuram. These monuments belong to the 7th and 8th century.
Best time to visit Mahabalipuram
Winter (November – February)
These four months have pleasant climate and this is best time to visit Mahabalipuram. This climate helps you with sightseeing and traveling. The warm days and cool nights will help you to enjoy the place.
Places to visit in Mahabalipuram
Monuments at Mahabalipuram
Monuments in Mahabalipuram represent the culture and architecture of the Pallavas. The rock-cut temples in Mahabalipuram are one of the achievements of Pallavas in the South Indian Architecture. There are 400 monuments and Hindu temples in this place. These are classified as Ratha temples, cave temples, structural temples, and rock reliefs.
Pancha Rathas or Pandava Rathas
The Ratha temples look like chariots. These Rathas belongs to 7th century. Diorite and granite stones are used in the Ratha temples. Among the Rathas Pandava Rathas or the five Rathas are very famous. The Five Rathas represent the characters from the Epic Mahabharata, namely, Arjuna, Bhima, Dharmaraja, Nakulan, Sahadevan, and Draupadi. First, you can see Dharmaraja Ratha followed by Bhima Ratha, Arjuna and Draupadi Rathas, and Nakula Sahadeva Ratha. Among these, the latter three Rathas are incomplete.
Ganesha Ratha is separate one at a distance of 1 kilometer from the Five Rathas. It is similar to
Bhima Ratha. Pidari Ratha represents the South Indian Dravidian Architecture and Valayankuttai Ratha represents North Indian Nagara-style architecture.
Cave temples also called as Mandapas are a very important place to visit in Mahabalipuram. The famous cave temples here are Mahishasuramardini Mandava, Panchapandava Cave Temple, Krishna Cave Temple and Varaha Cave Temple.
Mahishasuramardini Cave Temple – Goddess Durga is prominent God here and is located near to Lighthouse.
Panchapandava Cave Temple – The temple is near the Arjuna’s Penance and this is incomplete.
Varaha Cave Temple – Varaha is Lord Vishnu in the form of a boar is sculptured in this cave temple.
Krishna Cave Temple – This represents Lord Krishna lifting Govardhan hill.
Other cave temples include Trimurti cave temple, Tiger Cave Temple, and Atiranachanda Cave Temple.
The descent of the Ganges
The descent of the Ganges is also called as Arjuna’s Penance. It is the most famous rock reliefs in Mahabalipuram. This represents the descent of River Ganges to the Earth. This was carved in the remembrance of the success of Narasimhavarma1 .
Shore Temple Mahabalipuram
The temple is built with granite rock by Narasimhavarman II and it is the first shore temple during Pallava period. The main deities in this temple are Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. You can also notice Goddess Durga in Lion Vahana.
This temple is also called as Ulaikannisvaram dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is known as the old lighthouse since this place was used by ships as a landmark. This temple is over a hillock and it is damaged.
The temple has granite walls and it is constructed in Ratha like structure. This temple was explored only before few decades. Before which it was buried under the sand.
Krishna’s Butter Ball
It is also known as Vaan Irai Kal. It is a granite boulder weighing 250 tons approximately, a height of 6 meters and 5-meter width. This is the famous tourist attraction here. According to mythology, Lord Krishna loves to steal butter and this boulder is said to represent it. Therefore, it is named so.
It is located near sea shore temple. It has some unfinished carvings in it. Most visitors don’t recognize it. Take time to have a glance at this rock.
From this place, you can have the entire view of the place. It now opened to tourists from 2011 after an issue in 2001. The sight of the beach from this lighthouse is marvelous.
Mahabalipuram beach is the most popular beach in India. It has a pleasant climate and is famous for sunbathing. There are several beach activities which you can try here.
Sri Sthala Sayanaperumal Temple
Also known as Thirukadalmallai is the temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The temple was built by Pallavas and it has Dravidian style architecture. The lord is found in the sleeping position. Goddess Nilamangai Thayar usually found over the flower Lotus is noticed to sit on the floor.
- Timing: 6:30 AM to 12 PM and 3 PM to 8:30 PM (All days of the week)
- Note: Photography not allowed.
This museum has stone sculptures, wooden sculptures, and paintings. There are nearly more than 3000 sculptures and you can come to know about various gods and mythological characters in the Hindu religion. It also has Buddhists sculptures.
- Timing: 10 AM to 5 PM (Friday is a holiday)
Maritime Heritage Museum
The construction of this museum was started in 2013 and it is the best place for those who love marine technology. It has details about marine and naval technology. It has models of the ship, submarine simulator, silk route, models of airplanes, old boats, and more.
