03rd October to 04th October, 2016.
Mahabalipuram or Mamallapuram is like any other village in coastal Tamil Nadu. It just has a few added bonuses. For example, there are humongous temples , nearly 1300 years old that are the epitome of Pallava architecture. The fact that some of these temples are right on the beach definitely makes it all the more charming.
Having stone cut temples naturally means having a community of traditional stone sculptors. These talented people exhibit their work along the many walkways connecting the many monuments of this UNESCO world heritage site. Anything from trinkets to full sized statues can be found along these roadside markets.
It is however, the monuments that truly steal the show. Consider the Arjuna’s penance for example. An entire rock face covered with carvings of people, Gods and animals, with a striking yogi in the center. Each character has an expression, each face is different. The Natarajan in a cave nearby is equally enthralling.
The five famous rathas (Pancha Ratha) are a little off the beach. These monolithic structures are carved out of a sloping rock face, each in a different style. These Rathas are intricately carved, with many animal and plant motifs in them. Unlike the other monuments, these are not temples, and the purpose of their construction is still unclear.
If ancient temples are not enough, this place has a lighthouse and a maritime museum. This museum contains models of ancient ships and a wonderful collection of equipment used in lighthouses across the ages.
For us, one of the best experiences associated with Mahabalipuram was staying at Joe Beach Resort along East Coast Road. This is not really a conventional resort. It is a convent run retreat center that recently opened it’s doors to tourists. It is right on the beach, the people are wonderful and everything is spic n span. It is very much like living in a convent that happens to be on the beach. As alcohol is not served, most of the rowdyism associated with normal beach resorts is bypassed here.
The bonus is that the Chef ( Mr. Satish) is excellent at what he does (do try his continental preparations), and the management goes out of its way to make sure you are comfortable. Also, strolling down to the beach along a pathway lined by fruit trees is an experience worth having.
In addition to this resort, hotel Mamalla Bhavan seems to be the go to place in Mahabalipuram, and for good reason. The dosa and coffee we had here were perfect.
So, to summarize, Mahabalipuram has nearly everything. Beaches, architectural wonders, awesome food and great hospitality. No wonder people from Chennai end up here every weekend.