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Interesting Facts about Heritage Places in Mahabalipuram that Survived Tsunami Will Leave You Amazed!

Mahabalipuram, a town near Chennai has a rich historical and heritage wrapped within self. Apart from being the  place which is almost water locked from all sides, there are many interesting facts about Mahabalipuram that are noteworthy. The marvel of the must visit places in this town and Mahabalipuram as a whole is that these monuments braved the massive Tsunami that jolted the south-eastern coastal areas of India along with many other neighboring countries. Amidst the massive destruction that was caused by the natural calamity there was a silver lining too which you will come to know on reading the article.

According to the legends and history books, Mahabalipuram or Mamallapuram was called ‘Kadalmalai’ meaning the land of sea and mountain. Later it got its popular name Mahabalipuram after the the kind-hearted asura king Mahabali. However, when the Pallavas started ruling the place, the name was changed again and kept after the name of one the first powerful kings from this dynasty namely Narasimhavarman-I who was also known as Mamallan. Here are the interesting facts about Mahabalipuram and the must visit places when in this coastal town:

  • Shore Temple – ‘The’ monument which has tonnes of interesting facts to tell about Mahabalipuram:

Shore Temple - Interesting facts about Mahabalipuram Source: Copyright www.theotherbraininc.com

Shore Temple – Interesting facts about Mahabalipuram Source: www.theotherbraininc.com

This temple was constructed by the most famous rulers of this region, Pallavas around 600-700 A.D.  Theyused Mahabalipuram as a trading sea port and this temple also acted as the landmark for navigation. This is also the reason that artisans from many foreign lands worked on building of this temple and other monuments in Mahabalipuram. Their cultural influence is quite evident here like the carvings of lion & dragon which is characteristic of Chinese & other South-East Asian countries. It is one of the oldest stone temples in South India.

When seen from a distance it resembles the Dharamraja rath (Chariot). The shore temple is a collection of seven temples or seven pagodas as popularly known. Out of these seven temples five temples are still visible while two temples are submereged in the water. The tip of one such temple can be seen inside the water during a ferry ride which is available near to the beach area.

Shore Temple - Another Portion Interesting facts about Mahabalipuram

Shore Temple – Another Portion Interesting facts about Mahabalipuram

Shore temple was constructed by two kings namely Mahendra Varman -II & Narimha Varman. During this very time, the inception of  another town Kanchipuram as the town for silk cloth making was done. There are about 2000 temples in Kanchipuram and it is said that this is because the workers in the silk factories considered it to be a pious task and so they first used to visit the temple, pay homage to deity and then start their work. Kanchipuram is still famous for its unique silk sarees and clothing material.

It is said that the sculpture in Mahabalipuram and that of Angkor Wat in Cambodia have striking resemblance. The marvel of the sculptures within the temple complex is that with just a chisel & a hammer, workers of that time carved not only beautiful statues and more but also tried to narrate the stories of Gods & Goddess. There are 63 statues of Nandi here. At one place in the temple complex there is a statue of lion which is the vehicle of Goddess Parvati from Hindu mythology. Within this statue itself there is a small sculpture of Goddess and just near to its bottom there is another sculpture of a beheaded deer as a mark of sacrifice to deity.

Tsunami Catastrophe & the Silver Lining:

During the 2004 Tsunami catastrophe, Shore temple was the first monument to get hit in this town but because of its strength, it survived. As per locals thee temple complex was thoroughly covered by sand however once the catastrophe was over on clearing the sand there were a few more sculpted monuments etc. were discovered. These were hidden below the soil before Tsunami came.

The defeat of Pallava kings in a war against the Chalukya dynasty ruler led to this collection of temples being left incomplete.

  • Arjuna’s Penance & Ganga’s Descent Monument:

Arjuna's Penance & Ganga's Descend Monument - Interesting facts about Mahabalipuram

Arjuna’s Penance & Ganga’s Descent Monument – Interesting facts about Mahabalipuram

A monument hardly half kilometer away from Shore Temple stands tall named Arjuna’s Penance. It is also known by thee name of Descent of Ganga Monument. This is because in this monument the sculpture’s that are carved indicate on two narratives that have found their place in the local folklore. One is about Arjuna’s pleading for penance to God post the war at Kurukshetra and the other story is how Bhagirath prayed to God and brought Ganga river on earth.

Here there are 150 different sculptures carved comprising of  various animals like Snake, Cat, Rat, Elephant, Sun, Moon and more while the most bizzare ones being the sculptures of lizard and dragon.

