Mahabalipuram: Hidden Gem of South

There are plethora of places in India that gained fame for tourism over the decades and lot more that still lies hidden in the old quaint villages across the country surviving on the basis of their closely knitted history. Call it blessing in disguise that with less tourism the waste incurred is also less but also, that means financial shortcoming for maintaining and preserving such sights. Here is a story of one such town of Tamil Nadu popularly known as Mahabalipuram or Mamallapuram.
The town has gained its fame in southern part of the country but for rest of the parts it is still an unknown territory. Out of 35 UNESCO world heritage sites in India, 4 are in Tamil Nadu 1 being ‘The group of monuments’ of Mahabalipuram, recognized for its monolithic (chiselled out of single rock) rock cut temples carved during 6th and 7th century during Pallava Kingdom. With the findings of many foreign artefacts like Chinese currency and the notable mentioning in European scripts, Mahabalipuram is supposed to be a major trading port between these countries in the history of India and not only that, the disputed, tangled history of Mahabalipuram is still lying somewhere deep inside the Bay of Bengal. It is said that the large part of Mahabalipuram, which once used to be the busiest port for trading is submerged, supported by the fact that out of 7 temples that were mentioned in European script only one is left which is now popularly known as Shore temple. The fact that remaining 6 were submerged inside the Bay of Bengal is supported by the event that occurred in year 2004. In 2004, the sea water suddenly receded for about 5000 meters followed by Sunami, exposing the parts of rock cut ruins and temple heads which are supposed to be the sister temples of Shore temple. Such is the history of Mahabalipuram.
Little did I know that apart from UNESCO recognized site, Mahabalipuram is also a home to Asia’s largest Sea Shell museum! How cool is that?

Here are list of 5 places that are must visit in Mahabalipuram:

Pancha Rathas Temple:
It is an exemplary work of rock cut architecture and carving performed in 7th century that made it eligible for the honour of UNESCO world heritage sites. The 5 chiselled rock carvings in the figure of chariot pertain to its name of Pancha Rathas. The structures are named after draupati and the 5 pandavas viz. Dharmaraja Ratha, Bhima Ratha, Arjuna Ratha , Nakula Sahadeva Ratha and Draupadi Rath.

Arjuna’s Penance:
Arjuna’s Penance or the Descent of Ganges is a beautiful rock cut carvings chiselled over a two monolithic rock boulders. The carvings depict the story from hindu mythology, the decent of river Ganga from Heaven to Earth led by Bagiratha and watched over by number of Gods. It is believed to be carved to celebrate victory of Hinduism over Buddhism

Shore Temple:
The magnificent view of blue sea justifies the name Shore temple. Shore temple which is dedicated to lord Shiva, Vishnu is situated at the coast of Bay of Bengal. It also hosts the Mahabalipuram dance festival which happen every year in the month of January/February with the outlook of promoting traditional dance and tourism.

Shell Museum:
I was totally amazed to find out the unique exhibition of sea shells as large as 1 litre bottle and the fact that Sea shell Museum at Mahabalipuram is the Asia’s largest shell museum comprising of 40,000 shells collected over a period of 33 years across the globe by Mr. Raja Mohemad. Following his dream to open a shell museum, Raja Modemad who is in sea shell trading business opened a private museum in his hometown that not only displays shells but also beautiful untreated pearls from the depth of seas. Also, the museum hold a shell named as: Breath Maria which are only 4 in number across the globe with 1 piece in this museum.



Cave temple of Mahabalipuram:
Mahabalipuram is famous for its elegant style of temples depicting rich taste of Pallavas in architecture. Mahabalipuram have some finest structures of temples some in form of chariots and other in the shape of caves. There are cluster of caves which were never completed that represents the cave temples of Mahabalipuram such as Varaha, Kotikal, Dharmaraja, Ramanuja to name a few amongst with Krishna cave, Mhishasurmadini cave and the varaha cave are most famous of all.

Mahaballipuram is situated at the distance of 99 KM from Pondicherry. Pertaining to its smooth roads via East Coast Rd, the journey roughly takes hour and a half. The journey along East Coast Rd itself is very enigmatic with enormous ponds of water lilies on both sides of the road and the salt farms that push you to stop now and then for some amazing clicks. Giving to its easy accessibility from Pondicherry as well as Chennai (56 KM from Chennai) , you can definitely spare a day or two for this town and check out the vastness of its history by yourself!



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