Mahabalipuram, located in Tamil Nadu, India, is basically famous all across the globe for its famous group of monuments. The monuments and its architecture are so elegant that they are listed in the UNESCO World heritage sites. These monuments were founded by the Pallava Kings in the 7th and 8th centuries. They are popular mainly for their exotic rathas, mandapas, giant open-air reliefs and many more things. These temples are excellent examples of Pallava art.
The monuments of Mahabalipuram are popularly known for its rock carvings and monolithic sculptures. These monuments illustrate the intricate sculptures and carvings which are true evidence to the artisans creativity and craftsmanship. Most of the monuments at Mahabalipuram are very popular like the rock-cut rathas, sculptured scenes of open rocks like Arjuna’s penance, the caves of Govardhanadhari and Ahishasuramardini, and the Jala-Sayana Perumal temple.
Of the popular nine monolithic temples, the most important are the Five Rathas. It was named after the famous five Pandava brothers of the Mahabharata fame. Draupadi ratha is a simple and beautiful hut like kutagara shrine while the Arjuna ratha is a dvitala vimana. Similarly, other rathas are there and each has its own significance. Ratha temples in the form of cavalcade chariots, monolithic constructions appear as if they are delightfully emerging from the sand. Other notable landmarks are Varaha Mandapa, Mahisamardini Mandapa, Paramesvara Mahavaraha Vishnugriha, etc.
Mandapa, or rock sanctuaries modeled as rooms covered with bas-reliefs. Arjuna’s Penance which is the world’s largest bas-relief panel with over a hundred figures of men, gods and beasts are visited by a large number of people.
Rock reliefs in the open air modeled a popular story in the iconography of Siva, that of the Descent of the Ganges. Temples built from cutting the stoned, like the Temple of Rivage, which was constructed under the reign of King Rajasimha Narasimavarman II, popular for its high-stepped pyramidal tower and thousands of sculptures which are dedicated to the glory of Siva.
The colossal attraction of this place is the spectacular Shore Temple that is worth to be visited. It is surrounded from all sides by rows of Nandi bulls that are looking out to the sea. This temple was re-built as it was washed away by the cyclone emerged from the sea. This temple is also referred as the Seven Pagodas but out of the seven pagodas, six are submerged in the sea and only one remains now.
It is believed by many people that this area was once surely served as a school for young sculptors. The different sculptures, some of them are half finished, are giving the examples of different styles of architecture, probably demonstrated by instructions and practices by young students of that time. This can also be seen in the Pancha Rathas where each Ratha is engraved in a different style.
The glamour of Mahabalipuram lies not only in its monumental architecture but also in its pristine sandy beach, unique architecture, handicrafts and stone carved sculptures. While exploring the different cities of Tamil Nadu, one must add this place in the itinerary of the Southern region as it is a must visit place.