Places To Visit In Mahabalipuram For An Enriching Vacation

Shore Temple

If everything historical fascinates you, then plan a trip to one of the oldest cities of Tamil Nadu – Mahabalipuram. It is also known as Mamallapuram and is located around 50km south of Chennai. A magnificent town with several tourist attractions listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, it will enchant every history buff. One can know so much about Medieval India during their travel to Mahabalipuram, which was once the Pallava Kingdom.

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From the 1st Century to 140 AD, Mahabalipuram was a famous port town, which was under the rule of the Pallava dynasty. Most of the monuments in this historic town were commissioned by Pallava kings Mahendravarman I and Narsimhavarman I during the 7th and 8th century AD. It is these groups of monuments that are a part of the world heritage site.

Along with the many archaeological wonders, this coastal town is known for its beaches, coastal cuisine, and growing surf scenes. It comes in the Kanchipuram district, and yes, the same one which is world-famous for its silk sarees. There are a plethora of things to see and try in this old, coastal town. Whether you are visiting the city for its history or a beach vacation, these are some of the places to see in Mahabalipuram, which you should not miss. The below list includes

Top 8 Places To Visit In Mahabalipuram

  1. Shore Temple
  2. Mahabalipuram Beach
  3. Arjuna’s Penance
  4. Five Rathas
  5. Tiger Caves
  6. Alamparai Fort
  7. Covelong Beach
  8. India Seashell Museum

1. Shore Temple

This oldest temple of South India is a part of the World Heritage Site by UNESCO and one of the major tourist attractions. It was built in the 7th century in a Dravidian style reflecting the architecture of the Pallava reign. The fact that it overlooks the Bay of Bengal shores is how it got its name.

The whole temple is built using granites that date back to the 8th century AD. There are three shrines in this temple. Among the three shrines, two are dedicated to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. There is also a sanctum sanctorum, which has a Shivalinga. It is towards the end that the two shrines face each other. The idol of Lord Vishnu is in the reclining position, towards the Seshanag, that symbolizes the consciousness of Hinduism.

This temple today is a piece of art from the Pallava dynasty. It is no longer a living temple. Besides, behind the temple, the Mahabalipuram Dance festival takes place every year in the months of January and February. So, if you happen to be in Mahabalipuram during this time then visit the temple in the evening when it is all lit-up. This festival is a way of promoting the traditional dance of Mahabalipuram. In fact, January and February happen to be a pleasant time to visit Mahabalipuram as during summers it can get quite hot.

2. Mahabalipuram Beach

Mahabalipuram Beach

It is one of the popular tourist attractions of Mahabalipuram. There is definitely the beach fun that is in store for you here. You can bask under the sun, have fun around the shore area and even go swimming. You should also try out windsurfing if you are an adventure lover.

The distinct part of this beach is the rock-cut sculptures. There are many caves, rathas, huge chariots and many temples, which you can explore during your visit to this beach. The shore temples have been constructed by Rajasimha, a Pallava king. So, even the beachfront has striking symbols of history, which truly make it enchanting.

There is also a crocodile bank on this beach with about 5000 crocodiles. These crocodiles belong to 6 different species. Then, there is also the school of art and sculpture and a snake venom extracting centre. After having a great time at sea and exploring these artworks, you must explore the many street food stalls. They will make your trip to the beach a complete and even more memorable one.

The entire coastline of Mahabalipuram extends to about 20 km. There are many beaches dotting it, making this coastline simply perfect and engaging.

3. Arjuna’s Penance

 Arjuna’s Penance

One of the best places to see in Mahabalipuram, Arjuna’s penance attracts historians, scholars and tourists. It is a huge rock-cut relief and is believed to be one of the largest in the world. It is also known as the “Descent of the Ganges”.

Along with the historical significance, it is the fine craftsmanship and sculpting on the rock that makes this structure truly unique. The roots of this rock can be traced back to the 7th century. This too was made during the Pallava dynasty that ruled the south of Vindhyas from the 4th to the 9th century. These are all the sites of Pallava legacy and art and are being protected by the ASI and UNESCO currently.

Arjun’s Penance experiences a large footfall for the most part of the year. Some visit to see the craftsmanship, as back then, there were only simple tools like hammer and chisel that could be used, while others come to listen to the many stories around it. This structure is the perfect confluence of culture and history and a visit here should be a part of your itinerary.

4. Five Rathas

Five Rathas

These are a great example of the Dravidian style of architecture and are a set of rock temples. The Five Rathas are also called as Panch Rathas. These rock temples are in the form of pagodas and look like Buddhist shrines and monasteries.

