The Chariot Beach resort is no doubt a luxurious stay but along with that, there were many activities lined up for our group of bloggers. The first night we were welcomed with the lively and colourfully dressed Thappatam Band. They are a must at every marriage or house warming ceremony or ear-boring ceremony or temple festival. The energetic music had our feet tapping and most of us broke into dance.
The main reason for which Mahabalipuram is popular is its clean and exotic beach and Chariot Beach Resorts have their own private beach which is a feather in its cap. Accordingly, we were taken on a walk to the shore temple which is close by.While walking, we saw kids practising gymnastics on the sand dunes and windsurfers riding the waves. There were many souvenirs shops selling stuff like stone carvings to toys.
The resort had arranged for a guide who gave us insights into the interesting history of the Shore temple. The two-towered Shore Temple stands like a sentinel and is a single rock-cut grace overlooking the sea. Surrounded by gardens and ruined courts on all sides the temple symbolizes the heights of Pallava architecture and the maritime ambitions of the Pallava kings. Don’t be disappointed that it is small as it makes up for its proportion and the superlative quality of the carvings which are now eroded into vaguely impressionist decorations. Narasimhavarman II in the 8th century built it and it is the earliest significant free-standing stone temple in Tamil Nadu. Moreover, the two towers are dedicated to Shiva and their original lingam captured the sunrise and sunset. Between the Shiva shrines, one to Vishnu, reclining on Seshanag. Rows of Nandi statues enclose the temple courtyard. On the temple’s south side a boulder-carved Durga sits on her lion’s knee.
The Shore Temple generates a special mixture of awe, history and natural splendour. The temple was designed in such a way that it would grasp the first rays of the rising sun and spotlight the waters after sunset. In short, it served as a landmark by day and beacon by night when there were no lighthouses.
Arjuna’s Penance was next on the agenda and it is one of the outstanding monuments of Mahabalipuram. This amazing bas-relief dates back to the mid-seventh century. The 43-foot monolith was carved on the face of two huge adjoining boulders, making its length around 96 feet. The imposing structure cannot be gauged from photographs; you have to see it to believe it. There are two conflicting legends about it; Arjuna’s Penance or the Descent of the Ganges, or possibly both. Not enough proof is there to validate these theories.‘Arjuna’s Penance’ is a tale from the Mahabharata, of how Arjuna, one of the Pandavas, performed severe penances to obtain Shiva’s weapon. Legends have it that by austerity and self-mortification one could attain amazing blessings from the Gods. The alternate tale of The ‘Descent of Ganges’ story narrates the penance of Bhagirathi who carried out severe austerities to bring the Goddess Ganga down to earth. Consequently, Lord Shiva agreed to break the force of the descent of the river with his hair as the impact of the mighty river would be enormous for the earth to take. The work of art includes scenes of the natural and celestial worlds. A natural cleft inhabited by Nagas divides the two halves. Water flows down this fissure replicating the descent of the mighty Ganga. Above the shrine, carved Arjuna or Bhagirathi is depicted as standing on one leg, his arms upraised, in a yogic posture. Lord Shiva behind him appears to be holding a weapon and attended upon by celestial beings. The natural world is represented by life-sized elephants protecting their young. There are numerous other animals but my favourite is the pair of monkeys on the adjacent rock picking lice from its partners head. The whole artwork has lots of detailing; having withstood the ravages of time it still looks true to life.
Our guide had the history on his fingertips and kept reeling off names and dates while we were all ears. The 8 Rock-Cut Cave Temples namely, Krishna, Mahishasuramardini, Varaha, Trimurti, Kotikal, Tiger, Atiranachanda and Panchapandava.built in the 7th century by the Pallava Kings is right next to Arjuna’s penance. The temples have a number of delicately cut rock columns which differ in detail. The assorted rock carved sculptures depict different Hindu deities and are regarded as the finest masterpieces of Indian art.
Having visited this area 33 years ago and recall the amusing moments of the past, I was eager to see Krishna’s Butter Ball! I was a naïve new bride and dressed in all my finery and wearing stilettos, I was taken to Butterball and asked to climb for a keepsake picture. I did climb up gingerly but while coming down I actually rolled down and therefore fell in a heap. Now that I was wearing practical footwear I thought I could climb up again but my age reminded me that I should not try new tricks. The place was teeming with people posing as if to push, shove or roll down the mammoth boulder.
Krishna’s Butterball is a massive granite boulder resting on a short incline.The boulder is approximately 6 meters high and 5 meters wide and weighs around 250 tons. It stands on an approximately 4 ft base on a slope, and is said to have been at the same place for 1200 years; nature fills our heart with awe, doesn’t it?. In 1908, the British governor of the city Arthur Havelock with the help of seven elephants attempted to move the boulder from its position due to safety concerns to, but to no avail. Legend has it that Pallava king Narasimhavarman too made a failed attempt to move the boulder. Hindu mythology records that Lord Krishna often stole butter from his mother’s butter pot and this rock too looks like a butterball and got its name from the same. The shutterbugs were busy capturing the moment, not for posterity but to be posted on social media.
The highlight of our outings was the early morning Catamaran ride arranged especially for us By Chariot Beach Resorts. Our motley group trouped onto the beach bleary-eyed after last night’s revelry but perked up once we were in the midst of the sea song of the waves, the horizon gleamed like silver and the tufty clouds drifted past. I was a bit jittery about getting into the boat as I cannot swim but nevertheless, I garnered all my courage as I didn’t want to miss out on the fun; I was helped onto the boat and awkwardly sat cross-legged on the floor. The sun was about to rise and the view was astounding. To my surprise, I actually loved the exhilarating ride, the cool sea breeze, and shimmering blue sea watched the shore temple from the sea and saw fisherman hauling their catch. But the jaw-dropping moment was when we spotted the top of the submerged temples. The Pallava kings had built temples popularly known as the ‘Seven Pagodas. Of these seven temples, only one – the Shore Temple, is visible today while the other six temples are said to have been submerged under the sea. The veracity of the news that during the Tsunami of 26th December 2004, a straight row of large rocks emerged from the sea but when the waves went back they were submerged again cannot be validated but there must be some truth in the existence of the temples.
Thank you, Chariot for the memorable days and every little detail that was thoughtfully looked into. I am going to cherish every moment I spent there and truly appreciate the efforts put into making our stay so relaxng.Please use this code Harje500 to book your rooms through http://www.chariotbeachresorts.com and avail discount.