I have been recently exploring more of south India – away from Chennai. There are some great posts coming up, hopefully, you will enjoy the pictures and stories about my day in Mysore and when I’ve been exploring Bangalore too.
This past 10 days, my lovely Mum has been visiting India with me. While she was here, we spent a few days in Pondicherry and then on the way back to Chennai, we spent 2 nights in Mahabalipuram.
I chose to stay there for 2 nights, so we could have one whole day to explore the temples and then stay in the hotel without rushing back to Chennai.
After researching Mahabalipuram, I decided to pick a 3-star hotel in a good location rather than a more luxurious hotel further away. This hotel was located 150m from the Arujana’s Penance monuments and 500m from the shore temple.
It was great to walk to, the pool was deep and refreshing and the restaurant was decent. Babu there kept getting the chefs to cook fresh food that was less spicy for us!
Including all our meals – I think it came to just over £100 for 2 nights and 6 meals. We have stayed in many different places and this was pleasant, there wasn’t anything super amazing about the hotel. It still uses a padlock for the rooms, but it was in a great location and good value for money!
This was not sponsored, I just thought the location was good.
The Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram is a UNESCO heritage site. They date from the 7th and 8th Century and are some of the most famous carvings in India.
The group comprises of Shore Temple, Arujana’s Penance, Tiger’s Caves, Five Ratha’s and Krishna’s Butterball. There is also over 400 other carvings and temples included in the UNESCO heritage site, but these are the most famous ones.
They were built during the Pallava dynasty and were often known as the Seven Pagodas in the colonial era. BUT, now these beautiful buildings are known as Mahabalipuram/Mamallapuram group of monuments.
The Shore temple is the only one you have to pay to enter. Apparently the ticket we bought there was valid for the other 4 monuments too, but no other monument asked to see our ticket again.
Indian tickets are 40 Rs and foreigner tickets are 600 Rs.
I normally don’t have a problem with paying more as a foreigner to tourist attractions across India or Asia in general. This one just seemed really steep, the foreigner fees are 15 TIMES more than the Indian fees.
I understand they have upkeep costs to make and the assumptions are that foreigners can afford to come to India, therefore they can afford higher fees.
However, I think the fees could be a little fairer, as most of the Indians there were not local and were also tourists. In Europe, you are not allowed to discriminate with ticketing in the same way. Some local councils have free passes for people that live in that area for an exhibit, but I just felt like one was such a drastic difference. In Chennai at the Marina lighthouse, it was 50 Rs Foreigner fee and 20 Rs Indian fee.
The Shore Temple
This is the most famous of the monuments. It is unsurprisingly by the seashore and the temple is one large temple and two smaller temples, surrounded by other carvings. I believe it is a Shiva temple, with lots of imagery and was once beautifully carved.
There weren’t too many people outside trying to guide or selling us postcards which I was surprised as.
The biggest issue is that the elements haven’t been kind for the last 1300 years. Wind, rain and salt have caused the carvings to become weathered and less clear.
This was my favourite of the monuments. It was beautiful, the detail was incredible and the carvings were far more defined than the shore temple.
The Arujana’s Penance in Mahabalipuram is one of the largest bas-reliefs work in the world, it is carved on two 27 metre long pieces of rock. It was amazing to see, the carving was amazing and it shows Hindu mythology.
The elephants were the most amazing part of this carving and I loved it!
This monument had a lot more people selling things outside and people asking to become your guides, but they were all very polite.
Behind it is also a separate part of the group of monuments, which is Krishna mandapa. This is the name for the cave which adjoins the Arujana’s penance and shows the story of Krishna.
There is even a man playing the flute in it. Here we also got asked to be in people’s family pictures!
This is an amazing rock that is balanced on the edge of this hill. It looks like it is defying gravity and just perched there.
When we saw it, my Mum told me not to stand too close to it. If anyone would knock it down the cliff, it would be me – so I avoided touching it!
The five Ratha’s are one of the most famous parts of this group of monuments. They are carvings of chariots, which are made from granite.
They are about 1km from the rest of central Mahabalipuram. We never managed to make it to these, which was a shame. However, it was far too hot the day we were exploring and I just wanted to head back and dip in the pool instead.
This is the final one of the main group of monuments.
It is this beautifully shaped cave, that has tiger shaped carvings around the same.
This one is also 5km away from the main collection, which meant we also didn’t manage to visit these either. But if you want to read more about them, follow this guide here.
I decided to make a map of the locations of the main 5 parts of the monuments, so you get an idea of where to go.
This was such a nice day to explore all the different monuments at Mahabalipuram and I loved the carvings. It was great to experience such history, especially as the shore temple was the original design that has been used as a model all across South Asia.
Until next time,
The Great Ambini
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