Best Places To Visit in Mahabalipuram

On the soil of “Land of Temples”- Tamilnadu, there are many ancient temples along with places of historical interest. One among them is Mahabalipuram, the sea-shore town located in Kancheepuram district of Tamilnadu state. It is situated south of the city of Chennai at a distance of 58 km. The climate here is a tropical one. Mahabalipuram was known as Seven Pagodas and is positioned along the Coromandel Coast of Bay of Bengal. The town has constructions and structures that were dated 7th aand 8th century AD, during the reign of Pallavas. Monuments here comprises of temples in the form of Rathas (Chariots), huge open-air Rock reliefs like Descent of Ganges and Mandapas ( Rock-cut cave temples) and a group of other temples located here, all these brought a wide reputation and is recognized as the UNESCO’S World Heritage site. Visiting Mahabalipuram is holistic as one can witness the marvelous ancient architecture and experience the breezy weather of the Seaside town. Here is the list of places that serves as major attractions to tour Mahabalipuram.

Shore Temple

Built in :- 700 – 728 AD

Constructed by :-

  • Narasimhavarman II (Pallava Dynasty)
  • Maintained by Cholas after defeating Pallavas.


Unique features :-

  • One of the oldest rock cut structural temples in India.
  • Considered to be one among the Seven Pagodas by European travelers like Marcopolo.
  • Only existing Pagoda and the remaining six sister Pagodas were under the waters of sea.
  • Indian Dance festival is conducted here every year in the months of December-January by the tourism department of Tamil Nadu showcasing the dance forms like Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Mohini Attam, Kathak against the outstanding backdrop of Pallava rock-cut sculptures.


Architectural Brilliance:-

The temple is a complex of many more shrines and temples which includes

  • Miniature shrine
  • Lion Monolith
  • Statue of Lord Vishnu in reclining pose.
  • Sculptures carved out of stone etc.

Tsunami occurred in the year 2004 brought many evidences of the deluged pagodas such as rock sculptures of animals like peacock, elephant, and lions that are used to embellish the walls and temples.

Tsunami even struck the shore temple but it’s strong granite rock foundation saved it from the shocking waves of Indian Ocean, but a slight damage to foundation of Bali Peetam and shrine of Varaha.

In order to prevent further damage in future Archeological Survey of India constructed all round the Sea shore. The temple got it’s name as it disdain the shore of Bay of Bengal.

Pancha Rathas

Pancha Rathas refers to Five chariots dedicated to five Pandavas and their common wife Draupadi. Each Ratha is carved out of a single large stone hence termed as Monolith Indian Rock-cut architecture. Constructed in 7th century accredited to the reign of Mahendravarman I and Narasimhavarman I. Five Rathas are carved out of five single large rocks slightly inclining in a North-South direction. They were named after the characters mentioned in epic Mahabharata.

               Rathas                             Dedicated to

  • Dharmaraja Ratha  (dedication to Lord Shiva)
  • Bhima Ratha         (anathshayi Vishnu)
  • Arjuna Ratha           (Lord Shiva)
  • Nakula Sahadeva Ratha (Lord Indra)
  • Draupadi Ratha. (Goddess Durga)

They were unfinished and ASI confirmed that these structures suggest that they were referred to Vimanas. This place is now under the aegis of Archeological Survey of India.

 Entry timings :- 6.00AM to 6.00PM

 Ticket price :-  Indians – 10 rupees

                           Foreigners – 250 rupees

                           Below 15 years – No Ticket

No charges for Still photography. 25 rupees for Videography.

Arjuna’s Penance

Arjuna’s Penance is also know Descent of Ganges. The place is associated with a huge open-air Rock relief, means any structure depicted on an undetached part of the rock. The rock-relief here is quite big measuring 96 by 43 feet engraved on two Monolithic abutting rock boulders. This humongous, beautiful rock-cut structure cannot be captured by the lens of any camera, one should have to widen their eyes and has to embrace it heartily. Coming to the significance of this structure, there are two theories just like two sides of a coin. One is that Arjuna one among five Pandavas performed a deep penance in order to obtain Lord Shiva’s weapon. Another one is depicting Descent of Ganges, Bhagiratha performed severe austerities to bring goddess Ganga to the earth. Lack of proper evidence made historians and others agree in between both of them. There is a fissure between the two rock boulders formed by snakes divides relief into two halves and the water pouring in the cleft resembles the falling of the Ganges from the heavens.

Entry timings :- 6.00AM to 6.00PM

 Ticket price :-  Indians – 10 rupees

                           Foreigners – 250 rupees

                           Below 15 years – No Ticket

No charges for Still photography. 25 rupees for Videography.

Krishna’s Butter Ball

It is one of the natural wonders located in the town of Mahabalipuram is Krishna’s Butter Ball also known as  Vaan Irai Kal is a gigantic Granite rock Boulder 6 meter high, 5 meters wide and weighing around 250 tons lying on the inclined plane. It is believed to be the rock is in the same position for the past 1200 years. Many unsuccessful attempts were made in the history of Narasimhavarman in 7th century AD to Arthur Havelock in 1908 to move it from that place regarding safety concerns, but all the attempts went in vain as unsuccessful ones. The granite is so heavy that even seven elephants were unable to get the task done. It is a popular destination in the city

Mahabalipuram Light House

It is India’s oldest lighthouse constructed around 640 AD during the reign of Pallava king Mahendra, named it as Olakaneshwara which refers to flame-eyed Shiva that served as a beacon for many sea vessels at night times for centuries by lighting the bonfires on the high rocks, as it served as the busiest port during that time. In 1887 first light was accredited and became fully functional in 1904 and replacing the old one which is now under the authority of Archeological Survey of India. It was closed in 2001 following the threats possessed by Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The circular tower made of natural Stone is opened to tourists only since 2011. Thus old and new light houses are adjacent to each other.

Mahishasuramardini Mandapa

It is one among the group of monuments of Mahabalipuram, displays the architectural innovation of Pallavas, this was built around late 7th century near the light house along with other cave temples in hilltop of Mamallapuram, the name of this place came after Narasimhavarman Mahamalla. This Rock-cut structure stands as the perfect example of ancient Viswakarma Sculpture.

Architectural features:-

It has three characteristic relief rocks

  • Lord Vishnu lying on seven hooded serpent
  • Goddess Durga, main celestial being in the cave temple assassinating the buffaloe headed demon Mahishasura.
  • Sculpture of Vishnu.

Photography in this place is prohibited as Nuclear power station is situated few kilometers to the south of the temple.

Maritime Museum

It is located within the radius of Light house heritage museum showcasing the different models of ships and anchors used around different periods. Construction began in 2013 and inaugurated in 2015 by Tamilnadu government to attract more tourists and to raise interest in the subject of navy among the youth. It has features like submarine simulator and the beautiful display of ancient silk route.

Not only the above-mentioned ones but also the places like Varaha Cave temple, Yudhishthir Chariot , Ganesh Ratha, Raya gopuram, Heritage Museum, Mahabalipuram Beach and manChariot, laces here leaves us enthralled with the chaotic beauty of the ancient temples. To witness the grandiose of Pallava’s prime constructions Mahabalipuram is the must visit one.

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