The first ratha is right at the entrance and is referred to as the Draupadi Ratha. This ratha is dedicated to goddess Durga and is in the shape of a hut. The next ratha is known as the Arjuna Ratha and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. There are some carved pillar stones and a small portico in this ratha. Right in front of this ratha is the ratha of Nakula Sahadev. There are huge elephant sculptures in this ratha. Then there is the ratha of Lord Indra, the god of rain. You will also find the Bhima Ratha, which is a huge one and has pillars with carvings of lion. But overall, this ratha is incomplete. The fifth and the largest ratha is that of Dharamraja Yudhistar and is devoted to Lord Shiva.

5. Tiger Caves

This is situated right on the shore of the Bay of Bengal and is an ideal recreation and relaxation spot. Don’t worry, there are no real tigers waiting for you at these caves. Instead, it has got this name because there are 11 tiger-like heads carved at the entrance. The images mainly resemble an animal called, “yeli” that has a crown resembling that of a lion and a tiger. There is also a carving of Goddess Durga on top of these tigers.

One of the top places to see in Mahabalipuram, these caves come with a huge ground that is well maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. You can marvel at this beauty amidst lush greenery and enjoy a breath of fresh air. But when hunger pangs attack, relish some local snacks and sip some tender coconut water.

Moreover, there are many secrets associated with this place. Like in 2005, an inscription was found in the rocks that led to the discovery of the Subramanya Temple. Come spend some time away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and have a quaint experience here.

6. Alamparai Fort

This fort is a truly captivating one and offers a view that will make you want to come back again and again. In fact, this fort was also listed in the International Tourism Fair in Berlin as one of the lesser known tourist attractions. Looks can be deceiving and this holds absolutely true for this fort. It was built during the period of the Mughals.

The Alamparai fort was initially under the control of Nawab of Arcot Doste Ali Khan. Later, it was taken over by the French. However, during the Carnatic wars, the French lost this fort to the British and the British gained complete control over it. However, in 1760, the fort was demolished.

Though its present condition is not what one would really appreciate, however, as you walk around you will see traces of life in the form of shrubs, bushes and trees on the walls. In fact, its outdoor location is such that it has been used in several Tamil movies. So, visit the place to admire one of the oldest forts, which has a breathtaking view to offer.

7. Covelong Beach

 Covelong Beach

Come soak your feet at this silver sand beach and feel rejuvenated. It is located near the Covelong village and its original name was Kovalam beach. However, as the British could not pronounce Kovalam, the name of the beach was changed to Covelong.

It was earlier a port that was set up by Saadat Ali for Carnatic Nawabs. However, it came under the control of the French in 1746 and was destroyed by the British in 1752. The beach has undergone many transformations and remains a lively picnic spot for the locals and tourists.

The village near the beach had the first surfing school of India. There are a lot of activities for the people to indulge in during their visit to this beach. In fact, the sunset at this beach is truly magical. It is an ideal location to wrap up your day and for indulging in an array of activities. You can do boating, jet skiing, surfing and fishing. In fact, fishing is the primary occupation of the nearby village.

This pristine beach also has a fort that was built by the Dutch. It has now been converted into a fancy resort. But you can come and explore the blue water and silver sands here and take back home beautiful memories for life.

8. Indian Seashell Museum

This is a newly built museum and the first of its kind in India. Besides, it is one of the largest in Asia. There are many sea shells that are preserved in this museum. The aim of having such a museum is to attract more tourism and educate the visitors. There are nearly 40,000 different specimens of unique shells in this museum. So, if you are looking for some distinct experiences, then this is one of the best places to see in Mahabalipuram. 

All in all, Mahabalipuram is full of myriad tourist attractions, which make it an interesting place for vacations. You can indulge in some fun at the beaches, thrill your taste buds with some yummy coastal cuisines and explore the many ancient temples and sculptures here. There are also many artworks of the Pallava dynasty, which are typical of this place and deserve attention. So, visit Mahabalipuram and take back home a mixed bag of memories. However, try to plan your trip during winters and spring season. The summer months can get quite hot and humid. Be sure to book your flights and stay in advance to get the best deals too.

Paridhi Prasad

Hi! I am Paridhi. When not downing endless cups of coffee and binge-ing on Masala Fries, I can be found deeply engrossed in contemporary novels. Delhiite by birth and nomad by passion. I travel and I know things. I write travel blogs by day and binge watch thriller and rom-com by night.

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