Sunday 13 January 2019

Mahabalipuram – the seaside hamlet with exquisite monuments

When the demon king Mahabali was killed by Vishu, this small fishing hamlet gained its name of Mahabalipuram. It was the King of Pallava dynasty Narasimha Varman, who had earned the title Mamalla – the great wrestler, who changed the name to Mamallapuram. Many renowned artists, poets, artisans, scholars and saints emerged during the reign of Pallavas. Spearheading new styles of art and architecture, Pallava’s mastery and finesse can be seen in the monuments and sculptures of Mahabalipuram. Nowadays it’s fondly known as Mahabs. Get carried away to the land of legends while watching the captivating annual dance festival held for four weeks in Dec-Jan. The prominent performances will be in Indian Classical dance forms such as Bharatanatyam, Kathakali, Kathak and Kuchipudi.


Crashing the waves

The sandy beach here has not really got into Swachh Bharath mission yet, as the sea mainly caters to the fishermen community. Be very mindful of your steps, especially at daybreak. Ignore this and the waves here are a treat to the surfers and body boarders. The last shop on the main street that leads to the beach, is Mumu Surf school. With an intimate knowledge of the waves, the instructors here will show you the best way to ride a wave. If you are more of a self-taught person, feel free to rent the boards and figure the sport yourself. Experience serenity while riding the luscious waves on your surfboard/bodyboard.


Stories carved in stone

The elegant Shore Temple - aptly named – is the solitary survivor of the seven magnificent temples, also called Pagodas. Three exquisitely carved shrines make the Shore Temple, with one dedicated to Lord Vishnu and two to Shiva, one facing east and the other west. This temple represents the first phase of structural temples constructed in Dravidian style and is one of the oldest in South India. A complicated, yet magnificent work of art is Arjuna’s Penance. The carving on the huge rock unfolds a scene of gods, demigods, birds, beasts, and natural scenery. Arjuna is depicted as a Sage undertaking penance to obtain the divine weapon is the focal point.

A further accolade of Pallava’s architecture are the five monuments called Rathas devoted to Pandavas and Draupadi, which look like the chariots of the temple. Four of them are carved out of a single rock. Arjuna’s Ratha has the most graceful figures of gods and mortals, while Dharmaraja’s is the biggest with eight panels of exquisite sculpture. Weighing a whopping 250 ton, the gigantic granite boulder -Krishna’s Butter Ball - resting on a short incline is said to be at the same place for 1200 years. In the early 20th Century, Arthur Havelock -the governor of the city - attempted to move the boulder due to safety concerns with the help of seven elephants, but in vain.


If you want anything carved in stone, Mahabs is the place to get it. From the utility grinding stone for the kitchen to a life-size statue of Buddha, there are skilled stone-smiths around here. Leather products are another highlight of Mahabs. Handcrafted custom-fit footwear, bags, and anything fancy in leather.


Bread and Bed

Oceanside Hotel (+91 7397 468 373, makes for a pleasant stay in Mahabalipuram. The cosy rooms are impeccably clean and so are the bathrooms. The humble owner, Yuvanesh will spare no effort in making your stay as comfortable as it can be, thanks to his vast experience of working with international hotel chains. There are not many restaurants for Indian taste buds around, especially if you are not carnivorous. At the start of Ottavadi street, there is an Ananda Bhavan serving hot Indian dishes– hurry or miss your breakfast at this place. Bread-coffee-pasta restaurants at every nook and corner are hit and miss. Try your luck! Seafood will be fresh and day’s catch will be sold to the seafood restaurants as soon as it arrives.