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Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram Varaha Cave, Mahabalipuram VArjuna's Penance, Mahabalipuram

The temple city of Mahabalipuram, which is also known as Mamallapuram is an ancient city that was once the capital of the Pallava rulers. It is situated 60 km from Chennai on the Bay of Bengal coast in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It extends from latitude 12°37' in the North to longitude 80°14' in the East, and is famous for its spectacular beach temples that are truly a work of amazing sculptural craftsmanship. And yet, it is one of history's intriguing enigmas, for was this sculptural glorification a king's fancy? A celebration of war victories? A queen's fantasy? And why then after all that royal patronage was most of the work abandoned and left incomplete? What interrupted them in their tasks? History remains mute and no answers are available.

Most of the temples and rock carvings here were built during the reign of Narsinha Varman I (AD 630-668) and Narsinha Varman II (AD 700-728). Though the initial kings of Pallava dynasty were followers of Jainism, the conversion of Mahendra Varman (AD 600-630) to Shaivism led most of the monuments to be related with Shiva or Vishnu. A stone bench at the site is supposedly one on which kings of the time sat while discussing projects with their mansons.

Tourist Attractions in Mahabalipuram

Beach Temples

The most renowned tourist attractions of the town of Mahabalipuram are its beautiful beach temples. The five rathas (chariots) are architectural precursors of the temples of south Indian. The smallest and the simplest is the Draupadi ratha and the largest is the multi-storeyed Dharmaraja ratha scopped from a monolithic rock. These small unfinished shrines ravaged by war and weather are things of undiminished beauty. The Kailasanatha temple, Sri Varadaraja temple, Sri Vaikuntaperumal temple, etc are all amamzing instances of patience, skill and labour.

Varaha Cave

The Varaha Cave is a small rock-cut mandapam (hall), that is a faceted and finished gem with four panels of the famous Pallava doorkeepers.

Arjuna's Penance

Arjuna's Penance, perhaps the world's largest bas-relief, is an incredible work of art. According to the legend, King Bhagiratha had to bring down to earth the celestial Ganga to purify and redeem the cursed souls of his ancestors. But the torrential river would flood the earth, and so he had to undergo a penance to propitiate Shiva who finally received the flood in his matted locks and let it trickle down. The world's creatures gathered around to watch. The cleft in the rock depicts the descent of Ganga, a theory supported by the ruins of a stone water tank on the hill.

Mahishamardini Cave

The Somaskanda sculpture in the Mahishamardini Cave radiates peace, power and wisdom while Lord Vishnu in omniscient repose is a masterpiece of dhwani (the art of suggestion) perfected by the Pallava sculptor. Feeble sunlight glimmers on panels of classical beauty.

Shore Temple

However, it is the Shore Temple that evokes the spell of Mahabalipuram. A three-in-one abode of god-a Vishnu temple sandwiched between two Shiva temples-it is a visual delight, its precincts abounding in architectural masterpieces.

Sculpture Museum

The Sculpture Museum in East Raja Street contains more than 3,000 sculptures by the local artisans, made in wood, metal, brass, and cement.

Excursions in Mahabalipuram

Mahabalipuram has a number of interesting sites that are of tourist interest nearby.

Tiger Caves

About 5 km north of Mahabalipuram is Tiger Caves, a rock-cut shrine, possibly dating from 7th century.


Tirukkalikundram is a pilgrimage center that lies around 14 km from Mahabalipuram. It is a hilltop temple dedicated to Lord Shiva that is worth visiting.


Muttukadu is an ideal place for water sports that is located 21 km from Mamallapuram. The Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation (TTDC) has a boathouse here. Visitors can enjoy boating, canoeing, kayaking, and windsurfing. The Dakshina Chitra of Madras Craft Foundation here has replica of an old agricultural house of Tamil Nadu, replica of Kanchipuram weavers house and replicas of ancient houses presenting the lifestyle of South India.

How to Reach Mahabalipuram

The nearest airport from Mahabalipuram is Chennai (Madras), which is located around 60 km away. One can get flights for almost all major destinations in India and abroad. The nearest railway station, on the other hand, is at Chengalpattu, which is around 29 km away. Trains for Chennai and several other major cities in South India are available from here. Mamallapuram is connected by road to Chennai,Tirukkalikundram (Pakshithirtham), Kanchipuram (65 km), and Pondicherry.

We offer complete travel and tour packages to Mahabalipuram that are inclusive of hotel booking, air booking services as well as cab and car hire services for the entire duration of your stay. All you need to do is fill in the form at top-right of this page and send it to us with the relevant details of your tour. Our travel planners will contact you with convenient and cost effective tour options at the earliest possible.

Important Travel Information

Mahabalipuram Dance Festival is an occasion for the dance lovers to enjoy the performances of the artists from all parts of the country. The festival is celebrated in the month of January/February every year. The Shore Temple forms the backdrop of this festival and the music from the musical instruments mixes with the natural music of wind and the sea.

Mahabalipuram offers excellent opportunities for shopping for carvings and stone sculptors. These carvings may be in soap stone or on wood. Jewelry and other items are also available. One can also buy decorative items made from seashells.

The climate here remains hot and sultry throughout the year with a maximum temperature of 35°C and a minimum of 19°C. The best time to visit this place is during October to March. It is advisable to avoid the monsoon period.

Caper Travel India offers wide range of South India Tour Packages. For more details send us query.

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