The monuments at Mahabalipuram are located on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal in Kanchipuram district in the state of Tamil Nadu, India. There are about 40 sanctuaries, including the world's largest open-air rocky shelter. These monuments include - Dharmaraja Rath, Arjuna Rath, Bhima Rath, Draupadi Rath, Nakula Sahadeva Rathas Five Rathas and Ganesh Rath. The Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram was declared a World Heritage Site in the year 1984.
Mahabalipuram was a seaport at the time of Peripals (first century AD) and Ptolemy (140 AD). The city of Mamallapuram was found 2000 years ago. It was a very big port and it gave the address of India to many merchants. It was the second capital of the great Pallava ruler Narasimha Varman - I (630–68 AD). Mahabalipuram has several temples - Krishna Cave Temple, Mahishasuramardhini Mandapa, Araha Cave Temple, Pancha Pandava Cave Temple, and Structural Temples are Coastal Temple and Olakkanneshwar Temple. The Union Ministry of Tourism and Culture looks after the conservation of this site. The Ministry of Tourism is also running a project named 'Integrate Development of Mamallapuram' for its protection.
The Shore Temple of the coastal village Mahabalipuram, 50 km from Madras, was constructed during the rule of Rajasimha in the 7th century. This temple with beautiful polygonal domes has idols of Lord Vishnu and Shiva belongs to the Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the oldest rock-cut temples of South India.
Rath Cave Temple
The unique chariot cave temples of Mahabalipuram were constructed during the reign of the Pallava king Narasimha in the 7th and 8th centuries. These temples, cut by stones, reflect the grand architecture of the Pallava rulers. This temple is built to depict the glory of Shiva along with its chariots (temples in the form of chariots), Mandapa (cave sanctuaries), and giant open-air shelters such as the famous 'Descent of the Ganges'. Known for thousands of sculptures.
Mahabalipuram has 8 chariots out of which 5 are named after the Pandavas (five brothers) of Mahabharata and one is Draupadi. Bhima Rath, Dharmaraja Rath, Arjuna Rath, Nakula Sahadeva Rath, and Draupadi Rath can be seen here. The style of construction of these temples was based on Buddhist viharas and Chaitya style. The incomplete three-story Dharmaraja Rath is the largest. Draupadi's chariot is the smallest. It is on one floor and its roof resembles the thatched roof. Arjun’s chariot is dedicated to Lord Shiva while Draupadi's chariot is to Goddess Durga.
Olakkananeswar Temple ('Burning Eyes', commonly called Olakkannath, also known as 'Old Lighthouse'), is located at Mahabalipuram in Kanchipuram district in the state of Tamil Nadu, India. It is a structural temple similar to the coastal temple. It was constructed during the 8th century. It is built on a rock just above the Mahishasuramardhini Mandapa from where the entire city can be seen. It is dedicated to an avatar of Lord Shiva. The temple belongs to the Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram. This temple is sometimes called 'Mahishasura Temple'.
How to reach Group of Monuments
The nearest railway station is the Chengalpattu Railway Station which is located at a distance of 29 km from the city and one can hire a taxi to reach temples. While the nearest airport is situated in Chennai at a distance of 58 km. The city has well-connected and well-maintained roads where one can drive.
Best time to visit Group of Monuments
Mahabalipuram is a coastal town that experiences a tropical climate throughout the year. The winter season is the best time to visit here when the climatic conditions remain pleasant. The monsoon season experiences heavy rainfall sometimes due to which the sightseeing tour becomes difficult. The early mornings and evenings are a good time to visit the temple as the cool breeze blows which is an escape from the scorching heat of the day time.
Places to visit near Group of Monuments
Mahabalipuram boasts of famous temples and architectural marvels. This city has a plethora of famous tourist attractions and the places to visit near the Group of Monuments are Arjun’s Penance, Mahabalipuram Beach, India Seashell Museum, Alamparai Fort, Sadras, Pancha Rathas, etc.