Mamallapuram (or Mahabalipuram)

Mamallapuram possesses some wonderful monuments, including some of the earliest remaining stone structures in India, plus (or but, depending on your point of view) it is a beach town. We had a dark room in a nice hotel with a fair restaurant and a great pool, a one-minute walk from the beach. The town is quite touristy, but pleasant anyway. Restaurants serve fresh fish, caught that morning by fishermen living a couple kilometers north of town, but they drown it in hot spices so that it might as well be anything. We note here that the cuisine in Tamil Nadu lives up to its reputation of being even spicier (hotter) than that in the north.

Fisher villagePath to beach
Fisher villlage just north of MamallapuramPath from our hotel to the beach
Beach and shore templeBeach
The beach and the Shore TempleMamallapuram Beach looking north

South of town are the ancient monuments known as the Panch Pandava Rathas, the five chariots of the Pandavas, the heroes of the Indian epic, the Mahabharata. They were not masoned, i.e., made of stones set into place, but were all carved out of the rock around 650CE.

Panch RathasBhima and Dharmaraja Rathas
The Panch RathasBhima and Dharmaraja Rathas
Androgynous ShivaPanch Rathas
Ardhanishvara, or androgynous ShivaLeft to right, Nakul Sahadeva, Draupadi, Arjuna and Bhima Rathas (plus elephant)

The famous Shore Temple is probably the oldest stone-built temple in India, dating from the eighth century. It used to be on the beach, before protection was built all around it, and the wind and the waves have weathered it and rounded off its angles. It is still beautiful anyway and is in a striking locale, right on the sea.

Shore TempleTourists at the Shore Temple
Approaching the Shore Temple from the land sideWestern tourists at the Shore Temple
Shore TempleShore Temple
Weathered sculptureThe Shore Temple

We then took a look at the Krishna Mandapa, a room carved out of the rock, with sculptures of  -- who else? -- Krishna, and a curious rock sculpture known as Arjuna's Penance. In fact, it depicts the fall of the Ganga from heaven to earth after the long period of sanyasa by a rishi, or seer. It is notable for the many sculptures of animals,  naga (serpents) in the river and an entire family of elephants.

Krishna MandapaArjuna's Penance
Krishna MandapaArjuna's Penance

Just north of Mamallapuram is Tiger Cave, park with a shrine to Durga, the goddess in one of her less pleasant moods. 

Tiger CaveDurga at TIger Cave
Durga Shrine at Tiger CaveDurga with her bow attacking the bull monster

The last evening, we took a walk on the beach and came across a stage with enormous speakers which had been set up by an orphanage as some sort of show for the kids. The kids were dancing on the stage and running all over -- and they were anything except shy!

Doggies diggingFishing boat
Doggies digging in the sandFishing boat setting out
Enjoying sunset on the beachKids being photographed on their own insistence
What kids!

The next day, we visited Siv's foster child at Sharma Sheva School, southwest from Mamallapuram. And the day after that, we hit the road.

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