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Detail of the Arjuna's Penance bas-relief in Mamallapuram
Mamallapuram or Mahabalipuram is a tourist town 60 km south of Madras made famous by its stone carvings. The most famous monument is the Shore Temple: when lit by moonlight, it is one of the most beautiful locations in the region. The best time to visit is November to March.
Buses arrive in the centre of the town from Thiruvannmalai in Madras and Kanchipuram. You can also catch the bus from Pondicherry at Auroville. A taxi from Madras will cost upwards of Rs. 500-600. The drive from Madras on the East coast road is a wonderful experience.
It's easy to get around the town on foot, though bike rental is also available.
- Shore Temple. The temple is carved from a single piece of stone and has stood for more than 1400 years. Entry US $5 for foreigners (there is a lower price for Indians), also includes entry to the Pancha Pandava Rathas.
- Pancha Pandava Rathas - five "rathas", literally chariots, dating from the 7th century. The sculptures are complemented by some enormous stone animals, including a large elephant.
- Arjuna's Penance - a giant bas-relief filled with detailed carvings, including a family of elephants and monkeys. Nearby is Krishna Madapa, another bas-relief.
- Varaha Cave has four impressive carvings of Vishnu, Gakalakshmi, Trivikama and Durga.
- Mahishamardini Cave. The central carving is of Shiva and Parvati and Murugan
- Krishna's Butterball a giant natural rock perched on a hillside. It provides welcome shade if you dare to sit underneath it!
- The Sculpture Museum, East Raja Street has sculptures.
- Old and new light houses provide views across the area to the sea. There are several unfinished temples nearby, and the December 2004 tsunami exposed more previously submerged temples.
- Bike trips around Tamil Nadu's countryside can be organized by travel agencies in the town.
- Chill on the sandy beach
- Stone carving Local sculptures in the main street leading to the see (after the Tina Shell View Lodge) teach stone carving. You will learn how to sculpt a simple locket, and the longer you'll stay, the more complicated things you'll be able to do. For a simple locket at least 5 hours are needed. For 100 Rs. a day you can learn/work as long as you like everyday (the result is yours of course).
- Stone sculptures made by local artists. You can see them on their work (and also learn it yourself, see #Learn). You can save a lot of money if you buy sculptures in small side roads and not in the main road.
- There are lots of food stands in the centre serving large portions for next-to-nothing prices
- Mamallapuram is famous for its coconut water.
- Ishwarya Guest house approx Rs. 450 ($10).
- Crocodile bank at Vadanemmeli, 15 km on the road back to Chennai. You can feed the reptiles for a small fee.
- Pondicherry In fact, Mamallapuram is a good stopover if you are making a trip from Madras to Pondicherry by road.