Mahabalipuram.. a little town with rich history

(South India trip, November 23rd – 27th, 2012)

It’s time to explore another place in India!

Mahabalipuram, or also known as Mamallapuram, is a UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The town itself looks old and there are historical temples in every corner of the town, making this town a special one.

Walking here is easy as the temples are located close to each other and the town itself is relatively small. One can visit all of the temples in one day and enjoy the vibe this little town has to offer.

My first stop was the Five Rathas temple. I had to take a deep breath seeing the beautiful temples before me. There, in a big compound, stood five gorgeous temples symbolized the chariots of the Pandavas, the five hero-brothers from the Mahabharata epic from the 7th century. The condition of each temple was still perfect.

Despite the heat, I kept walking around the Five Rathas temple. I visited each one of these monolith temples and sometimes had to smile looking at the local tourists posing at their friends’ camera. Each temple was named after the Pandavas (Arjuna, Bhima, Yudistira, Nakula and Sadewa), plus their common wife, Draupadi. Don’t ask me why they have a common wife! 😀

Each temple is carved from one rock outcropping a pink granite. It reminds me of the Pink Temple in Cambodia!

I bumped into a group of school kids wearing traditional costumes and in full make up. Oh My God.. they’re soooo cute and pretty! I particularly loved all the accessories they had on their face. So pretty and colorful!

From the Five Rathas, I walked to the Ganesh Ratha. It was once a Shiva temple, but now it became a shrine to Ganesh. It was also made of a giant rock and carved beautifully. Among all other ratha, this was the only complete structure.

Another one that amazed me was the Arjuna Penance. It was gigantic and it came from one giant rock that was carved beautifully. 30 meters long and 9 meters high!!! I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. Amazingly gorgeous! I wonder how long it took them to carve such a giant rock like that? And it stayed beautiful until now, thousands years later??

Not far from these temples, one could see a giant ball that looked like it was about to fall down the road. It’s Krishna’s Butter Ball. It didn’t really attract me as there was no beautiful carving on it. It was simply a big rock in a ball shape, but I didn’t know why local tourists really loved taking photos with it! (the rock did look like a butter ball, tho… what a perfect name!) 😀

On the right side of the Khrisna’s Butter Ball, there was a path going to the Trimurti Cave. One had to walk in between giant rocks looked like a megalith obelisk, which reminded me of the comic book “Asterix and Obelix”. Who would know that behind those gigantic rocks, there was another temple dedicated to honor Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva? This Trimurti Cave was divided into three section to honor each deity.

Another temple worth to see was the Shore Temple. Just like its name, this temple was located by the sea. The cool sea breeze and the sound of waves made the visit to this temple more enjoyable. This temple was constructed in the 7th century and symbolized the heights of Pallava architecture. When I was there, the first thing came into my mind was the number of cow statues circling the temple. It seemed to me these cows were the “guardian angels” of the Shore Temple!

One could enjoy the beauty of the sea from this temple. It has magically survived from the tsunami in 2004! Perhaps that was the magic of those cows 😉

Mahabalipuram was famous for its stone crafts. On the way to some temples, one could hear the sound of hammer hit stones in the far… if you followed the sound, you would find the workshop of some stone sculptors. It was pretty fun watching them working diligently and putting full attention to details on their carving.

For those who wanted to buy souvenirs from Mahabalipuram, there were plenty of souvenir stalls selling handicrafts. But, please use your bargaining skills here!
The first store I visited, my eyes fell for a beautiful lamp shade made of white granite with full carvings. The seller asked for $150 and I almost choked to death. So freaking expensive! I ignored the seller and said, “It’s too expensive”.

I kept on walking and finally found the one with reasonable price. The lamp looked almost the same with the one I saw in the first store. This guy didn’t ask for $150. Instead, he started with $50. I bargained again and in the end, I bought it for around $25. Yayyy!!! *happy*
Now, I couldn’t wait to put it in my room to see the reflection of the carvings on the wall! Must be pretty!

Even though one day was enough to see all the temples, it would be nice to spend a few more days just exploring this little town. Next time I visit Mahabalipuram, I would love to rent a bike and stop in every food stalls trying their local snacks and food! ^^


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