Mahabalipuram Temple

Mahabalipuram Temple- 15 Incredible Facts You Should Know

Mahabalipuram Temple is located near Chennai in Tamil Nadu. It is also known as the Shore Temple. The whole structure is constructed using granite. This beautiful structure was built during 700-128 AD. 

The Shore Temple has got its name as “Seven Pagodas” which indicates the existence of 7 temples from the past. During the time of the Pallava Dynasty, it was a popular trading port. Mamallapuram or Mahabalipuram is one of the oldest cities in India. This small village is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Tamil Nadu. 

The Mamallapuram Dance Festival is held every year during Dec-Jan at Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu. This dance festival is organized by the Department of Tourism, Govt. of Tamil Nadu. Exponents of Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathak, Odissi, Mohini Attam, and Kathakali perform against this magnificent backdrop of the Pallava rock sculptures. 

Present-day, it is known for its great monuments, cave sanctuaries, and sculptures. Mahabalipuram is famous for its vast beach, monoliths, stone carvings, and temples. Ideal for school/college excursions from the nearby cities. 

Also, ideal for people interested in regional history and architecture. Extremely well-maintained tourist spots, knowledgeable tour guides are easily available.

Entry Timings6.00 am to 6.00 pm

Entry FeeINR 10 for Indian citizens; INR 250 for others, no fee for visitors below age 15

No fee for still photography, INR 25 for videography

History of Mahabalipuram Temple

Mahabalipuram was founded by the Pallava king Narasimhavarman-I in the 7th century AD. The mandapa or pavilions and the rathas or shrines were shaped as temple chariots are hewn from the granite rock face. The famed Shore Temple, erected half a century later, is built from dressed stone. 

It is also believed that after Hiranyakashipu was killed by Lord Vishnu’s avatar Prahalad became the king. It is said that Prahalad’s son Bali founded this temple. Once ruled by the Pallavas, famed for their excellent architecture and sculptures, Mahabalipuram has a beautiful rock-cut monument that draws architects, history enthusiasts, and travelers from around the world. Mahabalipuram is famous for its vast beach, monoliths, stone carvings, and temples. True, you mustn’t miss these while in Mahabalipuram. But the port city has more to offer to those who love to explore.

Who built Mahabalipuram temple?

The construction of the Mahabalipuram Temple was started during the rule of Narsimhavarman II. Later Cholas completed this massive temple. Mahabalipuram Temple is a complicated structure consisting of 3 temples – One big temple and two small temples. In that two temples have pyramid-shaped gopura (temple tower). 

Mahabalipuram Temple

Mahabalipuram Temples

Was Mahabalipuram a city under the sea?

Many think that the Shore temple Mahabalipuram suffered from a great flood between 10,000 and 13,000 BCE. Controversial historian Graham Hancock is one of the core members of a team of divers from the Indian National Institute of Oceanography and the Scientific Exploration Society based in Dorset, UK. He surveyed the ocean bed near Mahabalipuram in 2002 A.D. He is more inclined to believe the flood theory. His exploration also afforded him a fair glimpse of the vast extent of submerged ruins of the city. 

Who are the deities inside the Mahabalipuram Temple?

The Mahabalipuram Temple has three shrines, devoted to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. The pyramidal structure is 60 feet (18 m) high and sits on a 50 feet (15 m) square platform. In the Garbha Griha, the Sanctum has a Shivalinga that is being worshipped. 

Also, it has two shrines. One shrine is dedicated to Ksatriyasimnesvara and the other to Lord Vishnu. The images on the sculpted panels illustrate scenes from everyday life in an incredibly real and artistic style. 

The festival was organized to promote traditional dance as well as tourism in Mahabalipuram Temple. Two shrines in the Mahabalipuram Temple are dedicated to Lord Shiva. The 3rd and the small temple are dedicated to the Vishnu temple. This depicts the blend of religious ideologies from the past. 

The inner walls of the mandapa contain images of the gods Brahma and Vishnu, and the outer north wall of the sanctum includes more sculptures of Shiva as well as a depiction of the goddess Durga. The small Shiva shrine faces west and has a square plan with a sanctum and two mandapas.

Carvings on Mahabalipuram Temples

The Architecture of Mahabalipuram Temple

According to a stone inscription in the Mahabalipuram Temple, the three temples are named Kshatriyasimha Pallaveshwara – griham, Rajasimha, and Pllikondaruliya – devar.

