Once the hub of trade and commerce in ancient and early medieval India, Mahabalipuram is now a well-known tourist destination, owing to its many heritage structures that fall under the UNESCO Group of Monuments. The town is also called Mamallapuram by locals.
Mamallapuram became an important commercial centre in the 6th century CE, during the rule of Pallava king Simha Vishnu. This was an era of great political churnings that saw Pallavas competing for power with Pandyas, Cheras, and Cholas According to historical findings, the town was once a thriving seaport with connections to Sri Lanka, China, and other South-East Asian countries.
Among the textual references are – Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, a Greek navigation book, that mentions Mamallapuram as a thriving port and Ptolemy refers to the place as Malange.
Most of the medieval European travellers had described seven shore temples in, while only two are now seen.
Despite being the home to many sculptures, only a few monuments can be visited by tourists as most of them are believed to be submerged under water, either due to repeated floods during or rising sea levels. The temples and sculptures have all been hewn from stones and granite and have withstood the ravages of time till date.
Some of the popular places to visit at Mamallapuram include:
Krishna’s Butter Ball
On average, the crowd-pulling Mamallapuram beach attracts about 50-thousand tourists a day, which sometimes goes up to 1.5 lakh during weekends and holidays. Currently, the sites are all maintained by the Archaeological Society of India (ASI).