Mamallapuram, the once quiet but thriving sea-side village named after the legendary king Mamalla, is today called Mahabalipuram.
Its close proximity to Chennai places Mahabalipuram at the epicentre of tourist activity and adventure sports. It is this locational flavour that gives visitors the advantage to revel in the magic of togetherness and reap the joyous riches of leisure travel steeped in culture, tradition and unadulterated fun.
There is something for everyone here, and most importantly – a rare chance to recharge your batteries and face life afresh.
Braving the elements for centuries with the waves often swirling at its base, the Shore Temple at Mahabalipuram stands a silent sentinel to the power and glory of South Indian architecture. Your first glimpse will reveal two minutely sculpted towers called the gopurams. On these are etched facets of South Indian life and mythology, goddesses, Bharathanatyam, prancing elephants, imposing charioteers and hunters.
The temple has three remarkable shrines within – two dedicated to Lord Shiva and the other to the elegantly reclining Lord Vishnu. The compound wall of the temple is lined with charming sculptures of Nandi – the bull. There is also a huge stone lion with a warrior scrambling on its back, depicting raw courage and fierce bravery treasured in days of yore.
The Krishna Mandapam, situated just a stone’s throw away, is one of the earliest rock-cut temples. There are images of frolicking Lord Krishna who is believed to have lifted the Govardhana mountain to protect His people from the wrath of the Rain God, Indra. Close-by lies the legendary “butter” ball. This is a huge round boulder, perched atop one of the many hillocks that characterises the Mahabalipuram terrain. The butter ball is a strange and mysterious landmark – some say that it is named so because it represents a wad of butter, Lord Krishna’s favourite snack!
Another display of powerful creativity at Mahabalipuram is Arjuna’s Penance, a sculptural marvel crafted from two huge pillars lined up side-by-side. This is one of the biggest open-air rock canvases in the world which is 31 metre long and 9 metre high. The rocks have diverse carvings and represent various aspects of the Universe.
There are over hundred figures of gods, four armed deities, the nagas or serpent celestials, birds, beasts, sages and powerful saints with their hands folded in quiet prayer. There is humour too – for instance, a stone cat is doing rigorous penance, its eyes squeezed shut and oblivious to the delectable stone mice that scamper within easy reach!
The architectural display at Mahabalipuram is sheer nectar in stone – a creativity haven that breathes life into the past and stimulates your intellect.
Catch the catamaran
Hire a catamaran from your resort and go paddling into the wild blue waves of the Bay of Bengal. You can also enjoy the sheer beauty around you as the land recedes and your catamaran is enveloped by layer upon layer of turquoise water. The rickety catamaran is guaranteed to give you a wild ride that no roller-coaster can match – navigating it is a great muscular exercise. Be sure to wear a life-jacket, especially if the sea is rough. You may get swept overboard, but that’s where the excitement is!
Explore the allure
Once you explore the ancient and historical legacy of Mahabalipuram, and the adventure on its wild shores, it is time to enjoy modern attractions in the vicinity.
Here are some outings that you can plan – they are great fun for the entire family.
MGM Dizzee World is one of India’s finest amusement parks and you need five full hours to explore it thoroughly and enjoy all the rides. Don’t miss the Torra-torra, the giant Ferris Wheel, and the Ranger – which is not for the faint-hearted! It will have you hanging upside down for two whole minutes, but at this unique angle, you can drink in the view of the entire park and the gorgeous beach beyond it. There is also a children’s park with miniature rides, beautifully painted houses that kids can climb into and explore. An indoor enclosure has slides, a play area filled with thousands of soft, multi-coloured balls and a video arcade.
If you relish horse-back riding, or walking hand-in-hand as you make your way through a sculpted garden, frolicking by the sea-shore, watching a musical fountain that dances to light and sound in the nights and sharing a single king-sized delicious dosa with your entire family [and still end up wasting huge chunks of it due to sheer magnitude!], VGP Golden Beach is your best holiday haven. The beach also has a small amusement park and play area tucked away, and this provides a great deal of entertainment for children. Also – don’t miss out on the various picturesque photo opportunities inside!
MayaJaal is the last word in New-Age entertainment. Equipped with six cinema screens where one can view the latest English, Hindi and Tamil movies, this multiplex also boasts of a eight-lane bowling alley, a well-maintained creche for tiny tots, a shopping mall where you can purchase exquisite accessories, a fully-functional hi-tech video arcade and an exciting range of palate delights offered by the food court. Step in for fun, rest, and rejuvenation.
Let Go & Chill Out
Rejuvenation for body and soul
Spa Jivaa at Fish Cove Hotels and Resorts can provide the perfect opportunity to unwind and relax. They have facials, full body wraps, steam sessions, and ayurvedic treatments that will help you to detox.
Sports and adventure
Catamaran journeys, scuba-diving, bowling, horse-back riding, go-karting, swimming, parasailing, and jet-skiing are just some of the activities you can sample at Mahabalipuram.
Amusement parks, movies and video arcades.
Art and culture
The annual dance festival is celebrated from December 25, every year, on all Saturdays and government holidays, up to the first week of February. Dancers and musicians of repute from India and abroad thrill the crowds every year. Also, on fare are Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathakali and Odissi recitals.
Mahabalipuram truly provides a vacation that deeply interlinks your mind, body and soul!