Mamallapuram, also known as Mahabalipuram, is a town in Kancheepuram district in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is around 60 km south from the city of Chennai. It is an ancient historic town and was a bustling seaport during the time of Periplus (1st century CE) and Ptolemy (140 CE). Ancient Indian traders who went to countries of South East Asia sailed from the seaport of Mahabalipuram.
By the 7th century it was a port city of South Indian dynasty of the Pallavas. It has a group of sanctuaries, which was carved out of rock along the Coromandel coast in the 7th and 8th centuries: rathas (temples in the form of chariots), mandapas (cave sanctuaries), giant open-air rock reliefs such as the famous Descent of the Ganges, and the Shore Temple, with thousands of sculptures to the glory of Shiva. The Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This city has a tropical climate. In winter, there is much less rainfall than in summer. The Köppen-Geiger climate classification is Aw. The average annual temperature in Mahabalipuram is 28.4 °C. In a year, the average rainfall is 1219 mm.The temperatures are highest on average in May, at around 32.6 °C. In January, the average temperature is 24.3 °C. It is the lowest average temperature of the whole year. The variation in the precipitation between the driest and wettest months is 309 mm. The average temperatures vary during the year by 8.3 °C.
Thirukadalmallai, the temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It was also built by Pallava King in order to safeguard the sculptures from the ocean.
Descent of the Ganges or Bagiratha's Penance – a giant open-air rock relief
Varaha Cave Temple – a small rock-cut temple dating back to the 7th century.
The Shore Temple – a structural temple along the Bay of Bengal with the entrance from the western side away from the sea. Recent excavations have revealed new structures here.
Pancha Rathas (Five Chariots) – five monolithic pyramidal structures named after the Pandavas (Arjuna, Bhima, Yudhishtra, Nakula and Sahadeva) and Draupadi. An interesting aspect of the rathas is that, despite their sizes they are not assembled – each of these is carved from one single large piece of stone.
Light House, built in 1894.
The monuments are mostly rock-cut and monolithic, and constitute the early stages of Dravidian architecture where in Buddhist elements of design are prominently visible. They are constituted by cave temples, monolithic rathas (chariots), sculpted reliefs and structural temples. The pillars are of the Dravidian order. The sculptures are excellent examples of Pallava art. They are located in the side of the cliffs near India's Bay of Bengal.
It is believed by some that this area served as a school for young sculptors. The different sculptures, some half finished, may have been examples of different styles of architecture, probably demonstrated by instructors and practiced on by young students.