Mahabalipuram Sthala Sayana Perumal temple also called as Thirukadalmallai temple, dedicated to Lord Vishnu is Dravidian style architecture. It is one of the 108 Vaishnavite Divya Desam and located at Mamallapuram 60 Kms from the City of Chennai. Presiding deities are Sthala Sayana Perumal and Nilamangai Thayar. It is the birthplace of Boothathazhvar, the second of the 12 Alwars of Vaishnavism. This temple is a part of the 32 monuments of Mahabalipuram, maintained by the Hindu Religious and Endowment Board of the Government of TamilNadu. Thirumangai Azhwar and Boothathazhvar sanctify this temple in the Nalayira Divyaprabandam through their hymns. Thirumangai Azhwar considers the reclining form of Vishnu special as it is the only place where Lord Vishnu reclines on the ground instead of the customary Adiseshan and Tiruparkadal [ocean of milk]. Shrine of Lord Narasimha and Adivaraha are located near the sea shore. Lord is known as “Valvendai Gnanapiran”. It is believed that there were originally seven temples here. Only one stood against the ferocious sea. The 14th century Vijayanagara King Parankusan shifted the temple to the present location away from the shore to prevent the Sea assault and also formed Four Mada Veedhi [Streets] around the temple.
The legend says Rishi Pundarika was once on a penance with 1008 Tamarai [Lotus] flowers to have darshan of Lord Vishnu in his customary recline posture on Adiseshan as Ksheerabdhi Nathan in Thiruparkadal [Ocean of Milk]. He started the impossible task of emptying the water of the sea. Lord Vishnu appears as an old person and asks the sage for food to eat. Sage goes to fetch food for the old man keeping the Lotus Flowers in the custody of the old man. On his return, he finds Lord Vishnu in recline posture, with the garland of the lotus he had entrusted to the old man, on the floor, in an unusual form instead of Adi Sesha Peetam. Since he stood there in that place he is called as the Sthala Sayana Perumal.
Arjuna’s Penance is a 27m x 9m World largest bas-relief. It has over 100 sculptures of Gods, Birds and Beasts and Saints. It is popularly called as Arjuna Penance [Tapas]. It is believed to illustrate an instance from Mahabharata when Arjuna, one of the Pandavas, performed rigorous penance with a prayer to Lord Shiva’s to obtain the Powerful and Divine Bow to destroy the Gauravas. The other name is the “Descent of the Ganges” It is also said in legends that King “Bhagiratha” standing on one leg posture Praying to the Lord to bring the River Ganges Down to earth to please the souls of his ancestors.
Shore Temple was built between 700 728 AD with granite Blocks. As it is on the shore overlooking the Bay of Bengal it is called as the Shore Temples. It was built in Dravidian Style of Architecture. This was a busy port during the reign of Narasimhavarman II. This Shore Temple Complex has One Large and Two Small temples. It is one of the oldest structural excellences of the South India and has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Varaha Cave It is also called as Adhivaraha Cava Temple. It is a rock-cut cave temple of the late 7th Century, which forms a part of the Village on Hilltop 2 km’s from the Main Town. It is the finest testimony of the Viswakarma Sthapathis. The prominent sculpture in the cave is that of Lord Vishnu in the incarnated form of a Varaha Swamy [Boar] rescuing Bhudevi [Mother Earth] from Seas. Many mythical characters have been sculptured on the temple walls and pillars.
Butter Ball A Huge Boulder called as the Butter Ball of Sri Krishna located near the Ganesha Ratha resting on a very narrow rock base. It is believed, as said by the legends that Neither the Kings nor the Elephants who tried to move this Boulder could move it even an inch from there.
Open Air Museum this is a new and modern addition to the town of Mahabalipuram. But it reflects the heritage of the Sangam Era too. Exciting Stone Exhibits made like Stone Chain, Ornamental Wheels, shaped by over 200 sculptors are found here.
Tiger Cave It is 4 Kms from the main monument complex. It was built as an open-air theatre, where cultural programs believed to have been held during the Pallava Period. It has a serene and Calm atmosphere in spite of its nearness to the Sea.
The descent of the Ganges is a monument at Mahabalipuram, on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal, Measuring 96 by 43 feet it is a giant open-air rock relief carved on two monolithic rock boulders. The legend depicted in the bas-relief is the story of the descent of the sacred river the Ganges to earth from the heavens led by Bhagiratha. The waters of the Ganges are believed to possess supernatural powers. The descent of the Ganges and Arjuna’s Penance are portrayed in stone at the Pallava heritage site. The relief is more of a canvas of Indian rock-cut sculpture at its best not seen anywhere in India. It is one of the Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram that were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984.
Pancha Rathas is an example of monolithic Indian rock-cut architecture. Dating from the late 7th century, it is attributed to the reign of King Mahendravarman I and his son Narasimhavarman I (630–680 AD, also called Mamalla, or “great warrior”) of the Pallava Kingdom. An innovation of Narasimhavarman, the structures are without any precedent in Indian architecture. The complex is under the auspices of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site inscribed by UNESCO as Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram. Each of the five monuments in the Pancha Rathas complex resembles a chariot (rath), and each is carved over a single, long stone or monolith, of granite which slopes in the north-south direction with a slight incline. Though sometimes mistakenly referred to as temples, the structures were never consecrated because they were never completed following the death of Narasimhavarman I. The structures are named after the Pancha Pandavas and their common wife Draupadi, of epic Mahabharata fame. In order of their size, they include the Dharmaraja Ratha, Bhima Ratha, Arjuna Ratha, Nakula Sahadeva Ratha, and Draupadi Ratha.
Lighthouse is open to tourists since 2011. It was closed in 2001 following perceived Liberation of Tamil Tiger Elam (LTTE) threat. The first light was commissioned here in 1887. The lighthouse with a circular masonry tower made of natural stone became fully functional in 1904. India’s oldest lighthouse, built around 640 AD by Pallava king Mahendra Pallava stands next to this modern structure. The Pallava era lighthouse is a protected monument, maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India.
Mahishasuramardhini Mandapa (Cave Temple is also known as Yampuri) is an example of Indian rock-cut architecture dating from the late 7th century, of the Pallava dynasty. It is a rock-cut cave temple located on a hill, near a lighthouse, along with other caves in Mamallapuram. It is one of the finest testimonials of ancient Vishwakarma Sthapathis (Vishwakarma sculpture). Mamallapuram, also popularly known as Mahabalipuram, The temple is part of the Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram, a UNESCO World Heritage Site inscribed in 1984. This Cave Temple has many interesting architectural features of which three exquisitely carved reliefs on the cave walls of three sanctums are prominent. One is of Vishnu reclining on the seven hooded serpents, Adisesha, another of Durga, the main deity of the cave temple slaying the buffalo headed demon Mahishasura, and the third sanctum also has a sculpture of Vishnu. The cave also depicts many scenes from the Puranas (Hindu mythology stories in Sanskrit dating from the 5th century AD).