As the cab traverses through the turns and thankfully better roads of Chennai, we observe the hoardings of Amma on all feasible places in the city. Vehicles including private two wheelers also carry her picture on the number plate. Early last year, a similar scene welcomed us in Uttar Pradesh with man made elephants hogging every nook & corner as we entered the state.
The east coast road to Mahabalipuram is decent but the sea on the left is barely visible from the road. Mahabalipuram is an ancient historic town which used to be a shipping port since 1 AD and a famous port city during dynasty of Pallavas in 7th century. Today it is a UNESCO world heritage site. The city itself is not huge and can be viewed in its entirety, along with the Bay of Bengal in the background, from the light house situated in ‘Mahishasur Mardini’ (referring to goddess durga) cave complex.
Traversing through the city on a 100cc scooter is fun and possibly the easiest way to view the city. There are small sculpture factories and shops all over the town, the locals haven’t lost any of their brilliant skills.
Most locals speak only Tamil and don’t understand our ‘alleged’ national language Hindi. Their english was nothing to write home about, but that never stopped them from being courteous and helpful. Got to love the Tamilians! Early morning breakfasts were the usually expected Idli Sambar, Dosa, Wada and upma – but they were in abundance and every single morning it felt like a feast!
The Mahishasur Mardini Cave is a fabulous peace of art and culture; the view of the cave from the light house gives a completely different perspective. There is a beautiful carving of Durga fighting Mahishasur inside the cave along with Lord Vishnu in yogic sleep.
Apart from the temples and architecture, the land also boosts of the world’s largest sea shell museum which is a must see. It also has a very small aquarium and store attached to it. Ah well, one can even feed the fishes. The person incharge of aquarium was kind to explain us the speciality of some of the fishes kept at their disposal. However, the aquarium is really small & nothing to write home about. The sea shell museum though is absolutely fascinating for anyone with a minuscule interest in sea shells.
We couldn’t forego the opportunity to visit the silk town of Kanchipuram, which is a busy town full of old temples and off-course famous for the best silk sarees. If you want to see old indian architecture, there isn’t a better place than Kanchipuram. I missed my SLR but tried to make use of the phone as best as i could throughout the trip.
The Ekambaranathar Temple in Kanchipuram, dedicated to lord Shiva and about 1100 years old, is absolutely fascinating with one thousand plus shiv lingas. The temple also boosts of a mango tree that is supposedly 3500 years old with four different types of mangoes on each of its four branches. Legend has it that Goddess Parvathy meditated under this very tree before Lord Shiva was impressed.
Sunrise from the east coast is a beautiful sight, a sight that invigorates and provides new hope. We knew very little about the town and were expecting to see fully functional temples (which we did find in Kanchipuram) but were pleasantly surprised to see some marvellous piece of architecture, monolithic carvings and beautiful clean sea – a rare commodity in Mumbai. Overall the time spent at Mamallapuram, as the locals call it, or Mahabalipuram was divinely peaceful.