Mahabalipuram as the place is called today was known variably as Mallai, Kadal Mallai and Mamallai in ancient Vaishnav hymns of the 6th and 8th century A.D. The place however dates back to early historic times on the evidence of stray pottery and Roman coins. All the monuments in Mahabalipuram, except for the medieval Vishnu temple in the hearth of the village, clearly owe their authorship to the Pallavas of the Simha Vishnu line who ruled from Kanchi (The ancient Kanchi). Mahabaliburam was one of the Pallava ports and a majority of the monuments (Rock cut and monolithic) would seem to belong stylistically to the reign of Narasimha I Varman Mamalla (630-688 AD).
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The reference of “Mahabalipuram” somehow takes me way back into my childhood. I vividly remember the days in the late 80s and 90s when I used to visit my grandparents in Chennai during my summer vacations. My Grandfather use to have a huge repository of stories and I used to spend most of my evenings and bedtime hearing his wonderful stories. One of our favorite topics was revisiting the glory days of the great rulers of Southern India – The Cholas, Pandyas and Pallavas. I have grown hearing from my Grandfather, how the Pallava rulers carved out this wonderful place and have visited this place multiple times – those days it used to be day trips from Chennai.
Move the needle to 2017 and somewhere in the hustle and bustle of city life, Mahabalipuram faded away from my memory as a tourist place. After almost a decade, I got an opportunity to visit this place. My cousin had chosen to get married in Chennai and this gave us a perfect setting to visit Mahabalipuram (stay for couple of nights at the Taj Vivanta, Fishermans Cove) and then drive down the famous ECR (East coast Road) to attend the wedding in Chennai before heading back to Bangalore.
Start at around 6 AM from Bangalore and reach Mahabalipuram by around 1:00 PM. The route that I finalized was Bangalore -> Krishnagiri -> Ambur -> Vellore -> Kanchipuram -> Chengalpattu -> Mahabalipuram. Having driven many a times from Bangalore to Chennai, I am very familiar with this route till Kanchipuram. After Kanchipuram, I had to trust the information that Google maps was navigating me.
Went through the regular routine that I follow before heading out on a road trip. General check up of the vehicle, that includes – tanking up, Tyre pressure check, Brake check and engine oil and other fluid check and top up.
Woke up early and managed to rev up the engine at 6:00 AM. My little one was kind enough to not create a ruckus and behaved like an angel – she had her food and was sleeping tight in her seat within 30 minutes of the drive. It was around 6:30 in the morning when we crossed the Karnataka – Tamil Nadu border. Since we were travelling during a weekday, the early start meant that we had skipped the early morning rush hour.
As we crossed Hosur, the first rays of sunlight started greeting us. It was a clear blue sky and the empty highway (highways traffic is generally thin during week days) meant that we pressed on the gas and reached Krishnagiri in no time. We skipped our usual stop at A2B restaurant as we wanted to make full use of the time when my little one was sleeping.
As you cross Krishnagiri town, keep and eye on the boards as you would need to take a left turn (Route to Chennai). If you end up taking the fly-over, you will end up taking the road heading towards Salem and would have to take a U-turn and join this road.
Punch in this google co-ordinates to ensure that you do not miss the turn: 12.5076014, 78.2223129
The road till Arcot is in excellent condition as it is the National highway that would take you to Chennai. We were able to reach reach Arcot at around 10:45 PM. Few photos that we were able to take en-route
Continue on the National highway towards Kanchipuram. As soon as you cross the Poondi river at Arcot, the road conditions start to deteriorate. The road from Arcot to Kanchipuram is a 4 lane highway, but is also a bit narrow. Since Kanchipuram and Sriperumbudur are one of the industrial belts around Chennai, you will find loads of heavy vehicles plying on this road.
Note: It would be advisable for you to reduce your speed after crossing Arcot. I usually do not cross into triple digit speeds on this road mainly due to the traffic and the sudden pothole / damaged section on the tarmac.
As you reach the outskirts of Kanchipuram, take the by-pass road, unless you want to visit the temple at Kanchipuram. It is one of the famous temples in this part and exemplifies the architectural style of the great Pallavas.
Punch in this google co-ordinates to ensure that you do not miss the turn: 12.8680905,79.6485197
Continue on the by-pass road for another 15-16 kilometers. The road will join the State highway 58 (Kanchipuram – Chengalpattu Road). The road is a 2 lane road and is in decent shape. Traffic was thin and I was able to maintain a steady speed in the range of 70-80 KMPH.
Keep driving on the SH 58 for another 33-34 kilometers before you need to take a left turn to continue driving on the SH 58.
Punch in this google co-ordinates to ensure that you do not miss the turn: 12.6830056, 79.9827862
From here Mahabalipuram is a further 30 Kilometers drive. We followed the road that google suggested and took the left turn at “Teacher’s Colony” ( this turn would be a further 10 kilometers after you took the left turn from GST road). The road was narrow but in good condition. There were couple of occasions when I had to get off the road to let go the bigger vehicles.
Punch in this google co-ordinates to ensure that you do not miss the turn: 12.6251267, 80.0522259
On the hindsight, I think a better option is to continue on the SH 58 and take a turn at SH 49B. Took this road while returning and it was much better.
From here we just followed Google maps and were able to reach in 20 minutes the famous UNESCO site in Mahabalipuram – The “Shore temple”. It was around 12:30 PM when we parked our car at a hotel to have our Lunch before visiting the Shore Temple.
Had one of the best South Indian meals (our rumbling tummy made the meals taste that much more tastier 🙂 ), and visited the Shore temple before heading towards our resort which was a further 20 odd kilometers.
Check-in was a breeze and we were in our room within no time. The customary cold towel and drink, refreshed us and we dumped our luggage in the room and headed straight to the wonderful beach. As I sat there staring at the beautiful “Bay of Bengal”, could not help but feel nostalgic. 30 years might have passed in a jiffy, but the waves were as inviting as they were when I was that a 5 year old kid.
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