Mahabalipuram is one of history's intriguing enigmas. The ancient Mamallapuram, as Mahabalipuram was formerly known, was a flourishing port town of the Pallava rulers of south India, who chiseled in stone a fabulous "open-air museum" of sculpture. Experts say that there were seven pagodas or temples on the shores of Mahabalipuram. All but one were pillaged by the rapacious sea, though there is little underwater evidence that suggest they ever existed.
The Varaha Cave, a small rock-cut mandapam (hall), is a faceted and finished gem with four panels of the famous Pallava doorkeepers who wear an expression of "pious rapture," as Heinrich Zimmer, a leading expert on Mahabalipuram put it. In the Mahishamardini Cave, the Somaskanda sculpture radiates peace, power and wisdom while Lord Vishnu in omniscient repose is a masterpiece of dhwani (the art of suggestion) perfected by the Pallava sculptor.
Arjuna's Penance, perhaps the world's largest bas-relief and is, according to legend, believed that King Bhagiratha had to bring down to earth the celestial Ganga to purify and redeem the cursed souls of his ancestors.
The five rathas (chariots) are architectural precursors of the temples of south India. The smallest and the simplest is the Draupadi ratha and the largest is the multi-storeyed Dharmaraja ratha scoped from a monolithic rock. However, it is the Shore Temple that evokes the spell of Mahabalipuram. A three-in-one abode of god, a Vishnu temple sandwiched between two Shiva temples, it is quite stunning.
To get you started with planning your holiday to Mahabalipuram, we have showcased below some popular itineraries requested by our clients which we hope will inspire your visit to India
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