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Mahabalipuram - Group of Monuments

Exploring the World Heritage Site - Group of Monuments Mahabalipuram

sunny

The Group of Monuments Mahabalipuram is a World Heritage Site comprising of rock and rock cut cave temples/monuments scattered around Mahabalipuram, most of them built during the time of Pallava dynasty ruler Narasimhavarman-I (7th Century AD). Being a small place, all the monuments are walk-able from one another, so I do recommend walk!

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) managed site is relatively well maintained and is organized into 3 scattered groups -

  • Sea Shore Temple, located right on the beach.
  • The group comprising of an open rock sculpture (Arjuna's Penance), numerous rock cut cave temples (Ganesha Ratham, Varaha cave, Krishna Mandapam, Trimurti Cave and Mahishasura Mardhini cave) and a large dangerously balanced rock (locally known as God Krishna's ball of butter).
  • The group of 5 monolithic rock cut temples (each temple was cut from a single rock!), known as the Pandava Rathas (referring to the 5 Pandava brothers of Hindu epic Mahabharata).

There is a single entrance fee for all these 3 groups (onetime entry for each group and ticket validity only on the day of purchase) and could be purchased either at the ASI counter at the Shore temple or the one at Pandava Rathas group.

Entrance fees and timings:

  • INR 10 for Indian, SAARC and BIMSTEC citizens whereas it is INR 250 (5 USD) for others. No fee for camera use.
  • 6 am - 6 pm.

Sea Shore Temple and Pandava Rathas should be easily covered in 30 min-1 hr each whereas it should take about 1 - 1.5 hrs to cover the group that starts at Arjuna's Penance. So, overall, assuming relaxed travel, all the 3 groups can be covered in about 3 - 4 hrs. With the Town bus stand on E Raja Street as reference - the Shore temple is 200 m down the beach road, the Arjuna's Penance group is 200 m away in the opposite direction whereas the Pandava Rathas group is 1 km away on the Mada Koil Street.

There is also a handicrafts shopping zone just before the Pandava Rathas group, with shops mostly selling rock/marble sculptures, embroideries and other handicrafts. Though we didn't buy anything there, we did roam around the zone and the handicraft quality was good. But if you plan to buy, do inspect the item clearly and bargain on the prices. There is no such thing as fixed price!!

Best time to visit the Shore Temple is either in the morning before the sun is overhead or in the evening. The other monuments can be covered based on your choice but avoid the time around noon, as it would be quite hot. Do keep a bottle of water handy.

Now for the snaps..:)

The Sea Shore Temple

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Arjuna's Penance and other monuments

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Pandava Rathas

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Posted by arunbaliga 05:45 Archived in India Tagged india mahabalipuram mamallapuram tamil_nadu shore_temple pandava_rathas Comments (0)

Mahabalipuram trip plan

Shore temple, Sun and Sand

sunny

For the Independence day weekend, we zeroed in on Mahabalipuram for a short 2 day break from Bangalore. Mahabalipuram (or Mamallapuram as is known locally) is a coastal town in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, around 60 km south of Chennai. Reaching Chennai's main bus station (CMBT or Koyambedu) after a 7 hr overnight journey from Bangalore, we hopped on a Puducherry (Pondicherry) destined bus and alighted at the Mahabalipuram bypass bus stop.

Getting to Mahabalipuram

Being located on the East Coast Road (ECR) between Chennai and Puducherry, Mahabalipuram is best reached by taxi or bus.
The town bus stand is located on the edge of E Raja street, close to the Shore Temple Road and has direct buses to Puducherry, Chennai and Kanchipuram. There is also an hourly AC Volvo bus service 568C from CMBT costing INR 85/person. Non-AC buses cost around INR 40-50/person.
However, the fastest bus connectivity is via the bypass bus stop on the ECR highway, located about 1.5 km from the town, where you could hop on any of the express buses shuttling between Chennai and Puducherry. Bus journey from Chennai takes about 1.5 hrs.

Things to do

  • Archaeological monuments dating back to the 7th century - Shore Temple and Rock cut temples/monuments (Arjuna's Penance, the 5 Rathas, Mahishamardhini cave, Varaha cave).
  • Beach - surfing and sun bathing, resorts.
  • Geological formations - Krishna's butter ball.

Stay and getting around

Stay close to the beach. There are plenty options for stay and food to suit every budget as the place is getting increasing popular with tourists, including westerners. Radisson Blu, Chariot are among the splurge accommodations. Another splurge option, Vivanta by Taj, though not exactly in Mahabalipuram, is quite close (about 20km north on the ECR at Muttukadu). Mamalla Heritage, on the E Raja Street, is a good mid-range option. It's veg restaurant Golden Palate is quite popular with tourists. On the budget side, there are plenty of hotels and guest houses , especially on E Raja Street and Othavadai Street. We stayed at the budget Hotel Ramakrishna on Othavadai street, it cost us INR 1350/night for non-AC and the beach was just a 2 min walk down the same street.

Among restaurants, there are far more options.

  • Golden Palate , Mamalla Bhavan near the town bus stand and Anand Bhavan count among the pure veg options. We tried all these 3 and we found Golden Palate to be the best.
  • Moon Rakers on Othavadai Street seems quite popular with tourists for their western menu items, alcoholic drinks and seafood options, though I couldn't visit it.
  • Then we have on-beach restaurants, similar to those you find in Goa - mostly seafood options, but with a limited menu and quite OK kind of food and service. However, being exactly on the beach, they provide the best sea view.

Mahabalipuram being a small place, all local attractions could be reached easily by walk and I recommend that!! Rickshaws and local taxis are available too, but unless you are good at price haggling, don't approach them. They are quite expensive and most of them tend to misguide by exaggerating the distance to any attraction. Another option is to get taxi from your hotel, would be little more expensive, but you wouldn't need to bother about anything else.

