5 Best Things To See At Mahabalipuram

Mahabalipuram, also called Mamallapuram, situated on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal, is not just any beach town. It is a beach town with history, famous for ancient architecture, monuments, and sculptures. Therefore there are loads of things to see at Mahabalipuram even though it is a town spread over a small area. The Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram has been classified as UNESCO World Heritage Site and each one portrays extensive work of art. Mahabalipuram is very close to Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu.

Group of Monuments & Other Things to See at Mahabalipuram

What makes the Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram so exclusive? Most of the majestic structures which we find at Mahabalipuram were created by the Pallavas (6th – 9th Century). These are monolithic temples, rock-cut cave temples, bas-relief sculptures, structural temples, and the Shore Temple and its excavated remains. Since 1984 the Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram has been declared UNESCO World Heritage Site. All the ancient monuments are maintained and managed by the Archaeological Survey of India(ASI). Besides the wonderful beach and Group of Monuments, there are some other things to see at Mahabalipuram too- comparatively newer structures like the new Lighthouse, some amazing beach resorts with seafood and cool spas, and stores of stone curved statues and sculpture museum.

Mahishasuramardini Cave Temple, Olakkanesvara Temple & Lighthouse

Mahishasuramardini Mandapa is a rock-cut cave temple of the 7th Century located on a hill. This temple is famous for its amazing set of sculptures. One of them is that of Devi Mahishasuramardini (Devi Durga) slaying the buffalo-headed Ashura (demon) Mahishasura. The other sculptures are those of Vishnu and Shiva. Above this temple on another hillock stands the Olakkanesvara Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva. Till the 19th Century, worship was offered in this temple. This temple was first used as the lighthouse, being so close to the shore and being located so high. In fact, we can call the Olakkanesvara Temple India's first lighthouse. The new lighthouse which we see here today is made of stone and was built in 1887. Not only these things to see at Mahabalipuram are architectural gems but nature also plays an eminent role here. From the top of the lighthouse and the temple, the 360-degree view of the beach town is mesmerizing. We sat on a flat rock and watched the sunset which washed away all our tiredness from the long journey.


Pancharathas is a complex with amazing sculptures and 5 monuments. Each of these 5 monuments resembles a chariot and each differs in shape and size. They are curved out of monolith (single stone) and are dedicated to the Pancha Pandavas (the 5 Pandava brothers from Mahabharata). In order of their size, they are Dharmaraja Ratha, Bhima Ratha, Arjuna Ratha, Nakula Sahadeva Ratha, and Draupadi Ratha. Then there are sculptures of Nandi, Shiva's bull, and Airavata, Indra's white elephant. The Pancharathas is one of the most amazing things to see at Mahabalipuram because of the sculptures and frescos.

Arjuna's Penance & Krishna's Butter Ball

96 by 43 feet, giant open-air rock relief, carved on 2 monolith boulders are called ‘Descent of the Ganges' and/ or ‘Arjuna's Penance'. It is called so because the carvings on the rock depict the legend of the descent of the sacred river Ganges (Ganga) and Arjuna's penance. The carvings consist of several figurines; of Gods, Goddesses, Kinnara, Gandharva, Apsara, Gana, Nagas, and animals. The almost life-size carvings of the elephants attract attention first. This place has other cave temples with amazing sculptures and frescos and some isolated temples here and there. Krishna Mandapam and Varaha Cave are two beautiful cave temples just beside ‘Arjuna's Penance'. And then walking a little further we finally reach ‘Krishna's Butter Ball'. ‘Krishna's Butter Ball' is a huge round balancing boulder. It is perched on a slope yet defies gravity and doesn't roll down. Tourists find it mysterious and the locals compare it to a large dollop of butter which baby Krishna loved to eat.

The Shore Temple

One of the major things to see at Mahabalipuram is the magical Shore Temple. It is situated very close to ‘Arjuna's Penance'. Made of granite and carvings of black basalt stone, the chariot-like temple is a work of art. The temple has chambers dedicated to Ksatriyasimnesvara, Lord Vishnu, and Lord Shiva. The entire compound wall surrounding the temples is sculpted with large sculptures of bulls, Nandi, and Lord Shiva's mount. Sculptures of lions, Varaha (boar), and elephants are also seen. There are some ornamental monolith structures all around the temple some of which were found in the 2004's Tsunami. The temple is situated on the rocky shore and is surrounded by Casuarina and pines. The site is extremely pleasing and serene.

Hiuen Tsang and Marco Polo have mentioned Mamallapuram as a busy port and its shore temples. They called them the Seven Pagodas of Mamallapuram. This temple is one of those. The rest are most likely under the sea.

When and How to Visit Mahabalipuram

October to March is the best season to visit Mahabalipuram. Winter is the best time because the coastal region is extremely sultry in summer. Monsoons prevent site seeing.

Mahabalipuram is only 58 kilometers from Chennai and takes around 1.5 hours to reach by car. Most of the site seeing spots in the town is close by, within 2 to 2.5 kilometers, and can be covered on foot or by auto or rented car.



A versatile writer and travel freak, discovering the world in her own casual way. Loves to immerse into the core of Mother Nature and extract her inherent beauty.

Please share your valuable comments and feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

error: Content is protected !!
%d bloggers like this: