India is the land of one of the oldest known civilizations of the world with her history dating around 5000 years back. It’s no wonder that the whole country is full of very old heritage sites, many of them being categorized in the UNESCO world heritage list. One of such places is Mahabalipuram, a coastal city situated at the coast of Bay of Bengal.
Situated at a distance of around 60 km. from Chennai, the capital city of Tamil Nadu, India, this coastal city served as a bustling port in India from 1st CE and became one of the major ports during the rule of Pallava kingdom (7th – 9th CE). The city is also known as Mamallapuram, named after the great Pallava king, Narasimhavarman I – popularly known as “Mamalla” (the great wrestler) because of his huge military might.
Pallavas are known for producing one of the finest architectural specimens of ancient India and Mahabalipuram has got some of the finest specimens of Pallava art. One of the unique features of these architectures is, all these are monolithic, free standing, rock – cut sculptures. The “Group of Monuments” present here are UNESCO world heritage site. Apart from this there are other exquisite pieces of carvings as well, all being rock cut. All these architectures are found within 1 km. radius, spaced out distinctively.
This is one of the most famous, most exquisitely carved monument known as “Descent of the Ganges”. The story goes like – the river Ganges, the most important river in northern India, descended from heaven to the Earth after extreme penance of Bhagiratha, the king of Koshala, a kingdom in ancient India.
Another exquisite carving inside a cave situated here – showing God Vishnu in a reclining posture, sleeping on the serpent, “Ananta”, thus the name “Anantashayan Vishnu”.
There are numerous caves here, each of them an example of wonderful architectural and historical value. I am only showing very few pictures here.
These five most famous rock cut monolithic monuments are in UNESCO heritage list. Though commonly named upon the characters of the Indian epic, “Mahabharata”, practically there is no such resemblance. Sometimes these are referred as ancient temples, but it’s not true as well. These were built just for the sake of art. These buildings show the examples of typical “thatched roof” style of Bengal and multi-storied structures.
Situated just a few paces away from the group of monuments, this temple is situated just beside the Bay of Bengal. It is presumed that there were seven temples in total once – six of them now submerged in the sea. This temple now contains a broken “Shiva Linga” and a “reclining Vishnu” idol. The whole complex overlooking the sea is a beauty to watch.
I visited Mahabalipuram when I was a child – some 20 years back. The place was very desolated at that time and the solitude had a different beauty. Recently I visited there last year. Tourists have increased a lot and that calmness and deep quietness is missing now. But still, these architectures, more than 1500 years old, are standing just like they were – bearing the wrath of time but standing tall, glorifying the ancient heritage of India.
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