The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram is nestled on the Coromandel Coast of Bay of Bengal. The coastal city of the wonderful architectural treasures is situated in close proximity to Chennai in Kancheepuram district, Tamil Nadu. The architectural grandeur of the 7th and the 8th century monuments are the breathing illustration of ancient civilization and beliefs.
History of Mahabalipuram Monuments
Mahabalipuram or Mamallapuram was the capital region during the reign of Pallava Dynasty in the 7th century AD. The Pallavas rulers used to hold the definitive command in the southern part of India. Pallava rulers were popular for their inclination towards Tamilian art and culture. The power and creativity was at its peak during the kingdom of Narasimha Varman-I and Narasimha Varman-II. The rulers immortalized their glories with the splendid temples they built. The Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram are their witness to their architectural splendor, cultural knowledge and the essence of their greatness which left a huge impact in the pages of history.
The Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram are:
The Shore Temples was built in the 7th century, during the reign of Rajasimha. The temple depicts the peak of Pallava art. These temples are refreshingly orderly, unlike later grandiose Dravidian architectures. The designs are simple and innovative but the beauty shines through. The temple with its beautiful polygonal dome enshrines Lord Vishnu and Shiva. These beautiful temples, ravaged by wind and sea have been declared world heritage by UNESCO.
'Ratha' Cave Temple
The magnificent 'Ratha' cave temples was built by the Pallava king Narsimha in the 7th and 8th centuries. The beauty of the rock-cut sculpture of the temple is reflective of the inventive tastes of the Pallava rulers. The monument is known especially for its Rathas. Rathas is simple words means temples in the form of chariots, mandapas (cave sanctuaries) and giant open-air reliefs. The famous sculptures of the temple are 'Descent of the Ganges', and the temple of Rivage, with thousands of sculptures to the glory of Shiva.
There are eight rathas at Mahabalipuram, out of which five are named after the 'Pandavas' (five brothers) of Mahabharata and one after Draupadi. The five rathas that can be seen are Dharmaraja Ratha, Bhima Ratha, Arjuna Ratha, Draupadi Ratha and Nakul Sahadev Ratha. These Ratha temples are constructed on the style of the Buddhist viharas and chaityas. The unfinished three-storey Dharmaraja Ratha is the largest. The Draupadi Ratha is the smallest, it is one-storeyed and has an interesting thatch-like roof. The Arjuna and Draupadi rathas are dedicated to Shiva and Durga respectively.
How to Reach
The Group of Monuments are the source of intrigue, amusement and delight of numerous travelers. The World Heritage Site is well connected to make it easy for tourist to reach.
By Air: Chennai International Airport (58 kms) is the nearest airport from Mahabalipuram.
By Rail: Chengalpattu (29 km) is the nearest railway station.
By Road: There are regular buses to Mahabalipuram from Chennai, Puducherry and Kanchipuram.