Sunday, May 29, 2011

Mahabalipuram Trip - Part 1: Shore Temple

First Impression: It was my first visit to Chennai and the first sight when we(me, Manju and Harish) reached Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus or CMBT at Koyambedu on a Monday morning was not a pleasant one. Several bays in the bus stand full of plastic and garbage made it an eyesore. Coming out from there, we were greeted by several auto drivers making a beeline for potential passengers, a familiar scene in any Indian city. Well aware of the fact that Chennai auto drivers do not use meters for charging customers, we went to the prepaid counter to get an auto to Virugambakkam. Though the guy at the counter issued a receipt which was half the price others were quoting right at the gate, we soon realized that was more than double the price we would have paid in Bangalore for the same distance(around 3-4 km's)Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram
Shore Temple amidst greenary
Oh no, Traffic Jam here too! : Jammed traffic was an inconvenience which did delay the process of reaching our venue. When asked about the jams, auto driver maintained that it was only on Mondays. But roads dug up for Chennai metro work indicated it was not a weekly affair. Having a Tamil speaking guy(Harish) in our group made things simpler when we had to inquire with the hotel receptionist in Tamil about the booked rooms. We had come for a friend's wedding which was scheduled in the evening. So, we had a whole day free to explore in and around the city. With my interest in historical places, I already had Mahabalipuram in mind. After checking into our room, we got a call from our bridegroom-friend. First thing he asked was whether the AC is working properly. We thought it was the right question to ask in a city like Chennai, where temperatures can rise up to 42 degree Celsius. On the other hand, Harish's friends in Chennai advised against going to Mahabalipuram because of two reasons, chief being the hot weather and the time it will take to reach there tackling Chennai traffic. But we had already made up our mind. Soon, we called up a taxi guy for a day's rental.Close up of Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram
Close up of Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram
ECR : When we started from Virumbakkam, it was around 11 30 am. Though we had to counter the Chennai traffic again, once we reached East Coast Road(ECR), it was a smooth drive. ECR running along the sea coast is dotted with resorts. Thought it would be good option to try next time. 60 km distance was not a long one and after one and half hours, at around 1 pm, we were at the outskirts of Mahabalipuram getting down for lunch. Ready to experiment with the East coast sea food cuisine, I ordered a fish curry only to find it not good:( Oh! Forgot the name of the fish too!Front view of Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram
Front view of Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram
Shore Temple : Entering Mahabalipuram, first we stopped at the Shore temple, picture of which you will find in travel brouchers or in google image results! This is the first historical temple, I have seen at the sea shore. Amazing sight it is - with sea waves on one side and an architectural wonder on the other. Green pasture around the temple is well maintained by Archaeological Survey of India(ASI) and gives the temple the unique look. Unlike the temples in the main land, temples at the sea shore suffer from erosion. It was evident from the lack of fine carvings, if you see the temple today. But it should be noted this has been in existence for more than 1300 years now. The temple dates back to 700-728 AD during the reign of Pallavas. Though it seems like there are 2 shrines looking at the 2 gopuras, there are in fact 3 shrines. Main sanctum sanctorum of Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram
Main sanctum sanctorum of Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram
2 of the bigger shrines with gopurams are dedicated to God Shiva and the smaller shrine in between is dedicated to God Vishnu, thus honoring the beliefs of both Shaiva and Vaishnava sects. This is very rare as you will find either temples dedicated to either God Shiva or Vishnu in other historical places in India. Main sanctum sanctorum (garbha gudi) houses big Shivalinga. But as I clicked flash on my camera there, I could hear some creaky sounds from inside the temple. When we went to see what is it, battalion of bats was hanging from the roof. It seemed ironical that even after being one of the World heritage sites in India, place was in such a pathetic condition. Then we went to the Vishnu shrine where a reclining Vishnu idol is carved. Yet to find the significance of the carving of reclining Vishnu.Reclined Vishnu Idol, Mahabalipuram
Reclined Vishnu Idol, Mahabalipuram
Camera Fiasco : Soon after that we had the inevitable photo sessions at the historical place, some for Facebook and some for the memories!! When we had to take a group photo, we handed over the digital camera to a guy who sincerely told us he does not how to take a picture using it. As usual, we insisted to hold the click button for a few seconds. To our surprise, he held the camera in opposite direction about to take a picture of himself without knowing where the click button was. Now, we were sure that we gave the equipment to the wrong guy. It also made us feel we should not take things granted like this - assuming everyone in the world knows how to operate a digital camera! Fortunately we found another person who knew how to use it.
CarvingsBang on Target : After the shore temple visit, our immediate destination was the beach nearby. On the way, we could spot a Thiruvalluvar statue. Nearby that we saw few people standing around the balloon shooting place. We took a plunge. Harish was the first to pick the gun for the shots and he had all six bullets on target - six balloons busted. When our turn came, me and Manju drew blank - none of the bullets made an impact! Walking on the sand, we went on to touch waves of Bay of Bengal. Till today, I have seen only Arabian sea. So, to have a glimpse of Bay of Bengal in Mahabalipuram was special. Though the sea, the waves were the same here too :), sun over the top was hotter than West coast of India. Without spending much time, we headed back to our next destinations - Pancha Rathas. While returning from the sea shore, inspired by Harish's performance, I picked the gun again - this time the score was better - 3 out of 6 shots were on target!Thiruvalluvar Statue, Mahabalipuram
Thiruvalluvar Statue, Mahabalipuram

Bay of Bengal, Mahabalipuram
Bay of Bengal, Mahabalipuram

Idols on display, Mahabalipuram
Idols on display, Mahabalipuram

To be continued...


  1. Nice and detailed write-up Raveesh..I enjoyed reading it. As you mentioned, although the temperature wasn't anywhere close to Chennai's peak summer temperatures, that day I sweat out a lot. And the traffic chaos was unexplainable, I used to curse the traffic here in Bangalore, but "namma Bengaluru" is better than the roads that we took to reach marriage hall from the hotel (it took more than an hour to get across 6-7 KMs!)..

  2. Thanks Anjan for your comments. Ya, even I felt Bangalore traffic jam was bearable than the Chennai one on that day!

  3. finally ! ..
    we missed ur postings .. welcome back to world of blogging !



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