Mahabalipuram: Ancient and Historical Town in South India
One of the great places to visit while you are in India is the Mahabalipuram town in Kanchipuram district. The town dubbed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. With that being said, the town is surely a must visit place in India.
How to get here?
- From Manila, I took a flight to Kuala Lumpur, that’s approximately 3 hours and 50 minutes travel time.
- Then from Kuala Lumpur, the flight will go to Chennai and it has the same travel time which is almost 4 hours.
Once you landed at the airport, there are three ways to get to Mahabalipuram:
Although there’s no direct train going to Mahabalipuram, you may take the Pothigai Express or any train stations to take you from Chennai to Chengalpattu which takes 1 hour travel time. This will cost you around 140 Indian rupees or $2 to $2.20.
After you arrived at Chengalpattu, you need to hire a taxi to bring you to Mahabalipuram which roughly costs 600 Indian rupees or $9 to $9.30. This journey will take you another 1 hour before you arrived at the ancient town.
Distance between Chennai and Chengalpattu is 31 km
Distance between Chengalpattu and Mahabalipuram is 29 km
There are city buses that you can ride to take you directly to the ancient town; one of them is the CMBT (Chennai Moffusil Bus Terminus) which is located in Koyambedu. There are two routes that you can choose from here.
- East Coast Road (ECR)
- Old Mahabalipuram Road
Going there via bus may take you up to 3 and a half hour of travel time. The cost may start from 200 to 250 Indian rupees or roughly $3 to $4. The distance from Chennai to Mahabalipuram is 52 km.
Well, if you are looking for the most convenient way to go to Mahabalipuram. You can hire a cab from Chennai and bring you directly to Mahabalipuram town. Although, you may want to be careful, as some cab drivers may rip you off.
This will cost you around 600 to 1000 Indian rupees or $9 to $15 for a one-way trip. Riding a cab is also the fastest way to get there, which will only take you 1 and a half hour travel time.
Must-see in Mahabalipuram
Once you arrived at the so-called ancient town of Mahabalipuram. Here are the places that you need to visit there:
It’s because of their magnificent architectures Pancha Rathas are one of the tourist spots in Mahabalipuram that you shouldn’t miss. This is also called Pandava Rathas by the locals. Rathas literally means chariot, and each of them is beautifully crafted by the work of art.
There are five rathas here, namely, Dharmaraja Ratha, Bhima Ratha, Arjuna Ratha, Nakula Sahadeva Ratha, and Draupadi Ratha that you can visit and be amazed how great these temples are.
The Pancha Rathas is located at Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal, and if you stay at a nearby hotel, it will only take you a 6-minute walk to arrive here. The best time to visit here is from December to January.
Operating Hours: 6:00 A.M. – 6:00 P.M
Entrance Fee: 250 INR or $3 to $4
After you visit the five rathas, you may visit another tourist attraction which is the Lighthouse located near Krishna’s Butterball and Descent of the Ganges. You will be stunned how amazing the view from the top of the lighthouse.
Mahishamardini “Rock Cut” Mandapas
Another ancient and historical place to visit is the Mahishamardini “Rock Cut” Mandapas. This has been known also as the Cave Temple or Yampuri. Dated last 7th century, the Indian rock-cut architectural design is a common practice.
This is located at Mada Koil St. and just a 10-minute walk from the Pancha Rathas. So after you visit the five rathas, you can go ahead and see how great this place which is situated on a hilltop.
Operating Hours: 6:00 A.M. – 6:00 P.M
Entrance Fee: Free
Once you are done at the Mahishamardini “Rock Cut” Mandapas, you can go to the next stop which is the Krishna’s Butterball. It will only take you another 6-10 minutes to arrive here by walking.
What’s so good about this place? Well, this giant boulder with 5 meters in diameter, just defies the rules of gravity this sits on the hill and seems like it just stopped from rolling over the town. This became popular not only to the locals but also for the tourists.
With that being said, you may want to consider visiting here during offseason – February to June as it became really crowded over the years.
Descent of the Ganges
Everyone loves to listen to a good story, right? You may also want to see the Descent of the Ganges. They say that there are two stories behind this place and here it is:
- Arjuna’s Penance – Arjuna wished to defeat Kauvaras, and since Shiva was pleased with Arjuna’s penance. Shiva granted the wish and gave the Pasupatha Astra or the God Slayer.
