"Mamallapuram" Mamallapuram by tayloretc

Mamallapuram Travel Guide: 176 reviews and 681 photos

Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram) is important enough a site to warrant nearly four full pages in the Eyewitness Travel Guide to India. There's good reason behind it, it's a stunning display of artistry in stone, some of which is set in a startling bouldered landscape dropped suddenly in the middle of miles and miles of flat scrub bordering the flat sea.

The fame means it's packed with tourists. Besides the tourists there are people plying souvenirs around every apparently peaceful corner in the main park. There are no peaceful corners near the Shore Temple or the Five Rathas, although the entrance fee means hawkers stay outside the fences. So contemplating the artistry can be difficult. But it's unlike anywhere else, and worth the time to stop by.

The town near the major sites is, understandably, given over to shops catering to the tourists. They range from decent quality (somewhat over-priced) to lesser quality (substantially over-priced). On the road to the Five Rathas there are workshops where you can watch stone workers create the sculpture that's for sale everywhere. If you ever needed a ten-foot-tall stone elephant or a human-size Lakshmi, you’ll find it. At the very least you’ll find someone who will be happy to carve you one, and arrange for shipping. I even saw a life-size kangaroo.

There are plenty of crafts stores with good selections scattered through the village off the beach, mostly north of the Shore Temple. It takes some wandering, and there’s a harder sell than I’ve found in other parts of southern India. There are also some (undoubtedly massively over-priced) “old things” stores on the main road, which have some interesting things, if you have the time to look and the fortitude to negotiate. I found a small shop with musical instruments just off the beach where the owner makes south Indian drums - very good work, much lower price than I've seen elsewhere. Nice man, too.

It's a good day trip from Chennai. Buses run regularly, but you can just as easily hire a car. The drive down the East Coast Highway is pleasant, and a car gives you the chance to stop by Dakshina Chitra (reconstructions of typical houses and buildings from across southern India) or the Crocodile Park on the way back.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Magnificent artistry
  • Cons:Way too many people
  • In a nutshell:Worth seeing as a day trip.
  • Last visit to Mamallapuram: Oct 2006
  • Intro Updated Oct 10, 2006
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