KPM Header

MAMMALAPURAM - The Ancient Port City


Mammalapuram (Mahabalipuram) is one of the important place to visit in Kanchipuram. It was a flourishing port town during the time of Pallavas. This thriving port city was given the lease of life through the chisels of Pallavas. The monuments of Mamallapuram are excellent specimen of Dravidian temple architecture and Pallava art.

The art in the marvellous monuments with sculpted panels, caves, monolith rathas and temples lay emphasis on robust earthly beauties, imbibed with life. Mythological episodes, epic battles, demons, Gods, animals, all vividly depicted on the wall. These sculptures are breathtakingly real and artistic. Most of the temple and monuments were completed during the reigns Narasimha Varman I and Narasimha Varman II.

In contrast to the grand monuments of the Cholas, the architecture of Pallavas is simple yet very lively and attractive. The Pallavas were followers of Jainism but the conversion of Mahendra Vernman to Shaivism had drastic consequences on the future of Jainism and it also explains the Shiva and Vishnu temple at Mamallapuram. The shore temple strikes a very romantic theme and is perhaps the most photographed monument in India after Taj Mahal. The temple is flood lit in the night and then its beauty comes out to fully. The pleasure of watching the monument in light with cool breeze from the sea has no comparison. Mamallapuram attracts tourists from all over the globe to its monumental splendour and sunny beaches.


There are nine cave temples which are cut in the rocks in Mamallapuram. These caves are famous for their real life depiction of incidents from the Hindu Mythology. There are Bas-reliefs in the various caves. In particular the carvings in the Krishna cave appears very real. Vishnu is seen in the cosmic sleep in Mahishasuramardhini cave. In contrast to peace here, the other portrayals of Goddess Durga is fighting the buffalo headed Demon.


There are eight mandapams located at various spots - the Dharmaraja, Kotikal, Mahishasura, Krishna, Pandava, Varaha, Ramanuja and Shiva mandapams. In these rock cut mandapams, there are sculptural reliefs depicting various stories from epics and mythology.


Krishna Mandapam

In this mandapam, the scene of child Krishna holding aloft the Govardhana hill to protect the people of Gokulam from severe rains.


Mahishasuramardhini Mandapam

On one wall is depicted the scene of Goddess Durga mounted on a lion, destroying the evil asura with a buffalo head, Mahishasura. On the opposite wall is the scene of Lord Vishnu in repose (ananthasayanam) on the serpent Adisesha.


Varaha Mandapam

Two avatars of Lord Vishnu can be seen in this mandapam. On one wall is the scene of Lord Vishnu as Varaha (with a boar head), lifting Boomi Devi from under the ocean. On the other wall is the scene from Vamana avataram (dwarf brahmin boy).


This base relief, is an extensive panel (27 metres long and 9 metres high of relief sculptures, with life size images. This carving on the rock wall is the largest Bas-relief in the world. This is pride of Mamallapuram of which the simple but rich carving appear to come alive any moment. The rock is in the shape of a whale and it faces the sea.


The five rathas are mini shrines which are carved out of one rock constructed in the form of chariots. The Dharmaraja, Bhima, Arjuna and Draupadi rathams have been carved out of one single boulder. The Chariots mark the evolution of Dravidian style of temple architecture.


This twin structure on the shore of Bay of Bengal is one of the oldest in South India and first line temple of Dravidian architecture. After coming under world heritage monument a huge wall has been built on one side to prevent it from further erosion.


This was originally an open air theater used to organise cultural programs. The sculpture of loins and tigers on the entrance of the cave gives it the name of Tiger Caves. It is very calm and serene even though it is set along the sea coast.


Just 14 kms from Mamallapuram is a crocodile breeding center. At this center about 5000 crocodiles of 6 different species are being reared. There is also a snake farm where anti venom is produced. This center is one of the most successful reptile breeding centers in India.


This place is famous for the ancient Shiva temple and a hill top temple. The place is a popular pilgrimage spot. The name of Thirukkazhukundram means hill of Eagle. In fact the priest of the temple feeds two kites in the afternoon it is said that these kites are on their journey from Rameshwaram to Banaras and take rest at the hill top temple. The village surrounds the foothill and from here one can see the huge Gopurams of the temple on the top. Near the village is the larger Shiva temple and a tank which is said to have curative powers. It is 17 kms from Mamallapuram.


This fine beach is located 16 kms from Mamallapuram. Originally this was a Dutch settlement but now it is coming majorly as a beach resort.


This ancient town is 19 kms from Mamallapuram. The ruined fort here narrates a story of the grandeur which this place has lived. The catholic Church and the Dargah are the places worth visiting.


An ideal place for water sports and an excellent picnic spot Muttukadu is 21 kms from Mamallapuram. The TTDC has made ample arrangements to attract tourists. TTDC has boat house here. The visitors can enjoy boating, canoeing and kayaking and wind surfing. The 'Dakshina Chitra of Madras Craft Foundation' here has replica of an old agricultural house of Tamil Nadu, replica of Kancheepuram weavers house and replicas of ancient houses presenting the life style of South India.


This place is 16 kms from Mamallapuram. Devotees come to this place in the temple of Lord Muruga. This temple has several ancient inscriptions which attracts not only devotees but researchers and scholars too.


This bird sanctuary, it is located 53 kms from Mamallapuram and is among the few famous bird sanctuaries in the country. The best season to visit this place is between November to February when the birds have also migrated here.