Famous for its scenic beauty, historical monuments, sculptures, culture and tradition, Mahabalipuram holds a significant space in Indian pilgrimage destinations. This tourist destination is positioned in Tamil Nadu and is located along the Coromandel Coast that faces the Bay of Bengal. The Shore Temple of this site makes it an enclave of sightseers to enjoy time-honored rock carvings.

Mahabalipuram At A Glance :

Its art can be grouped into four categories that include structured temples, open air bas-relief, rathas and man-made caves. The eminent Krishna Mandapa and Arjuna’s Penance, embellish massive rocks close to the hub of the village. 16 man-made caves in various stages of completion are obvious to explore that are dotted throughout this area.

History & Mythological Belief:

This famous pilgrimage site dates back to 7th-9th century when Tamil Pallava dynasty was on its zenith. The striking structures lying over here are carved out of granite and are among the ancient live examples of Dravidian architecture. Its name ‘Mahabalipuram’ is a consequence of a legend associated with it.

According to the belief, this place was under the influence of a conceited and brutal ruler Mahabali. Late on, Lord Vishnu came over the place and killed Mahabali to make people free from his fear. Afterward, in this region the Gupta Empire declined over here and the power of Pallavas rose over here who ruled for a long time period in South India. Pallavas were intelligent thinkers and prevailing and the period of 650 AD to750 AD was called as their golden age. During their era great saints, poets, scholars, artisans, dramatists and artists appeared in the region. The architectural magnificence of great artisans has been sculpted in splendid temples and shrines that you can view over here.

Mahabalipuram Temple :

There are two low hills in this area, which are about 400 m far from the sea. Among these two hills, at the larger one, there are 11 excavated places of worship on both sides. These are called as Mandapas. Out of these, one can find 2 open-air bas-reliefs, one of which is incomplete whereas the third one is enclosed one. Nearby is cut temple that stands freely out of a big rock. It is called Ratha, which is exclusive in this location.

At the side of other hill that stands about 200 m high to the south, there are 5 more Rathas along with 3 big sculptures including a Lion, Nandi and an elephant. Over the crest of the bigger hill, there lies a structural shrine and just from a little distance there is the way to Vijayanagar Gopura.

Pilgrimage Destination & Famous Attractions:

Mandapas : The major hill located at Mamallapuram features pillared halls structured into the rock-face. With their intricate figure carvings and graceful columns, these mandapas stand eyewitness to the artistic quality of the Pallavan rock-cutters. The ten pavilions with two unfinished ones were formed as holy place, with an outer hall and a sanctum. The shallow entrances have been embellished with exquisite figures of gods, deities and many mythological sculptures. Even today, the Ganesh mandapa has been considered a beautiful place of pilgrimage, with the statue of this elephant-god being venerated by the realistic, 14 centuries after it was first sanctified.

Krishna's Butterball is known as the Varaha mandapa that is beyond the circular rock. It is dedicated to Lord Vishnu’s two incarnations as Vamana the dwarf and Varaha the boar. The Mahishasuramardini Mandapa contains the idol of the Deity Durga in bas-relief, destroying a buffalo-headed evil spirit.

The Mandapa of Vishnu Sayana depicts Lord Vishnu resting under Adishesha’s (the seven-headed serpent) shielding hood. The Panch Pandava-mandapa, which is incomplete, features a more sophisticated portico. All its pillars are embellished with rearing lions leaping from the center, and the place of worship is bounded by only a passageway that fcailitates circumvolutions.

The Five Rathas : These comprise of The Dharmaraja, The Arjuna,The Bhima, The Draupadi as well as The Sahadeva. The Dharmaraja is the biggest ratha that if fashioned from the largest part. This is followed towards north, in the downward order of tallness, the Bhima, the Arjuna along with the Draupadi. At the west of Draupadi ratha there was a relatively large rock and beyond it the Sahadeva Ratha was finished. Straight away in the face of the Draupadi yet again two smaller rocks were carved into a lion and an elephant. Behind the Arjuna and Draupadi, which situate on a common support, there is a Nandi figure.

Krishna Mandapam : It is the perfect example of earliest rock-cut temple. Its walls have been carved with a pastoral scene portraying Lord Krishna raising the Govardhana Mountain to shield his tribe from the fury of Varuna, the supernatural power of rain.

Arjuna's Penance : This dexterously engraved rock is the largest bas- relief carving in the whole world. It got its name from Arjuna, the superman of Mahabharata, performing reparation to get hold of a Lord Shiva’s boon.

Shore Temple :It is suspended on top of a stony projection facing the sea as well as designed to grasp the first beams of the rising sun. This holy place is dedicated to both Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. The shrine has interrelated cisterns by which the sea ca let it make a water shrine. But, at present, it has been protected by a stone wall to lower down the impact of the rising seas along with further erosion.


  • The Shore Temple: 6.00 am to 5.30
  • The Krishna Mandapam: From Monday to Friday (sunrise to sunset)
  • The Vishnu Cave Temple: From Monday to Friday (sunrise to sunset)
  • The Pancha Ratha: From Monday to Friday (sunrise to sunset)
  • The Mahishasuramardini Mandapam: From Monday to Friday (sunrise to sunset)

Hotels And Resorts:

There are large number of hotels and resorts in Mahabalipuram that offer comfy stay during your visit. Some of its most significant hotels and resorts include Ideal Beach Resort Mahabalipuram, MGM Beach Resort Mahabalipuram and Sterling Resorts Mahabalipuram.

How To Reach Mahabalipuram?

Air : Chennai is the nearest airport which is 58km from Mahabalipuram and serves domestic as well as international flights.

Road : One can catch bus to reach this destination from Kanchipuram, Pondicherry, Chennai and Chengalpattu. Explorers can also hire a private taxi from Chennai.

Train : Chengalpattu (29-km) plus Chennai (58-km) are nearby railheads. From these railheads you need to go over highway to reach Mahabalipuram.

Celebrations Of Mahabalipuram:

Pongal : Celebrated in mid-January each year.

Masimagam and Brahmothsavam : These Sthalasayana Perumal shrine celebrations are rejoiced in the month of March.

Mahabalipuram Dance Festival : This is an occasion when performers from all over the nation come together to perform. It is celebrated in January-February every year.

Fast Facts

  • Best Season : Oct - Mar
  • Languages : Tamil, English
  • Weather : Winter 17 to 33°C, summer 21 to 41°C