Mahabalipuram is a coastal city in Southern India which is situated at the Coromandel Coast, which faces the Bay of Bengal. The origins of the city lie back to the 7th century AD during the Pallava dynasty. The city is famous for its pristine sandy beaches and some of the oldest surviving temples carved straight out of granite and heavily influenced by Dravidian architecture.
As of now Mahabalipuram is a popular tourist attraction around Chennai- with only an hourâ€™s drive along the East Coast Road. The iconic Shore Temple is a UNESCO world heritage site, and the entire place is a cacophony of beggars, snake charmers and guides which all add up to the experience. The beauty of this place not only comes from the classical artwork or the sandy beaches, anybody visiting Mahabalipuram will be pleasantly surprised by its grandeur.
Getting there: Buses ply regularly from Chennaiâ€™s main bus terminal CMBT. However, it is preferred that you drive there by yourself. The East Coast Road is well maintained and runs parallel to the Bay of Bengal, offers stunning views of the calm ocean and will be a constant accompaniment all the way.
Exploring: The city can be easily covered on foot or a bike with rental facilities readily available. The ideal time for a visit would be between October and March as it is very hot throughout summer. The main hotspots are:
1. Shore Temple:
Built at around 700 AD it is easily one of the oldest structures around. The entire temple was renovated after it fell prey to natural disasters but none of its charm and artworks have been tarnished. The central building houses a Shiva Linga which is a very popular attraction among tourists and the area around the temple is surrounded by a beautiful landscape garden.
2. Pancha Rathas:
This site contains five chariots each carried by a different elephant which was also built during the 7th century
3. Sculpture Museum:
Hundreds of sculptures carved out of rocks, can be easily covered on foot.
4. Krishnaâ€™s Rock:
A giant rock standing on a cliffâ€™s edge defying all laws of Physics. Tourists sit underneath the rock for shade and click pics as if to show that they are holding it. Many have dared to give it a push, but none has managed so far!
5. Mahabalipuram Beach:
Attracts thousands of visitors every year which offers magical views of the shore temple at its backdrop. A popular place to sunbath as well as swimming and windsurfing it offers a perfect opportunity to unwind from the weariness of city life on pristine sandy beaches. A visit during monsoons is unwise as the sea becomes quite turbulent.
Other Must Do:
â€¢ Boat rides into the Bay of Bengal
â€¢ Trekking at the nearby hills