Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Mamallapuram or, Mahabalipuram - A Popular tourist destination of Tamilnadu
History of Mamallapuram
The town of 7-pagoda Mahabalipuram has been renamed Mamallapuram. Legend has it that the place derives it's name from Demon Mahabali whom Lord Vishnu killed taking the form of a dwarf. Others say that Pallava King Narasimha Barman I (630-668 AD) was a Mahamalla (big fighter), hence it is Mahamallapuram or Mamallapuram. It has got 10 cave temples. 9 monolithic chariots carved out of hill along the Bay of Bengal during the reigns of Pallava kings Narasimha Barman I & II, around 700-728 AD. These were given names after the five Pandavas of the Mahabharata. Alongwith these four Bas-relief sculptured panel on the rock walls and Shore Temple are all superb creations attracting the tourists. Mahabali, unlike plethora of temples of Gods and Goddesses in other parts of South India, has depicted the then social pattern and life style. The Dravidian temple culture has reflected its best at Mahabali. A canal brings water from the Palar river. Besides being die port town, Mahabali was also the second capital of the Pallava kings (450-900AD). The Arabs, Greeks and the Finns had made trade links with Mahabali. Long forgotten, this historic place was revived at the end of the 18th century. Originally Jain, the Pallavas had a change of religion when Mahendra Barman I (600-630AD) converted himself as a Shaiva. This fact has been reflected in the temples of Lord Shiva and Vishnu made later times.
Places to see at Mamallapuram:
The Mamallapuram Temple
Description of the Mamallapuram Temple:
The Pancha Pandava Rath (five Pandava Chariot) has been carved out of the whole rock. After cutting into pieces, the stones, i.e., three-phase style of early Dravidian temple has been followed here— Gopuram, Biman and Mandapam. The monolithic Raths have been built on Buddhist monastery mould. They are known as Draupadi Rath, Arjun Rath, Dharmaraj Rath, Bhim Rath and Sree Krishna Rath. The actual number of Raths are nine though it is known as Pancha Rath. Draupadi Rath is like the thatched cottage of Bengal with the image of Draupadi inside, some say it is Goddess Durga. Carriers of Indra (Elephant), Goddess Durga (Lion) and Lord Shiva (Ox) are positioned to the west of the Raths. A large image of a lion is set before the Draupadi Rath, on the same foundation is Arjun Rath and behind it is the statue of Indra. The incomplete image of Nandi is behind Arjun. To the extreme south, the 3-storeyed Pyramid like is Bhim Rath, 26' high. Dharmaraj Rath looks like the largest. On the panels the images are drawn of Nataraj, Ardhanariswar (Shiva & Parvati), Brahma, Harihar (Shiva & Vishnu). On the second line Nakul and Sahadeva take the Buddhist form of sculpture.
The Land of Seven Pagodas has been able to retain only one pagoda. The other six have been washed away by the sea. The Dravidian look 5 storey Shore Temple was built solely with stone. Boulder wall was erected to arrest the sea waves. This was the last piece of work done by Pallava kings. The temple itself was built by Pallava King Raja Singha (700-728). The east-facing Shiva Linga made of granite rock is the symbol of devastation. The 2.5 meter long Lord Vishnu is lying on the snake bed and behind it the Goddess of Durga Guarding the temple are the Lion King, Nandi or the row of oxen and the mythological gods and goddesses which are excellent edifices of sculpture. But many of them have suffered erosions by sand storms and salinity. The two temples were buried under layers of sand for long. These were recovered after removal of sand in 1944-45. The evening lights of the temples enchant the tourists. Recently, Shore Temple is enlisted as an structure of world heritage. One can visit the temple (6-00 am to 6 pm).
Beautifully carved 10 Mandapams or cave temples have been carved out of the rock at Mahabali. Two of them are incomplete. The oldest Krishna Mandapam having width of 8x8 meter and 6 meter in height is the largest and most beautiful among them. The decorated Krishna stall has depicted the life story of Krishna. It also exhibits the episode of Krishna's lifting of Gobardhan Hill to save the young men and women of cowherd community (Gops and Gopinis) from the wrath of the Rain God Indra. The images of Sree Krishna milking cows, Gops and Gopinis and cowboys are there in the Sree Krishna Mandapam.
