Mahabalipuram is famous for its shore temples. The sculpture here is particularly interesting because it shows scenes of day-to-day life. The carvings throughout the state depict gods and goddesses. Stone carving is still very much a living craft in Mahabalipuram. It is a very pleasant and easy-going little village of essentially two streets. Here you can find an excellent combination of cheap accommodation, plenty of mellow restaurants catering to Western tastes (especially in terms of seafood), a good beach, handicrafts and fascinating remains of an ancient Indian kingdom. Arjuna's Penance : Carved in relief on the face of a huge rock, Arjuna's Penance is the mythical story of the River Ganges issuing from its source high in the Himalaya. The panel depicts animals, deities and other semidivine creatures, fables from the Panchatantra, and Arjuna doing a penance to obtain a boon from Lord Siva. It is one of the freshest, most realistic and unpretentious rock carvings in India. Mandapams : There are 8 mandapams (shallow, rock-cut halls) scattered over the main hill. They are mainly of interest for their internal figure sculptures. Krishna Mandapam : This is one of the earliest rock cut-temples.It features carvings of a pastoral scene showing Lord Krishna lifting up the Govardhana mountain to protect his kinfolk from the wrath of Indra. Rathas : These are the architectural prototypes of all Dravidian temples, demonstrating the imposing gopurams and vimanas, multipillared halls and sculptured walls which dominate the landscape of Tamil Nadu. Though they are popularly known as the 'Five Rathas', there are actually eight of them.



Shore Temples : These are the most beautiful and romantic temples. The two spires of the temples, containing a shrine for Vishnu and one for Siva, were modelled after the Dharmaraja Ratha. The significance of the shore temples is that they were given World Heritage listing some years ago. The temples are approached through paved forecourts, with weathered perimeter walls supporting long lines of bulls, and entrances guarded by mythical deities. Tiger Cave : This shady and peaceful group of rathas is 5 km north of Mahabalipuram and signposted off to the right of the road. To get there, take any Madras bus or rent a bike. Beach : The village itself is only a couple of 100 mtrs. from the beach. Festival : Mahabalipuram is the site of the annual Mamallapuram Dance Festival which runs from 15th January to 16th February. During the month-long festival, dances from all over India are staged here including Kathakali, Kuchipudi as well as tribal dances, puppet shows and classical music.



TIRUKKALIKUNDRAM (Tirukazhukundram) : 14 km. from Mahabalipuram, this pilgrimage centre with its hilltop temple is famous as the place where two eagles come each day. The temple complex is amazing with its enormous gopurams at the base of the hill. You can get here from Mahabalipuram by bus or by bicycle.



The most direct route to/from Madras is on bus Nos. 188, 188A/B/D/K. Bus No.19C and 119A go to Madras via Covelong. To Madras via the airport you need to take No.108B. To Pondicherry take bus Nos. 188 or 188A. There are daily buses to Kanchipuram. These buses go via Tirukkalikundaram and Chengalpattu. Alternatively, take a bus to Chengalpattu and then another from there to Kanchipuram. Taxis are also available from the bus stand.



Mahabalipuram has revived the ancinet crafts of the Pallava and sculptors. The yards have contracts to supply images of deities and restoration pieces to many temples throughout India and Sri Lanka. Some even undertake contract work for the European market. Also for sale in these shops are soapstone images of Hindu gods, woodcarvings, jwellery and bangles made from seashells and other similar products. This is one of the best places to buy sopastone work. Another recent introduction is the leaf paintings of rural and family life more commonly found in Kerala.

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