 The granite rock-cut carvings are proof of the sheer brilliance of the artisans who have created this magnificent structure. The stone carving is proof of sheer brilliance by the artesian. 

This was built on a 50 feet square platform; it has a pyramidal structure rising to the height of 60 feet. The temple depicts the beauty of Dravidian Temple architecture. The temple has interior and exterior that are beautifully carved. The temple has a five-storeyed structure out of granite dedicated to Lord Shiva. 

The Scenic Shore Temple of Mahabalipuram
The Scenic Shore Temple of Mahabalipuram

Mahabalipuram, the shore temple, is one of the oldest cities in India. Present-day, it is known for its great monuments, cave sanctuaries, and sculptures. 

 Mahabalipuram is a tourism hotspot for visitors to Tamil Nadu. The town is home to several beaches and stone temples, sculptures, and monoliths, most of which were made UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1984.

The sites are all maintained by the Archaeological Society of India (ASI). Most of the temples and sculptures in the town were carved by sculptors during the Pallava era under the reign of Narasimhavarman and his successor, Rajasimhavarman following his death.

Despite being the home to scores of sculptures and temples, only a few monuments can be visited by tourists. Most of the structures are believed to be submerged underwater, either due to repeated floods during or rising sea levels.

The temples and sculptures have all been hewn from stones and granite and have withstood the ravages of time to date. Also, you can visit this temple in January to visit the festival that is being organized in the temple. The monuments of Mamallapuram are excellent specimens of Dravidian temple architecture and Pallava art. Although considered a tourist destination, it’s still not that well known so is fairly quiet.

Recently, Indian PM Shri Narendra Modi and Chinese PM Mr.Xi Jinping visited places like Arjuna’s Penance, Pancha Rathas and Shore Temple. 

How to reach Mahabalipuram Temple?

The town is easily reached in two hours from Chennai, along the East Coast Road. It’s possible to take a local bus, cab, or auto-rickshaw there. App-based Uber operates intercity services. It may cost 1,000 rupees one way. 

Local buses are excellent in Tamil Nadu and highly recommended for budget travel. The fare is about 30 rupees from Chennai. The nearest railway station to Mamallapuram is at Chengalpattu (Chingleput), 29 kilometers (18 miles) northwest.

Airway: The closest airport from Mahabalipuram is the Chennai International Airport in Meenambakkam, Chennai. At a distance of 61 km from the city, this airport is convenient to travel to as it takes about 1 hour to reach this place. Buses and taxis are easily available to reach Mahabalipuram.

Roadway: You can find direct cabs from Chennai to Mahabalipuram. The minimum time taken by a cab from Chennai is 51m. The cheapest way to reach Chennai to Mahabalipuram is a cab to Mahabalipuram and takes 51m. The fastest way to reach Chennai to Mahabalipuram is a cab to Mahabalipuram and takes 51m.

Railway: Nearest train station to Mamallapuram is Chengalpattu Junction. It connects Chennai and various parts of Tamil Nadu by express and mail trains. On arrival at the station, one can hire a cab to travel a distance of around 29 km to reach Mamallapuram.

Related: Interesting Facts about Brihadeeswara Temple

Facts about Mahabalipuram Temple

  1. Mahabalipuram has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site in the year 1984.
  1. Among the temples, the Varaha Mandapam, Krishna Mandapam, the Five Chariots, and the Shore Temple are mainly visible.
  1. Most of the monuments are carved from a single rock.
  1. The Mahabalipuram Temple has five chariots devoted to the Pandavas.
  1. Pallavas were full of the knowledge of moving forward, new ideology, and architecture, so they left the imprints of their work in many places of Mahabalipuram.
  1. Among the temples, the Varaha Mandapam, Krishna Mandapam, the Five Chariots, and the Shore Temple are mainly visible.
  1. The Pallava kings ruled South India after the decline of the Gupta dynasty.
  1. The city was the capital of the Pallava kings in the 7th century.
  1. The Pallava kings continued to dominate the country until the end of the 9th century, about three centuries AD.
  1. The Pallava kings used to be very powerful, and their thinking was very different.
  1. Pallava kings craftsmanship depicts many types of beautiful images and ideology.
  1. The temple portion of the Shore temple is made of granite stone. The Shore Temple was built around 700–728 AD. The Shore temple is most attractive for tourists.
  1. There is a college in Mahabalipuram that teaches architecture and temple architecture. From the ancient coins of Chinese coins, Persian coins, and Rome coins, it can be inferred that the harbor may have been there earlier.
  1. Raja Narasimha Varman was a great warrior and wrestler, so he was named Mahabalipuram Mamallapuram because it means ‘a great wrestler’.
  1. It is believed that this place has been named after the same Mahabali demon that Lord Vishnu conquered by retaining Vaman Avatar.