Have you seen this old 10 Rs. note? Check again at Arjuna's Penance & Ganga's Descend Monument - Interesting facts about Mahabalipuram

Have you seen this old 10 Rs. note? Check again at Arjuna’s Penance & Ganga’s Descend Monument – Interesting facts about Mahabalipuram

Further, there is one interesting sculpture that is the favorite spot of all guides. It is the sculpture of a pair of deer which is to the bottom of this monument. The reason for the same is that this deer pair can be noticed on the old 10 Rs. Indian currency note. When late former Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi visited Mahabalipuram for the opening of the nuclear power plant in 1980s, she also visited these monuments and she liked the deer sculpture so much that she recommended it to be used within the design of Rs. 10 bill.

  • Krishna’s Butter Ball:

Only Hercules might be able to shift this rock also known as Krishna's Butter Ball - Interesting facts about Mahabalipuram

Only Hercules might be able to shift this rock! – Interesting facts about Mahabalipuram

Among all the must visit places in Mahabalipuram, Krishna’s Butter Ball as it is popularly known is one that is truly Incredible. Basically it is a gigantic rock that stands tall on a horizontally placed small hilltop like rocky area. Now the incredible thing about it is that it though it in the shape of a ball but it has been standing and balancing at the same place from infinite amount of time. Its color and shape has hardly changed in all these years.

Another monument at Krishna's Butter Ball- Interesting facts about Mahabalipuram

Another monument at Krishna’s Butter Ball- Interesting facts about Mahabalipuram

When Pallavas came to this place it was already there and post that many natural calamities like Tsunami (2004) and acts to push the rock by applying varied kinds of force have failed to deter this rock from its place. Even scientists of various countries have come and done experiments on it to know the reason behind this unfathomable balance.

  • Old Light House:

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The old light house is not in the conventional shape like the modern light houses. It again is a canvas for the then artisans who have left their work in the form of sculptures. As  visible in the previous monuments, here also the sculptures are etched to narrate a story. The architecture found here is of monolithic style and has sculptures of Shesh-nag (snake), Lord Shiva reclining. Some other sculptures here are of Goddess Durga & Mahishasura depicting the story of how Goddess killed the trouble making anti-hero.

On reaching to the top of this old lighthouse there is a sculpture called Dakshina Murthi which has a statue of Shiva inside. From the top of this lighthouse entire Mahabalipuram town along the breathtaking view of Bay is visible on one side making it one of the must visit places in Mahabalipuram. While from the other side of this lighthouse the nuclear power plant located in Kalpakkam is visible.

New Lighthouse as seen from top of Old Lighthouse! - Interesting facts about Mahabalipuram

New Lighthouse as seen from top of Old Lighthouse! – Interesting facts about Mahabalipuram

At a stone’s throwaway distance there is the new lighthouse. However, the heritage beauty in true sense is the old lighthouse which is a protected monument by Archaeological Survey of India.

  • Paanch Rathas:

Another of the monolithic architectural gems in Mahabalipram is the Paanch Rathas. This monument complex also perfectly befits ones purpose of doing a heritage walk in Mahabalipuram within a limited time frame. Paanch rathas monument are said to be excavated only 200 years ago from under the sand.

Paanch Rathas monument - Interesting facts about Mahabalipuram

Paanch Rathas monument – Interesting facts about Mahabalipuram

Here there are five chariot shaped temple like monuments made namely after Arjuna, Dharamraj Yudhistar, Draupadi, Nakul & Sahdev, Bhima. These places are not consecrated though they were meant to be worshiping place.

These chariot monuments vary in shapes & structure. This gives an idea about the advanced status of architecture planning.

After enjoying the beaches of this town, doing a heritage walk and learning interesting facts about Mahabalipuram is amazing. It takes you back to the history chapters that were there during the school time. All these places can very easily be covered in one or maximum two days.

Hotel Sponsor: Chariot Beach Resort {Click here to read the review of Chariot Beach Resort, Mahabalipuram}

21 thoughts on “Interesting Facts about Heritage Places in Mahabalipuram that Survived Tsunami Will Leave You Amazed!

  1. You have listed some best place to see in Mahabalipuram. Last month my parents went to visit Mahabalipuram. Thanks for sharing this incredible and interesting facts about Heritage Places.

  2. I am really amazed to read such interesting things about Mahabalipuram. There is so much that we are not aware of related to our own country. Loved reading the post

  3. Beautifully documented in words and pictures. I am from Tamil Nadu. But Mahabs is one of the few places I haven’t seen yet. Should visit it sometime!

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