Mamallapuram India - looking at Temples, Caves and Rock Sculptures - with Photos.

About the Indian Town of Mamallapuram which is in Tamil Nadu State, India.

Mamallapuram (which is now re-named as Mahabalipuram) is an ancient coastal town and at one time very busy seaport which is situated on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal - around 60 kilometres to the south of central Chennai. The existance of both the town and seaport have been shown to go back to at least the 1st Century - when the port was used by Chinese, Roman and Indian traders.
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Cave Temple, Mamallapuram, India.

Getting to Mamallapuram from Chennai on a day trip.

There is a regular bus plying the route from Tiruvanmiyur Bus Station in Chennai which takes normally just over an hour - this will get you into the centre of town so the Shore Temple is easily reached however more transport will be needed to get out to the other things to see. An albeit far more expensive but much nicer way is to hire a car and driver for the day - firstly the drive down is interesting and you can stop off a few times to look at the Bay of Bengal coast. Also getting to the various outer locations at the town - which your driver should know about - is not a problem. Chennai hotel desks seem to want a lot of money for a car and driver for the day. So find some auto drivers perhaps down on Beach Road and ask them if they know anybody - which of course they will - and after haggling get a much lower price.

The beautiful Shore Temple at Mamallapuram in India.

The two shrines which make up the Shore Temple are called Kshatriya Simhesvara (facing east) and Rajasimhes Vara (west facing) - these shrines were built by Pallava King Narasimha-Varman II. The temples mark the culmination of architecture in the area which had started with the cave temples and monolithic rathas. The Temple has suffered erosion from the effects of the salty sea and wind but is still very much worthwhile visiting - and is part of the area which is classed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Shore Temple is open from 06:00 to 18:00 and there is an admission charge of 250 Rupees for non-Indians - keep hold of your ticket because it also includes admission to the Pancha Pandava Rathas if used on the same day. There are facilities like drink and food stalls at the large carpark by the temple - also they have toilets there.
The Shore Temple dedicated to Vishnu at Mamallapuram, India. Mamallapuram Shore Temple - India. Mamallapuram Shore Temple tank, India. The two Shiva Shrines at Mamallapuram Shore Temple, India.
Mamallapuram Shore Temple Shiva Shrines, India. Shore Temple at Mamallapuram, India. Mamallapuram Vishnu Tank along Beach Road, India. The quite large Tank at Mamallapuram in India.
The last two photos above are of the large stepped Vishnu Tank at Mamallapuram - well worth stopping off to take a look at for a few minutes since the tank is on the way to the Pancha Pandava Rathas (when you leave the Shore Temple it's just on the left a short way along Beach Road).

Pancha Pandava Rathas - monolithic Indian rock-cut architecture at Mamallapuram, India.

These unusual stone structures (they are not temples) were erected during the reign of the Pallava King Mahendravarman I and by his son King Narasimha-Varman towards the end of the 7th century. This complex of monolithic rock cut shrines are called Panch (five) Rathas and are probably named after the five Pandava brothers from the epic story of the Mahabharata - the brothers names were Yudishthira (Dharmaraja), Bhima, Arjuna, Nakul and Sahedea. Also the shrine at the front is named after the brother's mother Queen Draupadi.
Panch Rathas, Mamallapuram, India.
Bhima Ratha, Mamallapuram, India.
Arjuna Ratha, Mamallapuram, India.
Arjuna Ratha, India.
Panchi Rathas, Mamallapuram, India.
Dharmaraja Ratha carved roof, Mamallapuram, India.
Dharmaraja Ratha, Mamallapuram, India.
Bhima Ratha, Mamallapuram, India.
A carved Nandi Bull, Pandava Rachas, Mamallapuram, India. Nakul Sahdeva Ratha, Mamallapuram, India. Durga Panal, Mamallapuram, India. It can be very hot and dusty whilst wandering around the Rathas even though the area is not that large. So make sure you have some bottled water with you. There are drinks stalls at the car park.

Mamallapuram - The Olakkanatha Temple - the Flame Eyed Shrine and New Lighthouse.

