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Visit Mahabalipuram to see the Legacy in Stones


Mahabalipuram was built by Mahendravarma Pallava a 7th Century Pallava king, who considered him as a unique artist. The landscape of the empire changes when you have an emperor as an artist. That was what Mahabalipuram underwent. To break the myth that Gods can only be carved out of wood, this Pallava king chose to give life to Gods in stones. This shore temple has been listed as one among world heritage sites of the UNESCO.

Shore Temple at Mahabalipuram

Also read about the Marvelous Chola Temples of South India

“Arjuna’s penance” was built by king Narasimha I. In this 30-meter length Whale shaped rock you can see Arjuna, the great hero from the ancient epic Mahabharata. On either side of the stone, you can find God’s of the three world, demi-gods, or gods of men, birds, and beasts, the Nagas, the Nymphs all found mingling into the theme of Arjuna’s penance. It has been told that this particular rock is either Arjuna’s Penance or the Descent of the Ganges (or) both.

Arjuna’s penance in Mahabalipura

The Pallavas were very powerful and profound thinkers; it took almost two hundred years to plan and design what you see at Mahabalipuram, a world heritage site. It is an open museum for anyone who has an interest in sculpture, design, and architecture. Rock cut caves, Monolithic – Monuments made of a single stone, bas-relief – structures that protrude from the rock and finally the structured monument which is raised by putting different stones together. The Shore Temple in Mahabalipuram was the last monument to be built by the Pallavas.

Mahabalipuram of South India

Perched on the rocky outcrop, the shore temple is designed to capture the first rays of the rising sun. The main shrine faces the sea on the east, and as unique as the Pallavas are, the shrine is devoted to the Lord Vishnu, the protector, and Lord Shiva, the destroyer. During the Tsunami waves of 2004, large volumes of sand were washed away from Mahabalipuram which gave way to the discovery of some beautiful structures under the earth. The Pallavas must have been real taskmasters. All of the available monuments on shore have been carved from a single rock. The king orders for a temple to be built on a single stone, and the sculpture would start the markings from top to bottom. They carve from top to bottom unlike other temples in India where they work from bottom to top.

The nearest airport to Mahabalipuram is Chennai International Airport (MAA). Take a drive through the scenic east coast to reach Mahabalipuram. There are ample hotels and resorts around the temple town, most of them are beach resorts. Have a look at our Classic tour of South India where you get to visit Mahabalipuram or send us a query to hello@greenearthtrails.com for a customized South India tour tour.

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