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Mahabalipuram is a town in the heritage city of Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu. It is one of the major UNESCO World Heritage sites of India. Most of the buildings of the old times are carved out granite here. Today tourism is one of the major industries if the town. The town being one of the most religious places has several temples every few kms. . The average temperature of the city is 28˚C and the best time to visit if from November to February. There are evidences that the town had a port and was an important centre for global trade. There is evidence of trade relations with Sri Lanka. The town has been mentioned in writings of people like Marco Polo etc. The city has been ruled by the Pallavas, Pandyas, Cholas, Sultanate, Nayakas and more before falling into the hands of the East India Company in 1763. It was included in the Madras presidency and till date is a part of the Madras Presidency (the state of Tamil Nadu).
Kanchipuram / Mahabalipuram are considered as one of the most important Tirthas in Hinduism. There is a dominance of the Brahamnical culture here. The people here speak dominantly Tamil and also know Hindi and English. The main festivals include Pongal, Adi Perukku, Vaikunta Ekadasi, Eid, diwali, Holi, Christmas etc. Jallikattu is a popular sport and is played on the last day of celebration of Pongal. Music and dance form an integral part of the culture of Tamil Nadu.
Where to go
In the 7 th century, one the shore of Bay of Bengal, the king of Pallava dynasty constructed a marvellous temple. Temple is one among the oldest in India. The site is among UNESCO world heritage sites, a perfect example of the architecture of the Dravidian era. The temple is built in granite and consists of three shrines. The temple houses the idol of Lord Vishnu and of Lord Shiva in the form of a linga depicting his infinite nature. The temple is no more functional but is a famous tourist stop in Mahabalipuram. Five Rathas is a group of rock temples. These are said to depict the Buddhist monasteries as a built in a similar way that of the Pagodas. Each of the Rath is named after the Pandavas and their wife. From the first to last the Raths are – Draupadi, Arjun, Nakul & Sahadev (twins), Bhima and Yudhishtira. The raths are dedicated to Goddess Durga, Lord Shiva, Lord Indra, Unknown and Lord Shiva accordingly. Arjuna’s Penance is a grandiose rock cut relief which has very fine and detailed carvings on it. The rock cut is also called the descent of the Ganges. According to the legend the rock cut depicts a scene from the Mahabharata where Arjuna performed penance to Lord Shiva. Another belief is that it depicts the Bhagiratha praying to Ganges to come to the south and provide moksha to his dead ancestors. The place is a very popular attraction in Mahabalipuram. The carvings date back to the times of the Pallava Dynasty. Krishna’s Butter bowl is the name given to a huge natural rock. The rock does not seem to be agreeing with the laws of Physics. Around 14 kms away from the town of Mahabalipuram is the crocodile bank. The bank was founded in 1976 by R.Whitaker a famous herpetologist. It has several varied crocodiles and alligators, both Indian and African. There are several open pools where these amphibians are kept and the place is a Crocodile Conservation Centre. There is also a snake farm here. In the snake farm the visitors can see how the venom is extracted from the snakes. The process is very fascinating for the visitors. This is way of livelihood for the people of the Irula tribe. Mahabalipuram Beach, Alamparai Fort, Tiger Caves, Sadras Beach, Covelong Beach, Mahishasurmardini Caves, Varsha caves are the other places of interest in Mahabalipuram.
How to reach
Chennai International Airport is the nearest airport to Mahabalipuram. It receives regular flights from Bangalore, Chennai, Sri Lanka and other places. Kanchipuram and Chennai railway stations are the closest to Mahabalipuram. These are very well connected to major towns and cities of India via Railway. There are regular trains from Bangalore, Mumbai, Mysore and other places. From here it is two hour drive to Mahabalipuram. Mahabalipuram is easily accessible by road as it has a well developed roadway. There are buses from various towns and cities of Tamil Nadu and nearby states. There is a bus to and fro from Chennai and Kanchipuram almost every hr. other places are Mysore, Bangalore etc.
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