Mahabalipuram is a town in Kancheepuram district, Tamil Nadu. It is on the Coromandel Coast facing Bay of Bengal, around 60 km south from Chennai. It is an ancient historic town and was a Port city of South Indian dynasty of the Pallavas during the seventh century. It has various historic monuments built largely between the 7th and the 9th centuries. They have been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and are also considered one of the many wonders of India.
Mahabalipuram is famous for its rock temples and sculptures. This place also has a beautiful beach spanning 20 km. School of art and sculpture is another attraction here.
The structures found here are carved straight out of granite and are among the oldest existing examples of Dravidian (South Indian) architecture. The beauty of the place is not solely because of this architecture but a collective magnificence of the beach and classical handmade crafts.
Some of the most important structures found here in Mahaballipuram are mentioned here in this article. These rock temples, popularly known as Rathas (they resemble wooden chariots) is a novelty of Pallava King, Narasimhavarman. They were carved from a single piece of rock and each of them was carved in a different style. These monuments which are believed to depict the early stages of Dravidian style had elements of Buddhist design and are well preserved even today.
The oldest structure in the area is the Shore Temple. It is believed to have been here for more than 1400 years. Unlike the other monuments in Mamallapuram, the Shore Temple is a building and not carved from rock. Most part of the current structure was reconstructed after it was struck by a cyclone.
Pancha Pandava Rathas (Five Rathas). This site contains five chariots (rathas), dated back to the 7th century. These sculptures are complemented by enormous animal figures made out of stone.
The temple at Thirukadalmallai is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It was built in order to safeguard the sculptures from the ocean, by the Pallava king.
Arjuna's Penance known as the Descent of the Ganges (archaeologists still argue over what exactly this depicts), Krishna's Butterball, Mahishamardini Cave (with carving is of Shiva, Parvati, and Murugan), and Varaha Cave (with beautiful carvings of Vishnu, Gakalakshmi, Trivikama, and Durga) are some of the monuments carved straight out of rock.
There are many unfinished temples nearby and the tsunami that hit during the year 2004 exposed many temples, which were earlier underwater.
Theer are artist hubs for Granite stone sculptures in Mahabalipuram who use semi-mechanised tools for carving statues out of solid blocks of Granite to give shape to the idols hidden within. An ancient and exquisite craft.