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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.

Mahabalipuram

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.

Shore Temple

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.

Shore Temple

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.

Five chariots

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.

Draupadi's ratha

The biggest ratha belongs to Bhima who is depicted as huge, strong and always hungry. It is adorned with lion pillars.

Bhima's ratha

Bhima's ratha and Nakula&Sahadeva's ratha

Arjuna’s and Yudhishthira’s rathas are dedicated to Lord Shiva.

Yudhishthira's ratha

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.

Krishna's butter ball

Krishna's butter ball

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.

The descent of the Ganges

The descent of the Ganges

 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.

Detail

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.

Tiger's cave

Tiger's cave area

Poetry in stone

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11 thoughts on “Mahabalipuram: Poetry in stone

  1. The place is really a historical miracle. Thanks for sharing the photographs.

    I would definitely come to this place if ever I got a chance to visit south India.

  2. The photos are beautiful. A real marvel that each temple is in fact a sculpture – carved from one rock. I am astounded by and marvel at how much Indian philosophy and hinduism were a part of the past, and how much it mattered to people even back then that they created all these temples all over India, leaving behind this rich cultural and spiritual history of the land for us.

  3. definitely poetry in stone! These photos are all so amazing, and I’m amazed by ‘Krishna’s butter ball’. Thanks so much for sharing and for visiting my blog. Mountains truly have soul!

  4. I think what’s amazing, that despite the ravages of time, so much of this ancient site remains preserved, despite war, pestilence and looters as well as nature itself. On the list of places to visit in Tamil Nadu!

  5. Pingback: Mahabalipuram: Poetry in stone : via The Wonder That Was India by Anbu | Ancient Indians - Satya Samhita

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