I ll follow shortly with detailed blog entries of all that we saw and enjoyed in Mahabalipuram.

Posted by arunbaliga 03:18 Archived in India Tagged india mahabalipuram mamallapuram tamil_nadu Comments (0)

The Cave Temples of Dambulla

all seasons in one day
View Off to Sri Lanka: Sigiriya -> Dambulla -> Kandy-> Pinnawala -> Negombo on arunbaliga's travel map.

After Sigiriya, our next stop was Dambulla, a fairly big town in the Central Province of Sri Lanka, about 30min south of Sigiriya by car and about 70km north of Kandy. Dambulla is famous for the Cave Temple, a world heritage site. The major attractions are the 5 caves under an overhanging rock dating back to the 1st-2nd century AD. The caves contain mostly statues and paintings related to Buddha's life. To reach the caves, we climbed up the rock for about 15min. The rock has a gentle slope with both steps as well as a road. However, I would suggest to use the steps for your climb. The entrance is located at the base of the rock just adjacent to a modern day huge golden statue of the seated Buddha.

Entrance tickets for foreigners: 1500 LKR/person ....no discount for SAARC citizens here :-(

The ticket counter is located towards the right of the seated Buddha whereas the path to the caves is on the left. Tickets are checked only at the entrance of the cave after the climb, so don't forget about it before the climb up. The ticket also includes entrance to the cultural museum.

Time spent: About 2 hrs.

Now for the snaps..

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Posted by arunbaliga 08:09 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged temple cave dambulla golden_temple Comments (0)

Sigiriya Rock Fortress

A World Heritage site in Central Province, Sri Lanka


View Off to Sri Lanka: Sigiriya -> Dambulla -> Kandy-> Pinnawala -> Negombo on arunbaliga's travel map.

Sigiriya rock fortress is a 5th Century AD fortress built on a large rock in the central Matale district (Central Province, Sri Lanka - about 20km from Dambulla town). The fortress had served as the capital for a short period of about 2 decades for King Kashyapa and for periods preceding and succeeding it, it was used by Buddhist monks for shelter. Today, little remains of the original fortress, some of the highlights being a moat surrounding the rock, foundations of ancient living quarters and a palace, pools, Ajanta style frescoes and ofcourse, the lion gate (only the paws of the lion survive today and serves as the entrance before the final steep climb). The rock is surrounded by gardens and forests.

Location: About 3-4 km from the touristy hotels and resorts in Sigiriya and within 20-25 km of other nearby tourist spots like Habarana and Dambulla.

Approx time to explore: About 4-5 hrs should be sufficient. The final climb on the rock is a bit steep. In total, there are 1200 steps but it doesn't seem difficult since most of it is broken up into short terraces except for the steep climbs to cave with frescoes and final climb after the lion gate. Visit time is 7am - 5:30pm but preferred to start before 8 - 8:30am or mid afternoon to avoid the midday sun.

Entrance fees: 30 USD for foreigners, 15 USD for SAARC citizens (carry your passport to avail the discount). Car parking free if tickets purchased. Ticket to the Museum is also part of the entrance fee, but it isn't as interesting as the rock itself.

Local Guides: Usually charge about 1000 LKR, but I would suggest to explore on your own without any guidance as it isn't difficult.

Other activities nearby: Go for the Elephant rides!! A 45min - 1 hr ride cost us about 2500 LKR/person.

Now for the snaps !!

Rock view close to the site entrance

Rock view close to the site entrance

Way up near the base

Way up near the base

A cave on the way up

A cave on the way up

Giant squirrel?

Giant squirrel?

On the way up

On the way up

Frescoes in a cave

Frescoes in a cave

Frescoes in a cave

Frescoes in a cave

Mirror wall - a plastered wall said to be so well polished in ancient days for use as a mirror

Mirror wall - a plastered wall said to be so well polished in ancient days for use as a mirror

View from the rock

View from the rock


On the way up

On the way up

Lion Gate before the final climb

Lion Gate before the final climb

Palace ruins on top of the rock

Palace ruins on top of the rock

Water tank on top of the rock

Water tank on top of the rock

Palace ruins on top of the rock

Palace ruins on top of the rock

Posted by arunbaliga 22:41 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged rock fortress sigiriya Comments (0)

Arrival in Sri Lanka & off to Sigiriya

sunny
View Off to Sri Lanka: Sigiriya -> Dambulla -> Kandy-> Pinnawala -> Negombo on arunbaliga's travel map.

Arrived on 6th Dec @ the Bandaranaike Airport (CMB, about 15km from Negombo town, Sri Lanka) around afternoon via a short flight from India. Got my USDs converted to LKR at a Bank counter near the Airport exit. Also purchased a local Dialog SIM at the Airport for 125 LKR + pre-paid top-up of 125 LKR, no documentation was needed to get it. With our car driver we started off towards Sigiriya, about 150 km away from the Airport, expected to be 4-4.5 hrs by car. Late afternoon, had a Sri Lankan rice meal for lunch at a local restaurant on the way.

SL Airlines Airbus

SL Airlines Airbus


Aerial view of the Negombo Lagoon

Aerial view of the Negombo Lagoon


Aerial View of the Negombo Lagoon

Aerial View of the Negombo Lagoon


Buddha @ CMB Airport

Buddha @ CMB Airport


Dutyfree @ CMB Airport

Dutyfree @ CMB Airport

Sri Lankan lunch @ a restaurant on way to Sigiriya

Sri Lankan lunch @ a restaurant on way to Sigiriya

Posted by arunbaliga 21:39 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged sri_lanka negombo Comments (0)

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