The bus ride to Mahabalipuram from Chennai covering a distance of 60 km, was anything but enjoyable. It was hot and humid punctuated by a series of traffic jams till we left Chennai. But that did not deter us one bit as we were looking forward to being dazzled by this seaside wonder.
Our first stop in Mahabalipuram was the Shore Temple. Built by the Pallava Kings in the 8th Century AD, as a dedication to Lord Shiva, it sits majestically overlooking the Bay of Bengal. We just couldn’t take our eyes off this intricate work on granite and its picturesque setting next to the beach.
We then headed out to explore the Five Rathas. It takes a bit of explanation on what these actually are. They can be described as Temples in the form of chariots dedicated to the 5 Pandavas and Draupadi. It is actually beyond comprehension how a civilisation that existed 1300 years ago could actually convert solid granite rocks into such fine pieces of art. One can just observe and be amazed!
Our next stop actually has a unique distinction. It is the Largest Open-air bas-relief in the world! Known as Arjuna’s Penance, the figures carved on the rock can be interpreted in two different ways. One symbolises the descent of River Ganga onto the earth and the other shows the penance of the Pandava prince, Arjuna. There are a lot of interesting figures that further adds mystery to this interesting monument like the Praying cat, a headless scribe etc.
Mahabalipuram did surprise us. It was clean and had all the adequate facilities for tourists.The fact that this seaside wonder survived the Tsunami is testimony to its sturdy architecture that is coupled with exquisite designs. It will clearly continue to impress numerous tourists in the years to come.