It had been a while since my last visit to Chennai so when I got this trip and noticed that I’d have a clear day off whilst there, I tried to find out what I could do in a day. A friend of mine in the UK had lived in the area for a few years so I asked him for suggestions on where to go and what to see. Mamallapuram was high up on the list.
I managed to enthuse three of my colleagues to come with me. The transportation was organised through our hotel. It’s quite a journey to get there, situated about 60km south of Chennai, but we were fortunate, as it was a public holiday there wasn’t the normal volume of traffic on the road; that is one thing to be mindful of if you decide to make the journey.
Once there our driver organised an official guide to show us around this ancient historic town, enlightening us on the various granite sculptures, temples and shrines, giving us an insight in to their culture. It’s a popular attraction with local people too, paying their respects at some of the shrines.
I have a soft spot for elephants and so my favourite sculpture has to be ‘Arjuna’s Penance’ also known as the Descent of the Ganges, which is right beside the area where we met our guide. It’s massive, measuring 27 metres long and standing 9 metres high. I just love the attention to detail. Whether you’re looking for the Gods, animals or birds you will find it all in amongst this incredible bas-relief.
Just behind ‘Arunja’s Penance’ is an enormous ball like structure which looks like it could tumble at any time. This is called Krishna’s Butter Ball and our guide insists on taking our individual photograph ‘holding’ the butter ball in the palm of our hand
We walk through to the next area called Pancha Rathas where the Five Rathas (Five Chariots) are situated, the intricacies of the work is beyond belief. Each one of these is carved from a very large individual piece of stone.
Next we go down towards the waterfront, the Bay of Bengal; this is where you’ll find the Shore Temple. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the oldest structural stone temples in South India. It was built in 700-728 AD. When it was built this area was a busy sea port and it is believed that sailors used the temple as a navigational aid around the seashore.
We caused quite a stir here as there was a group of school children on a visit who were fascinated by us and wanted to practice their English on us. Many of their group were playing hide and seek; with so many nooks and crannies it seemed like the ideal place, although I was quite surprised that you can walk in and around all these sculptures and touch them if you’re so inclined.
We were all feeling quite shattered at this stage, the heat having got to us all, so we decided to head back. On the road to Chennai there’s a resort called Fisherman’s Cove. This area was severely hit by the Tsunami in 2004 and most of it had to be rebuilt. We decided to stop here and have some lunch and relax with a nice cold drink. After a delicious meal we went for a stroll along the white sandy beach. Sitting for a while totally mesmerised by a local fisherman casting his net out by hand whilst in the background a kite surfer cut through the water at great speed, I found the contrasts quite incredible.
All too soon it was time to head back to the city. A wonderful day in every way