It’s been several years that the shore temple of Mahabalipuram has lost its old charm of tingling bells, Poojas, mantras and the variety of garlands. The temple itself has changed into a World Heritage Site with historical importance. There are no pilgrims, but there are several tourists. The Sun God still showers blessings to all.
The Sunrise at Mahabalipuram
After the Long drive from Chennai through the East Coast Highway, more commonly called as the ECR highway, you are definitely bound to feel drowsy particularly during early morning. A walk alongside the shore temple boundary walls towards the beach adds to this.
But as said always, the best thing comes in the end right. The beach gives one of the best views of sunrise and the first rays of sun is bound to melt all the drowsiness from you. Climb a few rocks on the beach and you can relax in the cool breeze as well.
Mamallapuram or Mahabalipuram?
Mamallapuram is the current name for Mahabalipuram. You will not see any sign board showing ‘Mahabalipuram’ though it is the most famous name. Mahabalipuram was the old name given after the demon king Mahabali who was killed by Lord Vishnu.
Later during the reign of King Narasimha Varman I, the name was changed to Mamallapuram, named after he himself who was called Mamalla or great wrestler.
Mahabalipuram was the one of the major seaport of the ancient Kingdom of the Pallavas.
Mahabalipuram Shore Temple
The Shore Temples is the lone survivor of the seven Pagodas which was believed to have existed in Mahabalipuram. There are three temples in which two are for Lord Shiva and one for Lord Vishnu.The temple was originally constructed in the 7th century after it was Narasimha Varman II, (Rajasimha) completed the skilled work in his rule.
Shore temple is one of the oldest South Indian temples that were structural temples constructed in dravidian style. Nowadays tourists are very common in Mahabalipuram due to the popularity gained after the listing of UNESCO into world heritage sites. The temple is full of outstanding designs made by carvings.
The two structural shrines Kshatriyasimhesvara (East) and Rajasimhesvara (West) collectively known as the Shore Temple and built by the Pallava King Narasimha Varman II, mark the culmination of the architectural efforts which began with the cave temples and monolithic rathas, The East facing Kshatriyasimhesvara has a sanctum enshrining the Dharalinga and Somaskanda Panel.
The Chatustala Vimana Kshtatriyasimhesvara with an ancient Gopura at the entrance and Divtalavimana Rajasimhesvara are proportionate and adds rhythm to the whole temple complex.The central shrine is in the form of a rectangle.
It has a magnificent statue of lord Vishnu which is known as Sthala Shayana Perumal or Ananthasayana which means sleeping Vishnu.The Reclining Vishnu is carved out of bedrock in between the two shrines.
The grand temple is surrounded by mandapas and compound walls. There is a rock-cut of a lion rode by two young women. The lion has a small cut, a square shaped cut in its belly.
A Huge rock near by the temple has been the target of the waves to touch it from the ancient days. There is also a carving of a buffalo demon running with a stick in his hand, located in the northern side.
The beauty of the architecture can be felt outside but the real feeling comes when you enter the temple complex. When it is scorching hot outside the complex, inside, the architecture of the temple allows perfect entry of the cool sea breeze.The temple looks exceptionally beautiful due to the lights during evenings.
Mandapams of Mahabalipuram
There are several Mandapams in and around the town of Mahabalipuram. Most of them are located in the main hill next to the current bus stand. The Mandapams depict various mythological scenes that has been carved out on the rocks. An hour to two takes you around all the Mandaps of the main hill. The most important among them are Krishna Mandapam, Mahishasuramardhini Mandapam and Varaha Mandapam.
Arjuna’s Penance carving is considered as the masterpiece of Mahabalipuram. The whole carving is done in two adjacent large boulders and depicts the mythological story of Arjuna’s self mortification for lord Shiva.
There are other carvings depicting the Ganges, celestial beings and animals. Although the name has been given as Arjuna’s Penance, some scholars has believed that the carving is of sage Bhagiratha, an ancestor of Lord Rama, who did the penance to Lord Shiva to bring the Ganges to earth.
Fairs & Festivals
Pongal, the most important festival of the Tamils, is celebrated in mid-January every year. The festival is celebrated amidst gaiety and joy not only in Tamil Nadu but also in most parts of South India.
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. The Mahabalipuram Dance festival is an occasion when artists from all over the country come together to perform.
The Sthalasayana Perumal temple festivals, Masimagam and Brahmothsavam, are held in the month of March.
Best Time to Visit
The climate of Mahabalipuram 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. One is advised to avoid the monsoon period. Mahabalipuram Resorts are packed during the peack season, thus advance booking for Resorts Mahabalipuram is advised.
How to Reach Mahabalipuram?
Mahabalipuram is around 60 KM from Chennai. It is well connected by road network in the East Coast Highway. The MTC or Metropolitan Transport Corporation of Chennai buses ply from the main bus stand of Chennai CMBT, to Mahabalipuram. Alternatively, all the buses going through ECR to Puducherry (Pondicherry) stops near to Mamallapuram in Highway.
The nearest airport is Chennai International Airport and the nearest railway station is Chennai Central.