In the 17th century, Vijayanagar kings added pillars to the temple complex. The rectangular Ganesh Mandapam was also carved out of a whole rock and is still worshipped today. To the South West of Ganesh Rath is Baraha Mandapam or the cave (640-674AD). In the paneled entrance, Lord Vishnu stands as the guard in the incarnation of Baraha—one leg on the snake head and other on the Gajalakshmi. Goddess Lakshmi sits on lotus in the other panel. In the third panel shows Lord Vishnu in the incarnation of a dwarf killing Bali. Goddess Durga is on the fourth panel. Slightly to the north the enormous power of Sree Krishna is demonstrated at Balancing Rock, a slice of butter as his breakfast.
Near the Buckingham Canal, one can go to the spot where three unfinished raths are found.
It is a treat for eyes to watch the waves from the blue sea breaking on shore along sea beach and the waves splashing against the walls of Shore Temple.
Other places to see at Mamallapuram:
To the north of the temple, the fishermen work with their boats. Bad smell spreads from the area. However, one can have a pleasant walk along the beach to further north or south from their area of activities.
The School of Sculpture is standing opposite to the bus stand, open to public at 9-00 am to 1-00 pm and 2-00 pm to 4-00 pm, except Tuesday. The works of art can be seen there. The Light House open from 2- 00 pm—4-00 pm. Olakaneswara or, Old Light House or the temple is little farther away.
In between stands Mahisasuramardini Mandapam which have nine caves and have beautiful pieces of sculptural works. Lord Shiva and Parvati (Durga) with son Kartik in her lap adorn the place along with Lord Vishnu lying on the snake bed. The mythological saga of Goddess Durga annihilating the Mahisasura has been amply demonstrated there.
Further south on the Kaipakkam sea beach, stands the Atomic Energy Research Centre.
Open air theatre at Tiger's cave is situated 4 km north where month-long Dance Festival commences on the 16 January" Artists and spectators come here from all parts of the country for participation in classical dances and songs.
The Tourist Office of the Tamilnadu Tourism is located at Covelong Rd. Office hrs at 10-00 am to 5-30 pm, Ph: 242232. Cars on hire are available. Banks have opened branches at Mahabali. Hotels, restaurants, shops & establishments are at the heart of this small, quiet town of Mahabali. Guides are provided free of cost from the Archaeological Department of Government of India.
On West Raja Street the past glory of Mahabalipuram is exhibited at the Museum (9-00am to 6-00 pm).
Transport to and from Mamallapuram / Mahablipuram
The small town of Mahabalipuram has indeed become a popular tourist attraction. Frequently buses ply between Mahabali and Chennai (58 km). One route of buses takes the sea coast and moves through Chengalpattu at 4-30 to 8-00 pm. From Parry's Comer, buses of route number 188/A-B-D- K go straight to the destination in two hrs. 19A, 19C, 119 bus routes make a detour and take two and a half hrs via Covelong. 108B buses from the airport takes three hrs. Share taxis also ply between Chennai and Mahabali. Buses also go to Pondicherry in two and a half hrs nine times a day.
Buses ply frequently for Chengalpattu via Pakshitirtham (16 km). The nearest railway station at Chengalpattu is 30km North East on Chennai-Chengalpattu-Kanchi puram-Arakkonam section. Trains from Chennai Beach or from Arakkonam to Chengalpattu take about one and a half hrs.
The dilapidated fortress of the kings of Vijayanagar is on the same route. KingThimbu raya of Vijayanagar founded the fortress after his defeat at the Battle of Talikota in 1565. The port passed into the hands of the Mughals, French and the British in course of time. The Palar river is to the south of Chengalpattu and mere is a huge water reservoir made in the 8th century. One can halt at night at Hotel Kanchi on NH45. Buses go to Kanchipuram (65 km), which take 2 hrs. Buses also go to Vellore, Bangalore, Tirupati and Kannyakumari from Mahabali. Taxis and auto rickshaws are available.
On the other side, one can buy ticket for an ITDC or TTDC package tour program at Chennai and in a single day visit Mahabalipuram or Kanchi, Pakshitirtham and Mahabalipuram. Time constraints in package tours force one to skip early morning and evening charms of Mahabalipuram and its full moon night. Hence, it is advisable to take the bus on 188 route, halt at Mahabali before moving to Pondichery and other places.
This article is originally published in Travel India and India Study Channel