Your Puducherry itinerary is incomplete if you have not allotted a detour for Mahabalipuram. It falls somewhere midway between the Chennai and Puducherry East Coast road, 60 kms from Chennai, to be precise. We turned towards Mahabalipuram on our way back from Puducherry. Reached the temple town at about 11am, when the sun was high up in the sky and bus-filled tourists and devotees had started swarming the temples and caves. Too bad, we thought to ourselves, should have left Puducherry early to beat the crowd and the sun in Mahabalipuram.
For the one who is in two-minds whether to visit Mahabalipuram or not, here’s our verdict – we too had been in doubt, but when there, we realised that the place is beautiful and should be in your itinerary. Just that, you should time it wisely – either come here early in the morning and enjoy the place in quietude or come in the evening when the Shore Temple gets even more beautiful with the evening sun.
Temples and caves in Mahabalipuram date back to the 7th century, and are examples of the distinct Dravidian style that defines architecture in South India. Rich in religious beliefs and folklore, the town attracts both devotees and the curious traveller.
3 Things To Do At Mahabalipuram
- Go to the Rock Cut Temples & Caves: Almost like the Ajanta-Ellora temples and caves, the one here in Mahabalipuram are set along a hillock and spread through the sprawling grounds, with one temple here and another there, carrying tales from India’s popular Gods and the Mahabharata. So what if you do not believe in Gods and the Godesess? Hire a guide just to know about the folklore, about how Arjuna meditated for 12 years or how the Guru Dhronacharya would behead bad students/disciples, or how Lord Krishna ensured that a giant round rock stood in the slope of a rocky hillock but couldn’t be moved by any force of nature or man. We also saw a snake on a rock just off the Shiva-linga cave, almost as if confirming that Lord Shiva resided there!! The tour can take upto an hour depending upon your interest for the place. It opens as early as 6 in the morning. Best time would be the early hours, if you ask me.
- Check out the Shore Temple: True to its name, the Shore Temple is located on the shore of the Bay of Bengal, about a kilometre away from the Rock Cut Temples. There’s ample parking space, so do drive down. We had anticipated the usual, run-of-the-mill south Indian temples, but no, we were wrong. Set in sprawling, very well-maintained grounds, the temples were built with blocks of stone and look really old. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, there isn’t much religious activity here. People flock here to see the architecture and the beautiful background. Early morning or evenings would be the best time to visit.
- Eat at Moonrakers: That, only if you love fishes. It must be just about a kilometre away from the Temple premises. A 3-storied restaurant that serves sea-fishes like crabs, ,lobsters, prawns and makes a big show of its fresh catch, Moonrakers is for people who love sea-food but can, in a big way, ignore hygiene and pathetic service. Food is average.
You could also shop from the local memorabilia shops that dot the streets lining the above-mentioned destinations, but be aware that they are crazy-priced. Hard negotiations are a must. We did take fancy to the stone figurines, but gave them a pass, when we realised that we weren’t interested in the smaller ones and that the bigger ones would be a challenge to bring back home.