I love history and I thrive in places that transport me back in time. Mahabalipuram a.k.a Mammalapuram is one such place near Chennai. In the present day it is a small town near the coast in the Kancheepuram district, yes home to the famous saree weave. Mahabalipuram is also home to many talented stone carvers and sculptors and also boasts a college which exclusively teaches stone carving. The small town has attractions like the Five Ratha’s, Shore Temple, Arjuna’s Penance, Tiger cave and the interesting free standing rock called Krishna’s Butter Ball.
The Five Ratha’s are proof of a civilization so advanced thousands of years ago that they built life sized models to experiment on what temple architecture should be. Mahabalipuram was also the port which traded with South East Asia, Sri Lanka and as far as the Roman empire. These bare rock structures that are the identity of this town are testament to what once was a thriving empire and these sculptures had not been eroded by time and sea. The salt air continues to erode the rock scultures though there are restorative processes that are being carried out.
The Shore temple that stands alone on the beach was once part of seven temples that have now been lost to the sea. Some temples can still be seen submerged under the waves. Though the mind races to the past at every turn in Mahabalipuram, the present day Mahabalipuram survives and flourishes due to the tourists that throng here. Every attraction is surrounded by stone artists and stalls and the beach hosts shacks, restaurants and bars that have an explosive menu which tries to cater to every part of the world.
The most talked about establishment is the Moon Rackers which seem to have overtaken an entire street. The beach at Mahabalipuram is very inviting and seems to have a fun vibe thanks to the tourists. It is interesting to see this ancient town (that was once truly International) dying itself in the modern international hues as the tourism expands. We ended up in a restaurant called Petals Confluence right outside Mahabalipuram which is a resort and had a good rest and great food which is great after spending a hot and dusty day.