One fine day my friend got seriously freaked out and said, “I want to go to Mahabs – THIS WEEKEND”. When a friend gets so freaked out, I ought to listen to her and promised to accompany her. So we both set off to Mahabs that weekend. Well, Chennai-vasigal (People of Chennai) call Mahabalipuram / Mamallapuram as Mahabs. It’s a pet name kinda.
So we both set off to Mahabs by bus. It was a part by part travel. Home-VGP-Kovalam-Mahabs. I had breakfast and started from home while my friend didn’t. So we dropped in a small hotel and had idly-vada-sambar (the typical south Indian breakfast. U ought to taste it atleast once in life).
Mahabs was constructed during the Mahendra Varma - Narasimha Varma – Parameshwara Varma - Rajasimha Varma Pallava period in 7th to 9th Century, with a majority of contribution by Narasimha Varma. This is not a single piece of monument but a collection of several monuments placed in an assorted way and spread over an area of 8 sq. km. It was a very rocky terrain having several boulders and some hillocks as well. Narasimha Varma with all my passion for art and sculpture, transformed the entire region into a mass of sculptural marvel and it’s called Poetry In Stone. Artisans and sculptors from everywhere were brought here to carry out this process which seems to have lasted for 150 years. Till date, the sculptural spirit hasn’t faded a teeny weenie bit also. Just a simple stroll on the road will make you visit sculptors at every doorstep.
The biggest specialty here is that all these are rock-cut temples. In the sense, each and every monument here is dug out of single pieces of rocks. None of the individual buildings here has 2 or more rocks, each one is a single piece of rock, which is dug out, carved, and decorated meticulously with great care as a single wrong stroke would result in completely destroying the rock – there is no place for correction.
We first went to the main rock-cut regions from the back entrance. First was the huge panel of reliefs. This relief has so many special sculptures. We actually went in through the back entrance so we first hit the Unfinished panel of Great Penance. It’s unfinished when compared to the more popular finished panel. With the backdrop of the light house, this panel has 2 huge boulders which are separated by a deep cavity. This has several unfinished sculptures including the great Bagiratha/Arjuna Penance. And the elephants are not very big here and they are in rather a violent movement. You may relate to this better when I refer to the Finished panel of Great Penance.
From there we directly went to the Pancha Ratha Complex without continuing in the main section. It has an entrance fee of Rs.10. This is the actual hillock region where 5 different temples were built, one in each hillock. The one at the Southern end which is Hut-like is the Draupathi Ratha. Just next to her is Arjuna Ratha coz he was the one who won her hand.
Next is one is Bhima Ratha which is a vast and wide one.
The last one is in the line is Dharmaraja Ratha. Dharmaraja/Dirudrashtrar is the eldest of the Pancha Pandava and so this ratha is a two storeyed one. The last ratha is separated from the other 4 which are in a line. It’s the Nakula-Sahadeva Ratha. Since they both are twins they share the same Ratha.
Apart from this is a huge Elephant, Lion and Nandi (Bull) stand-alone sculptures. All these Ratha’s and Stand-alone statues were sculpted from the top as that is logic. As I told earlier it is all individual single stone. So some of these Rathas are unfinished at the bottom.
Then from there we went back to the main section thru the back entrance and reached the Light House first.
I’ll get back to you with the continuation. Hope to complete in 2 parts. Let’see!!! Its 8 sq. km to be covered!!!
TO GET THERE:
From Tambaram: 50 km via Vandalur, Kelambakkam, ECR
From Tambaram: 50 km via Medavakkam, Sozhinganallur, OMR, ECR
From Thiruvanmiyur: 43 km on ECR
From Pondicherry: 96 km on ECR via Marakkanam
Dedicated to Vaishu