- Descent of the Ganges – Sage Bhagirath performs the penance to get a help in bringing down River Ganga to earth. As same as the first story, Shiva helped and granted the wish.
This is located at the West Raja Road, from the Krishna’s Butterball; it will only take you here in less than 5 minutes by foot.
Of course, you also need to visit the Sculpture Museum, where Hindu mythological characters are sculpted and presented here. This is located on Five Rathas Road, which is just 300 m away from the Descent of the Ganges, like less than 5 minutes you’re here.
Operating Hours: 10:00 A.M. – 5:30 P.M
Entrance Fee: 5 INR or $0.08
You might be thinking that Mahabalipuram is all about temples and ancient stories. Well, you are wrong. There’s also a great spot for relaxation and breathtaking scenery of the Mahabalipuram Beach.
You can do a lot of water sports here like windsurfing, diving, and motor boating and of course enjoying the sun and the view. The beach was also popular for tourist because of the live snake venom extraction at the center and a crocodile bank.
From the Sculpture Museum, it will only take you 10 minutes to arrive at the beach by foot.
Group of Monuments
After sunbathing at the Mahabalipuram beach, let’s go and visit another heritage site. It’s 500 m from the beach and it will only take you 5 minutes to arrive at the 40 sanctuaries that you can visit here in the Group of Monuments.
The place is divided into four classes:
- Mandapas or Cave Temples
- Structural Temples
- Rock Reliefs
Operating Hours: 6:00 A.M – 6:00 P.M
Entrance Fee: 250 INR or $3 – $4
Camera Fee: 25 INR or $0.40
This temple became so popular not only for the locals but even for the tourist. Who wouldn’t be amazed how beautiful the architectural design of the Shore Temple is. Definitely, you will feel peace and tranquility upon a visit.
After you visit the Group of Monuments, just a few steps away, you will reach the Shore Temple. There’s no entrance fee here or operating hours.
Where to Stay?
After a long and tiring travel from airport to airport, the first thing to pop up your mind is to have a good night’s rest. I have found this great accommodation where you can stay with a cozy vibe.
The Chariot Beach Resort is located at Mahabalipuram. Once you got to the town, for example, you rode a bus from the airport, from the Mahabalipuram bus station just head south of E Raja St towards S Mada St wherein you will pass by the Pancha Rathas.
The beach resort itself will leave you in awe, the place was definitely beautiful and the staffs were also friendly and professional. You will feel like you’re someone of higher rank once you arrived at the resort.
For more information and inquiries, you may click here.
Things to Do in Mahabalipuram
You might be wondering if all you can do is visit a lot of temples here and soul-searching. Well, you are wrong. There are still a few things to do while you are staying at Mahabalipuram. And here is the list:
One thing that you can do while you are at the Mahabalipuram Beach is horse riding. There’s a rental fee of 150 INR or $2 to $3 per ride and you can now enjoy the exploring the shores.
Since the Mahabalipuram Beach has enormous waves and not really recommended for swimming. Surfers do love this place. There are shops on the beach that can teach you how to surf. You can visit the Mumu Surf School for assistance.
If you want to learn more about them, click the link here.
Another great adventure that you can do here is diving at the Mahabalipuram Beach is perfect for diving spots. You may check out at Salty Bone Diving for inquiries.
Drink coconuts (fresh)
Who doesn’t want to drink fresh coconuts while enjoying the sun and relaxing near the shore? Everyone surely will love a cold and fresh coconut juice on a hot weather. You should definitely try this.
Have an Ayurvedic massage
Of course, once you are at Mahabalipuram, you should try their Ayurvedic massage. This will rejuvenate your mind and body a 60-minute massage felt like you had your 8 hours of sleep.
There are also great cities that you can visit near Mahabalipuram, one is Chennai, which is the city you came from the airport. The city was once called as Madras until 1996 it was changed into Chennai to promote Tamil culture and language.
Chennai was known as the “Detroit of India” because all big automotive names are here, and all types of vehicles can be seen here. Another one thing, it became the electronic and software hub in the city. The healthcare industry in Chennai is also popular and of course great transport facilities.
Another city that you can visit near Mahabalipuram is Pondicherry. The town has so much to offer that you need to visit. French colonial buildings are visible all throughout the city proper, great food and a lot of beaches to see.
South India is definitely a must visit country and this is just the beginning of your journey here.