When is the best time to visit Mahabalipuram Temple?

Keeping in mind the climatic conditions of Tamilnadu and Mahabalipuram Temple, the best time to visit this beautiful temple is the month of October to March. 

The town receives most of its rainfall during the northeast monsoon season, from mid-September to mid-December, and heavy rains can be a problem. The temperature decreases to an average of 25 degrees Celsius (75 Fahrenheit) during winter, from November to February, but doesn’t drop below 20 degrees Celsius (68 Fahrenheit). The best time to visit is from December until March when it’s dry and cool.

How much time does it take to visit Mahabalipuram?

Being a tourism hotspot, Mahabalipuram delivers all kinds of cuisines to the palate. There are various hotels situated inside the town and shacks along the seashore that whips up tasty cuisine, including South Indian cuisine, North Indian cuisine, fast food, and delectable seafood.

Vendors also sell fresh-pressed lime juice and buttermilk to tourists that help to beat the heat. A sight-seeing trip would take roughly one-and-a-half to two hours. If you are interested in taking a detailed tour of the town complete with the history of the stone monuments, it would take roughly four hours.

You can finish touring the whole town in a day. Mamallapuram has a hot and humid climate, with summer temperatures in late May and early June often reaching 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit). 

Some of the other important details are mentioned below:-

  • There is no separate cost of photography while for videography the temple charges Rs 25.
  • The surrounding of the Mahabalipuram Temple can be visited free of cost.
  • Do not forget to carry a camera to capture this eternal beauty.

Shopping near Mahabalipuram Temple

Mahabalipuram is famous for its stone and wooden artifacts. The Mahabalipuram market also has a wide variety of soapstone and graphite sculptures. The market mainly dominates gods and goddesses that capture scenes from day-to-day life.

 Seashells are also one of the most sold items of Mahabalipuram. Decorative items and jewelry made of seashells are also popular in Mahabalipuram markets. Shopping in Mahabalipuram will be quite exciting for the tourists if they are looking for rare showpieces. 

If you are looking for handicrafts then visit the Mount Road markets in Mahabalipuram or Poompuhar. Exclusive South Indian handicrafts of Mahabalipuram can be found in the shops of Mahabalipuram.

Sculpture shops at Mamallapuram
Sculpture shops at Mamallapuram

Shopping in Mahabalipuram will be a wonderful experience if you are looking for ancient art and sculpture artifacts. So buy it from Mount Road or the shacks of palm-fringed beaches but do not forget to carry a souvenir from this beautiful place.

Related: Shopping malls in Chennai

Tourist places near Mahabalipuram Temple

The beach itself isn’t particularly special, but the town is full of interesting temples such as the windswept Shore Temple right on the water’s edge. This temple, which dates back to the 8th century, is considered to be the oldest significant standalone stone temple in Tamil Nadu. 

It’s illuminated at night. Two of the main attractions are the Five Rathas (sculptured temples in the shape of chariots, carved from single large rocks) and Arjuna’s Penance (a huge carving on the face of a rock depicting scenes from The Mahabharata). 

Most carvings were done in the 7th century during the reign of the Pallava kings. The hill on the west side of town is worth exploring and is open from sunrise until sunset. It has diverse attractions including a huge precariously-balanced boulder called Krishna’s Butterball, some exquisitely carved monuments, temples, and a lighthouse. Mamallapuram doesn’t have a wide range of hotels but there are options to suit all budgets from inexpensive to luxury.

Related: Tourist Places in Vellore

Places to visit near Mahabalipuram Temple

There are many places to visit near Mahabalipuram Temple. Some of them are mentioned below: –

  • Mahabalipuram Beach
  • Pancha Rathas
  • Arjuna’s Penance
  • India Seashell Museum
  • Mahabalipuram LightHouse
  • Maritime Heritage Museum
  • Covelong Beach
  • Krishna’s Butterball
  • Mahishasura Mardini Cave Temple
  • Krishna MandapamVaraha Cave Temple

Mahabalipuram Beach

This beach is located at a distance of 58kms from Chennai city. This beach lies on the shore of the Bay of Bengal. This charming beach is one of the perfect places in India for sunbath. 

