- Arjuna's Penance
Mahabalipuram in the south Indian state
of Tamil Nadu is a pleasant seaside resort with some ancient relics
embellishing its sea shore. The major attraction for the tourist lies in the
bewildering Monolithic monuments and stone sculptures. The important
monuments are the five Raths, the Bas-Relief on a huge rock popularly known
as Arjuna's penance. The Mahisasura Mandapam, the Krishna Mandapam and the
Shore Temple are other major attractions here.
Caves : The Varaha Cave, a small rock-cut mandapam (hall), is a
faceted and finished gem with two incarnations of Vishnu-Varaha (boar) and
Vamana (dwarf). Particularly remarkable here are four panels of the famous
Pallava doorkeepers. There is about them a mood of contemplative reverie, a
lyrical softness and subtle grace totally at variance with the primordial
machismo their role as guards of the gods imposes on them. The
Mahisasurmardini Cave (17th century) has fine bas-reliefs on its panels of
endless beauty. The Dharmaraja Cave, built in the early 7th century,
consists of three empty shrines. The Somaskanda sculpture transmits peace,
power, and wisdom while Lord Vishnu is displayed in omniscient repose in a
masterpiece of dhwani (the art of suggestion). On the opposite side is a
huge theatrical panel portraying, Goddess Durga's fight with the demon
Mahishasura, an episode culled from the celebrated Sanskrit poem Devi
Mahatmya. About 5 km north of Mahabalipuram is another cave called Tiger
Cave, a rock-cut shrine possibly dating back to 7th century.
Sightseeing at Mahabalipuram -
Arjuna's Penance : Arjuna's Penance, 27 mtrs long and 9 mtrs high,
is a colossal relief made on two huge boulders. It is perhaps the world's
largest bas-relief, a universe itself in stone. The cleft in the rock
describes the descent of the Ganga, brought to earth by King Bhagiratha to
emancipate the cursed souls of his forefathers. The two large elephants are
notable for their artistic beauty, and so are the images from the
Panchatantra. Amongst the images are a forest with tribal people and all
forms of animal life, just as they would appear in their habitat. Also, the
images presents women clothed in an aura of ineffable grace, a rich inner
beauty transfiguring the plainest of them. The entire picture has a delicate
edge of humor. Accordingly positioned against the ascetic is a cat doing
rigorous penance too.
Rathas : A group of structures lying at the southern extreme of
Mahabalipuram, amidst the casuarina grove, are the famous Rathas (chariots).
Known as the Pancha Pandava Rathas, these Rathas are five in number. Out of
these, four are carved out of a single rock, while the fifth on the west is
scooped out from a small rock. The square Draupadi and Arjuna Rathas, the
linear Bhima Ratha, the taller Dharamraja Ratha and the apsidal
Nakula-Sahadeva Ratha, constitute the complex.
Krishna Mandapam : The Krishna Temple is one of the earliest
rock-cut temples of Mahabalipuram. The walls of the temples reflects scenes
of pastoral life, one with the image of Krishna lifting the Govardhan Hill
in his fingertips to protect his people from Indra.
Shore Temple : The Shore Temple at the Mahabalipuram sea-shore is
the ultimate expression of Mahabalipuram. A three-in-one abode of God - a
Vishnu temple positioned between two Shiva temples, is a treat to the eyes
with its surroundings plentiful in architectural grandeurs. On either side
of it is the sea spreading endlessly and infinitely. The complex wall of
this temple is decorated with charming sculptures of Nandi the bull, while
the figure of Vishnu is present in the sanctum sanctorum.
Reaching Mahabalipuram -
Air : Nearest Airport is at Chennai 76 kms.
Rail : The nearest railway station, Chengalpattu, is around 29 km
away from Mahabalipuram. Trains connect it to and from Chennai and several
other major cities of South India.
Road : Mahabalipuram or Mamallapuram is well connected by roads to
Chennai, Tirukkalikundram or Pakshithirtham, Kanchipuram, which is 65 km
from here and and Pondicherry.
STD/ISD Codes -
If dialing from India to Mahabalipuram --- 04113 (number)
If dialing from outside India to Mahabalipuram -- ++ 91- 4113 (number)
Shopping in Mahabalipuram -
The shops and emporiums of Mahabalipuram displays some very exquisite forms
of stone sculptures, including deities for temples and other forms for
restoration works. The images and statues are available at several
handicraft emporia scattered around the city. Some marvelously carved images
of Hindu gods in soapstone or on wood are good buys along with jewelry and
decorative items made from seashells.
|South India :
Nights / 10 Days)
Madras / Mahabalipuram
/ Pondicherry / Tanjore / Trichy /
Madurai / Kovalam / Mumbai
India Tours :
(20 Nights - 21 Days)
Chennai - Mahabalipuram
- Pondicherry - Thanjavur - Trichy -
Madurai - Periyar - Kovalam - Kumarakom - Cochin - Bangalore - Mysore -
Hassan - Halebid - Belur