Mahabalipuram or Mamallapuram is a small town near Chennai in Tamil Nadu. It was built between 7th and 9th century by South Indian dynasty Pallava. Pallavas were the great patrons of Indian art and arhitecture and Mahabalipuram is of the greatest example of rock-cut arhitecture they left. Many temples were built during the regin of Narasimhavarman Pallava in the 7th century. Granite temples portraying stories of Mahabharatha, uncompleted rock-cut shrines and pavillons, stories carved in stones is what makes Mahabalipuram unique and worth visiting.
The Shore Temple, carved out of granite, was once the largest temple in Mahabalipuram. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this temple stood at the shore of the Bay of Bengal to greet passengers and merchants from all over the world.
In the time of Pallavas Mahabalipuram was an important port of South India. And while we can read about the beauty and glory of the temple in ancient times, nowdays it looks a little bit careless. Beautiful carvings are washed out by the sea, and the shrine of Lord Shiva is ruined. Also the sea level decreased and the temple is not on the shore anymore.
One mile away there is a shrine with five rathas in it. Rathas(eng. chariots) represent a small shrines, five of them, dedicated to the five Pandavas and their wife Draupadi.
The smallest rathas are Draupadi’s and Nala&Sahadeva’s rathas. Draupadi’s ratha is dedicated to the Goddess Durga and it is decorated with the female door-keepers at the entrance.
The biggest ratha belongs to Bhima who is depicted as huge, strong and always hungry. It is adorned with lion pillars.
Arjuna’s and Yudhishthira’s rathas are dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Not far from there is a place where u can see few caves with shrines dedicated to different Gods. There is also a large meadow and a small hill with rocks of different size and shapes. The most interesting is Krishna’s butter ball which is a huge stone ball on the top of the hill.
Every shrine and temple is carved from one large piece of stone. Probably one of the most beautiful preserved carvings is so-called “The descent of the Ganges” also known as “Arjuna’s penance.” Sculputre is 34 ft long.
One school says that the sculpture depicts the story of Arjuna’ s penance to get a powerful weapon from Lord Shiva while the other school thinks it depicts the penance of king Bhagiratha who brought Ganges to the earth to save his ancestors.
Another interesting place in Mahabalipuram is Tiger’s caves. Altough without tigers, the place contains shrines dedicated to Goddess Durga and Lord Shiva and also a few interesting caves.