- Timing: 9:30 AM to 6 PM (Open all days of the week)
Lighthouse Heritage Museum
This museum was open to the public in the year 2014. You can look briefly at various parts used in the lighthouse. It consists of old lamps, lighthouse model, lighthouse internal operation model, and much more. The lighthouse show conducted by the museum helps people get to know more about the lighthouse.
- Timing: 10 AM to 5:30 PM
- Entry Fee: Rs. 20
From Mahabalipuram, this place is at a 50-kilometer distance. It was built during the Mughal period in 17th century. Later it was taken over by the French. The location is awesome and one should not miss this while visiting Mahabalipuram. It extends to 15 acres and it is made up of limestone and bricks.
- Timing: 8 AM to 6 PM (All days of the week)
- Entry Fee: Free
It is the reptile zoo and also a herpetology research station. It comprises of reptiles like crocodiles, lizards, snakes, turtles. The bank has 17 species of crocodiles. The snake farm here is the place where antivenom is produced.
- Timing: 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM (Monday is a holiday)
- Entry Fee: Rs. 60 for Adults and Rs. 30 for children (below 10 years)
The beach is in the Kovalam which is a fishing village and it is 23 kilometers from Mahabalipuram. Along the coast of Bay of Bengal, this beach is popular for fishing. You can do activities like swimming, surfing, and other sports. Every year in this beach Olive Ridley Turtles visit to hatch eggs.
It is in Tirukalukundram, 15 kilometers from Mahabalipuram. Lord Shiva is the main deity in the temple located in the top of the hill. The foothill temple is dedicated to Goddess Parvati. According to belief, two vultures have been visiting this temple daily and fed by the priest.
India Seashell Museum
For those seashell lovers, this museum is the largest in Asia. It has 40,000 rare seashells and provides information about them. Maya Bazaar, which is a boutique having jewelry and other things made from pearl and seashells. You can also try sea-food in the restaurant located in the museum.
- Timing: 8 AM to 8 PM (All days of the week)
- Entry Fee: Museum – Rs. 100 and Aquarium – Rs. 40
Things to do & Activities in Mahabalipuram
Mahabalipuram is a place of historical importance. The architecture, its beauties, and uniqueness cover the heart of the tourists. This place is a photographer’s delight. There are several things to capture in your camera like the monuments, sculptures, beach, and many more.
Explore the sculptures
If you have a great interest in architecture, this location is a heaven for you. There are several types of monuments each having its own importance. Walk around and find the different architectural style and also about the Puranas of Hindu religion.
A great place for items made from seashells. You have a variety of shops selling jewelry, sculptures made from granite, soapstone, wood and more. There are many souvenirs like seashell mirrors, home decoration items, and gift items. You can also find tablecloths, sandals made from leather, and pashminas.
Taste Fresh Seafood
One of the must do things in Mahabalipuram is to taste seafood. There are several restaurants near the place where you can get spicy and tasty seafood. Don’t miss the street food also. Some of the best restaurants to have seafood are Moonrakers, Santana and Hotel Guru.
Have Fun In Beach
Mahabalipuram offers a great chance for you to carry on various beach activities. Some of the activities you can take part are Kitesurfing, windsurfing, surfing, and many more adventurous sports. Make your trip a thrilling one by trying these sports.
Visit the temples
Take time to visit various temples near Mahabalipuram. You will notice the shore temple while visiting the beach. Other temples include Perumal temple, Karukathamman Temple, Mukunda Nayanar Temple, Sri Ponniyamman Temple, Sthala Sayana Perumal Temple, Sri Chenganmaaleeswarar Shiva Temple and many more.
Cycling is one of the famous activities in Mahabalipuram. Hire a bicycle and travel in and around Mahabalipuram. Cycling in such an environment will be really a rejoicing experience. You can come to know about various places on the way.
Spend time at the beach
Walk along the shores of the beach and get into a splendid moment with climate and location. You can also try sunbathing. You can go horse riding and several such excitements are there.
If you are passionate about fishing, there are fishing safari available in Mahabalipuram. Nearly 2 hours you can spend in the water and you can get to know about the lifestyle of the fisherman.
How to reach Mahabalipuram
The place is located 60 kilometers from Chennai. Since the city is well connected, it is easy to reach Mahabalipuram.
If you come to Chennai by bus, then from CMBT, there many buses. The roads are well maintained and you can relish the travel.
The nearest big railway station is Chennai Central Railway station. From here you can hire a cab or reach CMBT and take a direct bus to Mahabalipuram.
Chennai International airport is 58 kilometers from Mahabalipuram. After reaching the airport, you can either hire a cab or board metro train to CMBT and take a bus.