Rock Carvings in Mamallapuram

Our descent from the luxury of the hotel we stayed at for Sarah’s birthday was pretty rapid and all of a sudden we were sat on a local bus sweating in the heat and praying that it would pull away from the bus station so that some air would start flowing and we would cool down. Once the bus was moving though we were positively flying up a dual carriageway on our way to Mamallapurum.

On arrival Mamallapurum is quite obviously a touristy town for both western and Indian tourists. The road we were staying on was packed full of restaurants, shops and hotels. It had a little bit of charm but not much. Our hotel was definitely budget when we moved in and our room was meant to have a balcony, a TV (for the IPL cricket), a seating area and hot water. Well 0/4 for this place but at least there wasn’t any hot water as cold showers were all we wanted. They offered us the option of upgrading to the room we had booked for twice the amount of money (how nice!). 

Anyway a fan, a bed, a toilet and a shower is all we really need. We settled back for the, now habitual, relax through the hottest part of the day. The “feels like” temperature was registering at 48!! It’s just too hot to do anything so activities at the moment are confined to the morning and the afternoon.

Come 4pm it was starting to cool off a little so we dragged ourselves out to have a wander around town towards a park where there were rock carvings. The town is famous for its rock carvings, most of which date back to the 7th century. We weren’t the only people to think a walk through the park would be a good idea and when we arrived the place was full of people. Groups were playing cricket, couples were enjoying romantic strolls, the occasional westerner was spotted and the most common group were groups of boys all taking photos of each other in well devised poses. In fact the people watching was almost as good as anything else and of course we were asked to pose for plenty of photos too!!

We clambered up and down rocks and saw various stone temples and carvings which were all very impressive. We were particularly impressed by the temples which had been carved out of the side of these huge boulders. The detail in the work was meticulous and this area was only meant to be the warm up!

Just outside the park was the Arjuna’s Penance which consisted of two huge boulders with intricate carvings covering the entire face of each of them. The carvings depict Hindu gods and stories from South Indian life and it is considered to be one of India’s best pieces of ancient artwork and to say the least it was pretty impressive.  

The next morning we got up early to beat the heat and headed down to the beach to see the Shore Temple. Built rather than carved out of stone it was constructed in the 8th century and is now suffering from quite a bit of erosion but was still spectacular. We had saved the best for last and caught a rickshaw to the 5 Rathas. These were basically 5 temples carved out of huge boulders surrounded by a host of other statues.

The whole area was unlike anything we had seen before and it was almost unbelievable that the buildings were all carved out of stone! In fact the whole town of Mamallapurum was full of impressive stone carvings and the streets were even lined with stores selling statues for people’s houses. You could buy any size from a small trinket to a full sized elephant!

About 20km north of town was the Madras Crocodile Bank. A short bus ride and we were there. Not only did the park have a whole host of crocodiles but what excited us most was that there was meant to be a snake venom extraction demonstration. Unfortunately the snake show wasn’t on today but we did get to see the crocodiles being fed.

It was a decent enough place to go but we are pretty spoiled living near Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo so it didn’t quite come up to that standard but to be fair it only cost about 1/100th of the price.

It has to be said though that while we were impressed with all the stone carvings in Mamallapurum and the crocodile park too the rest of the place didn’t really excite us. It was all quite touristy and while other tourist places have a certain charm this place didn’t. The restaurants were all serving a mixture of bland Indian mixed with western food at prices about double of other places in India. Also while we are used to everyone wanting to get money off us in other places there was some effort with charm or chat. Here we just felt like they just held their hands out and ultimately just charged us double what we would pay elsewhere. The whole vibe of the place wasn’t great, still you can’t win them all!! T

Cricket in the park amongst all the rock carvings.

Arjuna’s Penance.

These little temples were carved into the rock and there were quite a few of them scattered around the park.

Just relaxing.

The view out to the south of the park and the inevitable rubbish.

The Shore Temple in all its intrinsic beauty.

The Five Rathas

Amazing how these have all been carved out of single boulders.

Cows can make a nuisance anywhere in India if they want.

Some crocodiles.

These were the weirdest creatures we have seen. The Gharial.

Free range cobras?!

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