As soon as we reached Mahabalipuram - an ancient town developed by Pallavas in Tamilnadu, we made a quick visit to the Sri Sthala Sayana Perumal temple which is close to the bus stand. The main deity of this very old temple is Vishnu/Narayana who is depicted as resting on the floor. Sleeping pose of deity is bliss to see. Some renovation works were going on.
|Entrance of Sri Sthala Sayana Perumal Temple|
Mahabalipuram is also known as Mammalapuram. Mahabalipuram has many historical monuments which are carved out of rocks. These monuments were carved during Pallava dynasty. These group of monuments has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After having darshan of Sayana Perumal we headed towards this World Heritage Site, situated around the temple. While walking towards those monuments we saw many arts and sculpture shops on both sides of the road. Beautiful paintings, attractive sculptures indicate the talent of artisans and craftsman around Mahabalipuram.
|Arts n Sculptures shop in Mahabalipuram|
We purchased a small but beautiful Shivalinga and moved towards Arjuna's Penance. Arjuna's Penance is an amazing carving done on single rock during 7th century. It depicts the descent of River Ganga to the earth. These skillful delicate carvings show the dedication and imagination power of craftsman when the crafting tools were very limited. Figures of Gods, Goddess, animals, birds, trees, flowers etc are carved on huge rock. It is believed that here Arjuna performed penance to attain Lord Shiva's weapon. So the name Arjuna's penance.
Varaha cave temple :
A short walk from Arjuna's penance we can see the Varaha cave temple - one of the many monolithic cave temples in this site. Carvings here depict the story of Lord Vishnu's Vraha incarnation, which rescued the earth from demon Hiranakshya. it is a good place to spend some time admiring the Pallava's architecture.
|Varaha Cave Temple|
|Carvings Inside the Varaha Cave Temple|
It is a solid granite temple just beside the Arjuna's penance. Carvings inside the Krishna mandapam depict stories of Lord Krishna mainly Krishna lifting Govardhana Hill to protect cattle and villagers from a storm sent by Indra.
|Carvings Inside the Krishna Mandapam|
There were some other beautiful cave temples in the site like Trimurti Cave temple, Tiger cave etc. Due to shortage of time we could not visit all. However this site offered some other interesting monuments. One of them is Raya Gopura situated on the hill. It is an incomplete monument. Reason why it is incomplete is unknown but the view from here is mesmerizing.
The old stone carved light house - With a nominal fee we can climb up this light house with a narrow staircase and can reach the top. One can see the bird eye view of Entire Mahabalipuram. As I am an altitude freak I stayed away from climbing the lighthouse :)
|Temple near the light house|
We missed two other beautiful monuments Pancharatha and shore temple. These two are the must see attractions of Mahbalipuram. Wandering around this historical site is an unique experience. Better to carry water bottles and snacks with you. There are vendors who sell water, juice, buttermilk and some snacks around the site but as we climb up the hill burning sun and the hot weather makes us thirsty.