Dating from the Rajasimha period which is 674 to 800 AD the old "lighthouse" was not actually such. It was actually Olakkanatha Temple however at night the temple was lit up and visible for many miles away out to sea. Bearing in mind that Mamallapuram was a very busy trading port with ships arriving from many parts of the world then having this beacon visible was extremely useful. The real lighthouse at Mamallapuram was built in the late 1890s.
Olakanesvara lighthouse, Mamallapuram in India. Olakanesvara-Temple Lighthouse carvings at Mamallapuram, India. View towards the coast from the lighthouse at Mamallapuram, India. Mamallapuram rocks at the old lighthouse, India.
Mamallapuram's newer Lighthouse, India. Mahishasuramardina Vishnu, Mamallapuram, India. Mahishasuramardina Durga, Mamallapuram, India. Mahishasuramardina Cave Temple at Mamallapuram, India.

Located close to the lighthouse is the 7th Century Mahishasuramardini Cave Temple which is dedicated to the goddess Mahishasuramardini (the incarnation of Durga). There are several rock carvings inside the temple including a beautiful carving showing Vishnu lying on a serpent and another of Durga on her lion fighting demons.

Panch Pandav Rock Carvings, Krishna Butterball and Trimurti Temple.

Panch Pandav Mandapam, Mamallapuram, India. Panch Pandav carving, Mamallapuram, India. Panch Pandav rock carving, India. Panch Pandav carving, India.
Panch Pandav Mandapam carving, Mamallapuram, India. Bhagiratha's Penance - stone carvings, Mamallapuram, India. Ganesha Ratna, Mamallapuram, India. Varaha CaveTemple  dedicated to Vishnu, Mamallapuram, India.
Krishna's Butterball is a huge granite rock around 5 metres in diameter - it's perched on a fairly smooth granite slope and looks like it's ready to start rolling downards.
Krishna's Butterball balanced on the slopes at Mamallapuram, India. Krishna's Butterball at Mamallapuram in India. Mamallapuram 60, India. Trimurti Temple Mamallapuram, India.
Containing shrines dedicated to the Hindu Gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, Trimurti Temple dates back to the begining of the 8th century. The shrines in this rock cut cave temple have pilasters with guardian figures on either side and within the cave there are carvings of the three gods and their attendants.
Trimurti Temple Mamallapuram, India. Trimurti Temple rock carvings, Mamallapuram, India. Trimurti rock sculptures, Mamallapuram, India. Elephant rock carving, India.

Crocodiles at the Crocodie Sanctuary near Chennai in India.

Visiting The Madras Crocodile Bank Trust - a Crocodile Sanctuary outside of Chennai, India.

If doing a day trip from Chennai to visit Mamallapuram then either on the way there or back it is easily possible to stop off at this important sanctuary for crocodiles (it's located around 25 miles south of Chennai). The centre is the biggest such establishment in India and In addition to breeding and protecting India's native (and endangered) crocodiles, the sanctuary also is an approved snake venom extraction centre
Incidentally the picture on the right shows several workers nonchalantly cleaning part of one of the crocodile pens - with quite a few seemingly indifferent crocodiles just a few feet away.
Visitors can stroll down the various pens and if the crocodiles are obliging, get really good close up views - the pens are very spacious and it's great to see such beautiful animals apparently content and of course well protected.

Basking Crocodiles at the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust in India. Huge Crocodile - Madras Crocodile Bank Trust, India. Basking Gharial Crocodile  - near Chennai in India.
Indian Gharial crocodile at the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust near Chennai in India. Madras Crocodile Bank Trust Marsh Crocodiles  - near Chennai in India. Several Mugger Crocodiles at the Crocodile Sanctuary near Chennai in India.
The centre is open every day except Mondays - hours are 08:30 to 17:30 - entrance is 35 Rupees for adults and 10 Rupees for under 10 year olds. If you want to take in your camera then their is an extra charge for doing this. Take a look at their website which is at Madras Crocodile Bank Trust
Please take a look at our Chennai Travel and Touring Guide and/or our Sightseeing in Chennai - Chennai is located not too far to the north of Mamallpuram.
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