@Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu, India.
Why would I start with Mahabalipuram? It was not the first place I visited or the last. It is not even my favourite place. I have to admit that it never failed to keep me interested, but what is more interesting is it’s relation with the Pallavas. Kanchipuram was their capital, but Mahabalipuram, with no doubt deserves to be called their architectual capital. The rock-cut temples of Mahabalipuram is the Pallavas’ greatest gift to the world.
Pallavas were always discussed after the Cholas, Cheras and Pandyas, but I have found their legacy a class apart from the others. They were different and I have found something at Mahabalipuram which I never noticed at Thanjavur, Madurai or the other prominent capitals of the other South Indian Kingdoms. It was a perfect historical place with religion and spirituality added in an amount which is so balanced. In short, it had the perfect harmony.
You read the “The History of Tamil Nadu” and Pallavas always take a walk into your mind. Actually it never really left my mind. What you should always have is your camera though; and so as I walked with that capturing machine, what I had in mind was the rock and what was made out of it. The sun was furious and forced me into many soft drinks, but the shores of the wonderful fishing town was stronger.
The first thing to see is Arjuna’s Penance, depicting a story from Mahabharatha involving Arjuna. Varaha Cave Temple and a number of other cave structures follows it. There is a lot of open space around the rocks. The Sthalasayana Perumal Temple is a temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu, and it is of the usual Tamil Nadu Kovil architecture as we compare it to the rock-cut structures all around. There is also a light house on a rock which has a stunning scope for photography.
Pancha Rathas or the Five Chariots form the best of them all. It has five structures carved of single stone. This is why you have to buy your tickets to get in and see this masterpiece. This is where the foreigners waste their time. Then you have the Shore Temple, a wonderful structure on the shores of Mahabalipuram. It has been undergoing some renovation and by the time I write this one, it should look near perfect.
Mamallapuram, as they call it these days, is an experience which stands apart. There is so much detail on every carved rock. It is a must for any History lover, especially the ones who spends time reading “The History of South India”, the people other than me, as I did it already. As regular buses are available from Chennai and Kanchipuram and as the roads are smooth with the exception of some speed breakers, there is absolutely nothing to stop you from taking a peek.
Diving out —>