Mahabalipuram, also known as Mamallapuram, is famous for its stone carvings dating back to the Tamil Pallava dynasty in the 7th-9th century.
The structures here, mostly carved straight out of granite, are among the oldest existing examples of Dravidian (South Indian) architecture. Today’s Mamallapuram is purely a tourist town and one of the major attractions around Chennai. The East Coast Road has made it easily accessible - just about an hour from the city. At one time you could see the Bay of Bengal almost all the way to M’puram, but, there is so much development that the ocean is glimpsed only as you get close to M’puram. Mamallapuram itself was getting run down over the last decade with very patchy efforts at keeping the monuments preserved. This has changed in the last few years with the Shore Temple being included in the UNESCO heritage project. The surroundings have been made much nicer, but, there has been a lot of wind and water erosion on the temple carvings with many of them having undergone loss of detail over the years.
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Shore Temple. The oldest structure in the area, build c. 700 AD, this temple has been here for more than 1400 years. However, unlike Mamallapuram's other monuments, the Shore Temple is a building (not carved from rock) and the bulk of the current structure is a reconstruction after it was struck by a cyclone. It's not particularly large, and the carvings have been badly eroded by the wind and the sea, but this adds to the sense of antiquity. The area around the temple is now a landscaped park, with guards keeping the hordes of souvenir hawkers at bay. A Shiva lingam is enshrined in the central building and the site can get very crowded on weekends.
This site contains five Rathas, literally chariots, dating from the 7th century. The sculptures are complemented by some enormous stone animals, including a large elephant.
It is a giant natural rock perched on a hillside, seemingly in defiance of all laws of physics—it's a common sight to see visitors placing hands under the stone posing for pics, which looks as though they are holding it! The rock provides welcome shade if you dare to sit underneath it, and local kids have discovered that the slippery nearby hillside also makes a great natural slide.
East Raja Street has hundreds of sculptures in stone, wood etc. It is well worth a visit. Rs. 2 entrance fee. The following structures are all carved straight out of rock in the central hillside area, so you can travel between them on foot. The scenery within the hills is also quite unusual, with smooth rock rising out of the forest and carved stairways leading between the mandapas (pavilions), caves and carvings.
around Tamil Nadu's countryside can be organized.
Boat rides to in the Bay of Bengal with life guards.
Chennai (60 Kms)
Formerly known as Madras, this 369-year-old city is the capital of the southern state of Tamilnadu and is India's sixth-largest city in terms of population. It serves as one of the main gateways to South India and has a thriving local culture and art scene and is one of the major destinations for medical tourism.
Crocodile bank at Vadanemmeli,
15 km on the road back to Chennai. They have many different crocodiles but also snakes and turtles.
Pondicherry (110 Kms)
Though very small, Pondicherry was the largest French colony in India. The city has a long and interesting history of trade and war. There is a strong French influence in the city, especially in the old quarters, with Rues and Boulevards lined with Mediterranean style houses and bakeries, although the city remains very much Indian.