The charm of this beautiful place doesn’t end here. It also has wildlife experience to proffer to nature lovers or history buffs as there are crocodile banks and snake venom extracting centers situated just a few km away from the beach.

Mahabalipuram Beach

Pancha Rathas

It is a monument located at Mahabalipuram, on the Coromandel Coast of Bay of Bengal in Tamil Nadu state. This massive structure is carved from a single stone. The complex is under the auspices of the Archeological Survey of India and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site inscribed by UNESCO as a Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram.

The sculptures are named after the Pandavas – Yudishtra, Bheema, Arjuna, Nakula, and Shadeva and their wife, Draupadi. The biggest chariot is dedicated to Yudhisthira and the smallest to Draupadi. Though they were never consecrated since they were unfinished, locals refer to them as temples.

Pancha Rathas

Arjuna’s Penance

Descent of the Ganges is a monument at Mamallapuram, on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal, in the Chengalpattu district of the state of Tamil Nadu, India. Measuring 96 by 43 feet, it is a giant open-air rock relief carved on two monolithic rock boulders.

Arjuna's Penance

India Seashell Museum

An eminent tourist attraction in Mahabalipuram and one of its kind in the country that requires no introduction is the India Seashell Museum. Bauble with over 40,000 species of shells, this must-visit museum in Tamil Nadu is unfurled over an area of more than one acres of land that includes three edifices. 

The first one is the museum, which is known for housing various rare and unique seashells. Stroll around and explore the beauty of these seashells including the ‘Breath Maria’, which is one of the only four in the world.

Mahabalipuram LightHouse

The impressive LightHouse stands on the rocky patches near the Mahabalipuram shore. It can be visited between 9 AM and 5.30 PM by paying a nominal entry fee. On climbing the spiral staircase and reaching the top, a panoramic view of the vast seashore, several rock structures, and the town below can be seen.

Mahabalipuram LightHouse

Maritime Heritage Museum

The Maritime Heritage Museum is an interesting place to visit. On its display, it has a few working models of the Egyptian papyrus boats, wooden, steel, and diesel ships, maps of ancient sea routes, and detailed information about lights, buoys, and various devices used for communication and navigation purposes. Those interested in marine technology will find a visit to this place informative.

Maritime Heritage Museum

Covelong Beach

As a coastal city, unsurprisingly, some of the famous tourist attractions to visit in Mahabalipuram are the beaches. One such favorite beach which is recognized for its fancy palm trees and silver sands is Covelong Beach. It is recognized as one of the best beaches that can be found in Mahabalipuram and around Chennai! All the beach bums out there can also take a short course on surfing.

Covelong Beach

Related: Valparai Tourist Places

Krishna’s Butterball

 Krishna’s Butterball holds quite a fascinating story that would most definitely get your attention. Located very close to the Five Rathas, it is a massive boulder. Legend believes that King Narasimhavarman tried to move the massive boulder but was unable to as it was quite heavy. 

 This led the locals to call the ‘boulder’ the Stone of Sky God. Meanwhile, others consider the boulder to be a butterball that was snatched by Lord Krishna from his mother.

Krishna's Butterball
Krishna’s Butter Ball

Mahishasura Mardini Cave Temple

Recorded to be a structure of the 7th century, the Mahishasura Mardini Cave Temple is a fascinating piece of architecture with its elegant aesthetics. The cave has some lovely carvings of deities from Hindu mythology. 

Further, there is the beautiful idol of Lord Durga seated on her lion as she slays the feared demon Mahishasur. What makes it a must-visit is the location which is perched atop a hill.

Mahishasura Mardini Cave Temple
Mahishasura Mardhini Temple

A coastal town, Mahabalipuram has a tropical climate. Temperatures are expected to soar during the day. Make sure that you carry enough water with you and load up on sunscreen before hitting the road. It is advisable to wear a hat, loose and comfortable clothes.

Krishna Mandapam

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Krishna Mandapam is a cave temple dedicated to Lord Krishna near Arjuna’s penance. Carvings of the walls of the temple depict scenes from Krishna Leela (story of Lord Krishna), including the lifting of the Govardhana hill to protect the residents of Vrindavan from floods.

Krishna Mandapam
Krishna Mandapam

Varaha Cave Temple: This rock-cut temple, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site is a temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu’s third avatar, Varaha. The temple features a stone sculpture of Varaha lifting Bhoodevi (Mother Earth) from the sea.

Varaha Cave Temple
Varaha Cave Temple

Happy exploring Mahabalipuram, the Shore temple!!!

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