Love the sand, water, beaches and surfing? Yet don’t appreciate being in the midst of a crowd? In case your answer is in the affirmative, then the seashore temple town of Mahabalipuram in the Kanchipuram district of Tamil Nadu is a must-visit place for you. Situated at a distance of 50 km south of the South Indian coastal urban hub of Chennai, Mahabalipuram is a destination frequented by students as well as professionals seeking a weekend break. The frequency of visiting domestic and international tourists is also booming at the same time.
The town was an important sea port in ancient times since the 1st Century CE. It was during the rule of the Pallava dynasty that the rock carvings in the form of rathas (chariots), the Shore Temple and the mandapas (cave sanctuaries) came into existence. The town has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Apart from the architecture, the town with its adjoining seaside offers a breathtaking view of the blue waters of the Bay of Bengal along with the beach trees.
What to see?
The Seashore Temple next to the beach is the first site you would want to visit as a tourist. In ancient times, many sailors would refer to the temple as ‘Seven Pagodas’, which acted as a source of navigation for their ships in the high seas. It is said that a prince named Hiranyakasipu was highly critical of lord Vishu, who in turn had a disciple in Hiranyakasipu’s son, Prahlada. Once, the father-son duo had an argument concerning lord Vishnu, when the former committed an act of blasphemy. The god then appeared and killed him. Prahlada then became king and named the kingdom after his son, Bali as Mahabalipuram.
Other sites worth a try are Mahishasuramardhini Cave, Krishna Mandapam, Pancha Pandava Rathas, Balancing Rock, Wide Beach, Trimurti Cave and many others. The Mamallapuram Light House is a definite must-see, from where you can see the blue waters of the Bay of Bengal, the surrounding inland greenery and the sight of rivers meeting the sea in the form of beautiful estuaries.
What to eat?
If you are a street-food lover and like to have a go at seaside fishes deliciously fried and served with masalas, lemon and onions, then the stalls outside or even adjacent to beaches are a must-taste. You can relish these fish delicacies along with the readily available fresh coconut water. The traditional dosa, idli, pongal and sambar can be tried for breakfast. The ever available and popular South Indian thali can be tried for lunch. Looking for evening snacks? Go for filter coffee – the regional speciality. Good restaurants are available in plenty in the town.
Lying very close to Chennai city, it is mostly state-run buses which transport travelers and tourists to and from Mahabalipuram. Regular bus services from CMBT, Koyambedu are available. Bus types include both A/C Volvo and non-A/C. You may opt for the ECR buses which pass along the picturesque East Coast Road to have a memorable journey.
Being a destination quite popular among domestic as well as foreign tourists, the town has a lot of luxurious and extremely comfortable lodgings and hotels. Among such places are Radisson Blu Temple Bay (Tariff – Rs. 6,700 onwards), Indeco Hotel (Tariff – Rs. 3,100 onwards), MGM Beach Resort ( Tariff – Rs. 4,800 onwards) and Ideal Beach Resort (Tariff – Rs. 5,100 onwards). Among the more affordable and cheap options are Lakshmi Lodge (Tariff – Rs. 600 onwards), RamaKrishna Hotel (Tariff – Rs. 500 onwards), Joe Beach Resort (Tariff – Rs. 1,000 onwards), Blue Breeze Guest House (Tariff – Rs. 750 onwards) and others.
Festivals and Events
The important festivals of the area are Pongal (Tamil New Year) in Januray, Ganesh Chathurthi in August-September and Diwali in October-November. However, the event which sets the town apart and puts it on the international map is the month-long dance festival held in front of Arjuna’s Penance. This open-air festival is held annually around the months of January-February. Dance forms exhibited during this time include the Bharatnatyam, Kathakali and Kuchipudi among others. The state’s tourism department endorses the event with the aim of enticing more tourists.
This place is a vibrant mix of culture, tourism and adventure which you would love to witness at least once in your lifetime. Make sure that you don’t have Mahabalipuram undiscovered when you are in Chennai the next time. While in Chennai, you can check with TicketGoose.com for online bus tickets.