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Where is Mahabalipuram?

Mahabalipuram or Mamallapuram is located 60 km off Chennai on the Bay of Bengal coast in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It was a prospering port town during the rule of the Pallava Kings.

How will you gain access?

The closest airport is located in Chennai at a distance of 60 km from Mahabalipuram. Both the international and domestic terminals are located here. Chengalpattu (29 km) is the nearest railway station. By road, Mahabalipuram is well-connected to places like Chennai, Kanchipuram, Pondicherry, and Tirukkalikundram.

What does it signify?

Mahabalipuram is internationally renowned for its series of splendid Rathas (Chariots) and the magnificently carved relief Arjuna’s Penance. The Shore Temple attracts a huge number of travellers and devotees from all across the globe. The temple houses shrines of both Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. Mahabalipuram had already become known widely as a pilgrimage center when Mamalla made it into a seaport and began erecting rock-carved temples. It was this very city from where the Indian colonists migrated to southeast Asia. Most of the structures lay beneath the sands. The monuments saw their ill fate after the fall of the Vijayanagar Empire. The monuments found great patrons in the Cholas and their successors. But after the 17th century, the monuments fell upon bad times. In 1788 the monuments were noticed by William Chamber, an English visitor. It was only after this that some experts of antiquities from Madras gave it a thought. And finally, Collin Mackenzie dug out some of the monuments. Afterward, he and his assistants gathered other interesting relics of the past.

What beckons devotees?

Arjuna’s Penance

Arjuna's Penance
Arjuna’s Penance

Arjuna’s Penance is an enormous relief made on two gigantic boulders. Measuring 27 m in length and 9 m in height, it is perhaps the largest bas-relief in the world. There is a cleft in the rock depicting the descent of the Ganga. The Ganga was brought to earth by King Bhagiratha to save his sinful ancestors. It is a whole world in itself, attracting a myriad of visitors and devotees.

Rathas or Chariots

At the southern end of Mahabalipuram, lie a group of exquisite Rathas amidst the Casuarina trees. Being five in number, these chariots are also termed as the ‘PaanchPandavaRathas’. Four out of five are carved out of a single rock.

Shore Temple

Shore Temple
Shore Temple

The Shore Temple is known worldwide for its splendid architecture. The rock-cut shrines are fine examples of the Pallava architecture. The Shore Temple, the landmark of the city, was designed in such a way so as to catch the first rays of the rising sun and illuminate the waters after dark. The sanctum sanctorum enshrines Lord Vishnu.


Mahabalipuram Caves
Mahabalipuram Caves

The city of Mahabalipuram ropes in several thousands of visitors on account of its beautiful rock-cut shrines. The Varaha Cave enshrines incarnations of Varaha (boar) and Vamana (Dwarf). The four panels of the famous Pallava doorkeepers are worthy of notice. There are a number of other cave-shrines that truly deserve a visit.

What is the best time?

Summers are hot in Mahabalipuram, with a temperature rising to a maximum of 35 degrees centigrade. The minimum temperature of the city records 19 degrees centigrade. Between October and March is the best time to visit the sacred city of Mahabalipuram.


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