The temple town of Mahabalipuram makes for an excellent weekend getaway from Chennai. It’s got history, stunning rock sculptures and a long sandy coastline. What’s there not to love? Conveniently located, at about 60 km from Chennai, Mahabalipuram is best explored by road. Start your trip with the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Don’t take a guide, opt for a guide book instead. It’s hardly 60 INR. It’s better to admire the intricate carvings at your own pace.
The whole complex is spread out and requires a sizable energy level, especially after noon. Perhaps, the rock relief titled Arjun’s Penance is the most stunning work of them all. What’s striking, is the amount of attention to detail the sculptors have paid to the relief. Add to it, the number of years (some of them date way back to the 7th century) ago these rock structures were carved and it’s hard not to be amazed. Other prominent monuments are Five Rathas – dedicated to the Pandava brothers, Varaha Cave Temple and Shore Temple. Krishna’s Butter Ball is a little disappointing. It resembles a big rock structure rather than a ball and its spherical shape is evident only at a certain angle.
After you’re done with history, head to the beach. It’s interesting how different it looks from the Temple Complex. The lanes leading to the beach are lined with shops selling clothes, carved marble sculptures and hotels. Most of the dining options include seafood and be prepared to see your food walk on your table before it goes into the pot! The shore is lined with fishing boats and frequented with expats looking for a lazy holiday. Don’t expect Goa when you visit Mahabalipuram and it’s definitely worth the trip!