About 1 1/2 hours drive north of Pondicherry in Tamil Nadu is the marvellous Mamallapuram. It is a delightful seaside town with lots to offer. Due to its wonderful rock carvings it is now a World Heritage site.
There are two main areas to view the stone carvings and I recommend you visit them both. The first is right on the beachfront and is called the Shore Temple. It was originally constructed around the middle of the 7th century. The rock carvings here abound and are beautiful to look at. The temple houses two Shiva shrines and a lovely reclining Vishnu. The second area of carvings is the Five Rathas located a short auto rickshaw ride out on the outskirts of Mamallapuram. You can buy a ticket when you first arrive at Mamallapuram which will allow you to visit all the carving areas. This ticket is much cheaper than paying individually to visit each location. The ticket costs 250 rupees. Located just north of one of the Rathas is a huge boulder known as Krishna’s Butter Ball. It balances on a steep hillside and is a favourite place to sit in the afternoons. For those who love to trinket shop there is a massive trinket market just near the Five Rathas.
Not only has Mamallapuram got ancient stone carvings to visit but it is a hub for present day stone carvers. Many are located on Othavadai Street (which travels down to the beach). There are many carvings for sale from a tiny pendant to a huge statue for your garden (postage not included!). My son sat with a carver for a whole afternoon and the talented man taught him to carve a small gecko. My son loved it so much I thought he might stay forever!
Mamallapuram is a wonderful town to walk around. The shopping is great. There were leather sandalmakers who fit you while you wait. An amazing hammock shop sold multi-coloured hammocks of all shapes and sizes. There were also a lot of tailors located in Othavadai Street. One of the most quaint experiences we had at Mamallapuram was having our fortune told by a budgerigar. He chose one wooden book which contained our horoscope out of a whole pile. Unfortunately the delightful man’s English was not great but we got the gist of how successful we would be! A real Indian experience…
In Mamallapuram we stayed at the well priced Hotel Mamalla Heritage www.hotelmamallaheritage.com This hotel was the perfect location to walk to town. We could see Krishna’s Butter Ball from our bedroom window ~ amazing! The hotel has a very clean pool which was great to cool off in the afternoon. There were two restaurants. Both were fantastic and very reasonably priced. We had a lovely dinner in the roof top restaurant looking over Mamallapuram.