Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu – Famous for oldest existing examples of Dravidian art & architecture, declared as a world heritage site by UNESCO

Mamallapuram, previously known as Mahabalipuram dates back to the Tamil Pallava dynasty in the 7th-9th century. The structures here, mostly carved straight out of granite, are among the oldest existing examples of Dravidian (South Indian) architecture. Today’s Mamallapuram is purely a tourist town and one of the major attractions around Chennai. It is declared as a world heritage site by UNESCO. It is one of the most outstanding examples of Dravidian art and architecture and a precious stone in the crown of Tamil Nadu. In a land where you will find some of the best in temple art, Mamallapuram holds its own, and stands as a silent yet eloquent witness to the glory of its creators.

Places to see in Mamallapuram: Mamallapuram is dotted with numerous tourist attractions which includes:

Shore Temple

While visiting Mamallapuram, this is the first spot to visit. The temple was originally constructed during the 7th century and later it was Narasimha Varman II, (Rajasimha) completed the skilled work in his rule. This is one of the oldest of the south Indian Temples which were structural temples constructed in the nature Dravidian style. This shore temple has gained popularity and tourists gather here because it has been listed among the world heritage sites of the UNESCO. The temple is full of designs made by carvings. There are three temples of which two Shiva Temples face east and west respectively. The other one is the VishnuTemple. One can find the beautifully carved twin Dwarka Palaks (gate keepers) at the entrance of the east facing Shiva Temples. On both sides of the temple inside are the marvelous sculptures of Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu with their better halves. The top part of the Shivalinga figure inside the temple is found damaged. There are sculptures of Somaskanda – lord Shiva with his better half, Parvati, and his sons, Skanda and Ganesha are found on the near wall. Apart from Lord Shiva’s sculpture, one can find the sculptures of Narasimha and Goddess Durgha also.  The central shrine is in the form of a rectangle. It has a magnificent statue of lord Vishnu which is known as Sthala Shayana Perumal or Ananthasayana which means sleeping Vishnu. The peculiarity about this particular temple is – Vishnu reclines on the floor listening silently the sounds of names. The figure of Vishnu is found in segments which are to be looked through various doors. The other sculpture is portrayed in such a may that Lord Vishnu seated in mountGaruda helping Gajendra, the elephant, found in the southern wall and the northern wall is the portrayals from the life of lord Krishna. The grand temple is surrounded by mandapas and compound walls. There is a rock-cut of a lion rode by two young women. The lion has a small cut, a square shaped cut in its belly. A huge rock nearby the temple has been the target of the waves to touch it from the ancient days. There is also a carving of a buffalo demon running with a stick in his hand, located in the northern side.

Arjuna’s  Penance

Mamallapuram, is renowned for its magnificent sculpted walls, rathas and the magnificent ShoreTemple. Among the walls, Arjuna’s Penance is fascinating. It is a colossal art form, 27 meters long and 9 meters high and is perhaps the world’s largest sculpted base -relief. It depicts the descent of the Ganga and scenes form the Panchatantra.

Varaha Cave

Varaha Cave is a small rock cut mandapam (hall) with two incarnations of Vishnu-Varaha (boar) and Vamana (dwarf). It also has four brilliant panels of the famous Pallava doorkeepers.

The Krishna Temple

The Krishna Temple is one of the oldest. The walls of the temples depict scenes of pastoral life, one with the image of Krishna lifting the Govardhan Hill in his fingertips to protect his people from Indra.The most spectacular sight at Mahabalipuram is the ShoreTemple a sentinel of history standing up against the lashing waves. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, it is a visual delight with a plethora of architectural display like the compound wall lined with charming sculptures of Nandi, the bull and the figure of Vishnu in the sanctum sanctorum.

Nearby attractions from Mamallapuram: There are many places around Mahabalipuram to be visited. These are:

Cholamadal Artist’s Village

Just 38 km from Mahabalipuram, this village was established in 1965 to promote and develop the traditional art. Exhibitions are regularly put up to exhibit various paintings, Sculptures and crafty articles. The visitors can interact with the artists of the studies in this village.

