Mahabalipuram (also known as Mamallapuram) is a town in Kancheepuram district in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is a 7th-century port city of the South Indian dynasty of the Pallavas around 60 km south from the city of Chennai in Tamil Nadu. It is believed to have been named after the Pallava king Mamalla. It has various historic monuments built largely between the 7th and the 9th century, and has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The monuments are mostly rock-cut and monolithic, and constitute the early stages of Dravidian architecture wherein Buddhist elements of design are prominently visible. They are constituted by cave temples, monolithic rathas (chariots), sculpted reliefs and structural temples. The pillars are of the Dravidian order. The sculptures are excellent examples of Pallava art.
It is believed by some, that this area served as a school for young sculptors. The different sculptures, some half finished, may have been examples of different styles of architecture, probably demonstrated by instructors and practiced on by young students. This can be seen in the Pancha Rathas where each Ratha is sculpted in a different style.
Some important structures include:
- Arjuna's Penance - relief sculpture on a massive scale extolling an episode from the Hindu epic The Mahabharat
- Varaha Cave Temple - a small rock-cut temple dating back to the 7th century.
- The Shore Temple - a structural temple along the Bay of Bengal with the entrance from the Western side away from the sea. Recent excavations have revealed new structures here. The temple was reconstructed stone by stone from the sea after being washed away in a cyclone.
- Pancha Rathas (Five Chariots) - five monolithic pyramidal structures named after the Pandavas (Arjuna, Bhima, Yudhishtra, Nakula and Sahadeva) and Draupadi. 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.
Mahabalipuram is a favourite shopping haunt for South Indian artifacts, both wooden and granite based.
- It is located around 60 kms from Chennai and while on a visit to Chennai, you may plan a trip to Mahabalipuram. The place has a nice beach and while going through from Chennai by the East Coast Road (ECR), you will find enchanting natural beauties and many spots offering nice foods and entertainment.
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