Town of Temples

By Meher Castelino

I made a quick visit to Mahabalipuram the town of temples and it was one of the most relaxing informative trips that I have made to the South. This temple town on the Coromandal Coast has heritage beaches and we were lucky we went in December since it is the best time to do some sightseeing.

Many must be unaware but Mahabalipuram was an important sea port during the 7th and 10th centuries during the rule of the Pallava dynasty.

The first trip we made was to the Shore Temple which was built in the 7th century and is one of the oldest temples in South India created in the Dravidian style. The temple is made up of three buildings – two are named after Shiva and one after Vishnu.

Mahabalipuram is a small town so although buses and taxis are available it is quite easy to see it on foot and more fun and interesting since one can get the feel of the place and the people and notice small places of information which may be missed in a vehicle.

The five Rathas are the other important site. Named after the five Pandava brothers from the Mahabharata, the temples are carved out of single rock. The Dharmaraja, Arjuna and Draupadi Rathas are square. The Bhīma and Ganesa are rectangular and Sahadeva is apsidal.

Getting to Mahabalipuram is easy by road as it is just a two hours’ drive from Chennai. Food is amazing in this town since fish is fresh and it is a town known for its sun, sea, sand and seafood.

Accommodation in the town is vast since there is a choice of great beach resort hotels and guest houses which offer packages to suit all budgets.

Besides the temples there are other places to visit like Krishna Mandapam where the carvings depict the story of Krishna and Arjun’s penance.

The Balancing Rock is an amazing and fun place to visit as it is a natural geological formation. It looked as if it would fall down and roll over us but we sat under it shadow quite safely. It was formed millions of years ago and is one of the biggest granite boulders on a gradual slope. It is also known fondly as Krishna’s Butter Ball since Krishna was known to have a great fondness for butter.

Eating out in Mahabalipuram is fun. There are several restaurants and cafes which serve delicious food with excellent view of the beaches. The seafood platter at Santiago Coconut Café is a must have with grilled calamari. Then there is Pisces at Temple Bay for some wholesome South Indian dishes. Motel Mamalla is known for its Southern breakfasts like dosas and Masala Rava with chutney and Sāmbhar. For someone who wants a modern touch there is Cafe Coffee Day which will not make one homesick.

Shopping in Mahabalipuram means carved statues of gods in soapstone, granite or wood. There are shops near the temples where we had to bargain. Sea shell souvenirs and jewellery is also part of the shopping scene along with leather sandals, cushion covers and cotton fabrics.