Dakshina Chitra

This place is 12 km south of the cholamandal village, established in 1984. Separate sectors of Tamilnadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka sculptures are found here. This is a ling museum. One can find traditional architecture, artistry workers, exhibitions, workshops, archival library and graft shops etc. The other major activities here are exhibition of crafts, designs, folk arts etc.


This city lies on the National Highway between Tiruchirappalli and Chennai. It is about 30kms away from Mahabalipuram. The tourists can find remains and ruins of an ancient Vijayanagar fort. There is also a lake named KolavaiLake. Boating facilities are found in the like by the tourism department.


Kovalam is known as Covelong in English, which is a beautiful spot lies 15Kms from Mahabalipuram and 38 Kms from Chennai. This is a small fishing village but now a famous beach resort of the country. One can find remains of historic port and beautiful hotel resorts. The Olive Ridley Turtles visit the beach between November and March to hatch their eggs.


It is about 36 Kms from mahabalipuram on the East Coast Road (ECR). There are facilities that are being developed for boating.

Nithyakalyanaperumal Temple

This is a Hindu pilgrim which is 16 Kms away from Mahabalipuram and is considered to be one of the 108 sacred shrines called as Tirupathi. The deity here is goddess Lakshmi. The events celebrated here are Garuda Sevai, on the Tamil Month Aani, Pooram in Aadi, and spring festival in Vaigasi.


This fine beach resort is 13 Kms away from Mahabalipuram towards Kalpakkam. There is a ruined Dutch Fort. There is also a Dutch cemetery finely carved with headstones and inscriptions in the Dutch languages.


The Anna Zoological Park Vandalur is 35 km from Chennai and 55 km from Mahabalipuram. The area of the Zoo is 1,265 acres and is the largest Zoo in south Asia. The zoo has a natural habitat. There are various animals in this zoo. There are safari tours, Nocturnal Animal House, NaturalMuseum and Aquarium in this zoo.


This water bird sanctuary is 53 km away from Mahabalipuram, established in the year 1858 and the oldest of the country. The land area is about 30 hectares of marshy lard with a lake. 1,00,000 birds which hare migrated from other countries visit here. The birds that visit here are garganey teals, shovellers, pintails, stilts, sandpipers, coot, moorhens and terns. The best time to visit this bird sanctuary is between November and February. The park has couple of watch tourists and a viewing platform. There are bus facilities from Chennai, Tambaram and Chengalpattu to Vedanthangal. There is a forest Rest House too.

Things to do in Mahabalipuram: The department of Tourism of Tamil Nadu conducts world famous dance festivals every Saturdays and Sundays and also during holidays of the months of December and January. The festival is for 4 weeks and dancers all over the country participate and dance on the backdrop of the Arjuna’s penance. Being the ‘Heart of Indian Temple Sculpture’, it has produced many splendid sculptures. The tourists buy many small sculptures and artistry works made by the artisans. Beautiful statues are made of granite stones.

Best time to visit Mamallapuram: The best time to visit Mamallapuram, also called Mahabalipuram is from October to March, when the climate is pleasant and ideal for sightseeing and outings.

How to go ?

By Air

The closest airport to Mamallapuram is at Chennai, which is 58km away. Chennai is well connected to the rest of India and has it’s own international airport as well. From the airport you can hire a cab to get to the small town of Mamallapuram.

By Rail

The nearest railway station is at Chengalpattu 29 kms away. The Chengalpattu station is well connected from Chennai and other parts of Tamil Nadu. From here you can take a bus or taxi to get to Mamallapuram.

By Road

Mamallapuram or Mahabalipuram is well connected with the rest of the state. Buses from Chennai, Pondicherry and Chengalpattu and Kanchipuram are frequent. Most tourists prefer to travel to Mamallapuram by road from Chennai. The road is good and you can rent a car and be driven along the coast – it’s a pleasant and pretty drive.

Where to stay ?

There are plenty of accommodation options in Mamallapuram.

Hotel Sea Breeze : +91-44-27443035, 27443065  Website:
Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay : +91- 800-1800 333  Website:
Chariot Beach Resort: +91 – 44 – 2742 – 5000  Website:
Indeco Hotels: +91 94444 10394, +91 94450 21742  Website:

Note : Phone numbers given above are according to the information available with us. If you find any contact number/s given above is/are incorrect or not in use, please let us know.