Once the capital of the mighty Pallava Kings of Kanchipuram, Mahabalipuram is situated in a small village 59 kilometers from Chennai, along the Bay of Bengal. It is situated amidst scenic landscape and lures countless tourists from all over the world, who pay a visit to Mahabalipuram to experience the virgin beaches and the amazing display of ancient rock cut architecture. The Mahabalipuram temple overlooks the Bay of Bengal on the present day shore and is hence known ads the Shore temple. It is a beautiful structure carved out of granite in the 8th century AD. The presence of this highly revered temple makes Mahabalipuram one of the leading religious places of South India.
The shore temple of Mahabalipuram is among the best known temples of South India. It is a five storeyed Hindu temple, and is more structural than monolithic. It is considered among the most important tourist attractions in Tamilnadu and is also the oldest structural temple in South India. The temple is designed to harness the rays of the sun and in turn illuminate the waters after sunset. Its pyramidal spire rises up to 60 feet. The small temple at the front is said to be the original porch. Facing the sea on the east is the main shrine of the temple, behind which the assembly hall is located. The main shrine is dedicated to Lord Shiva, who is worshipped along with Vishnu here and is surrounded by a number of bulls ( Nandi) built around it.. There are two other shrines, one smaller one dedicated to Shiva, and the other to Lord Vishnu. In modern times, a stone wall has been constructed to protect the temple from rising sea levels and to prevent it from eroding its walls.
The Shivalingam, (phallic form of Lord Shiva) is enshrined in the garbhagriha the inner chamber which is surrounded by a thick outer wall. The two shrines mentioned above face themselves at opposite directions. Facing the temple is Durga, the powerful Goddess, seated on her lion. There’s a small cavity in the lion’s chest. It is possible that this may have been another shrine belonging to the temple.
Mahabalipuram is famous for the splendid collection of rock cut sculptures, bas reliefs, and cave temples. The shore temple is among the major attractions of Mahabalipuram, along with rock based art like the descent of Ganges, a bas relief, Arjuna’s penance, an elaborate relief work, the varaha cave temple, and the five rock cut chariots named after the Pandavas.
Mahabalipuram can be reached easily from Chennai and other nearby towns by all three modes of transport. Chennai is connected to the country by a number of well connected flights. Numerous domestic flights are available. Chengalpattu and Chennai are the nearest railway stations offering a number of express trains for travelers. Bus services are available from Chennai, Kanchipuram and Pondicherry to Mahabalipuram.
For more information about the Mahabalipuram temple and other temples in South India, log on to touristplacesinindia.com.