Ravi and I were up and headed to Mahabalipuram by 6:15 or so Tuesday morning. We stopped on the way for breakfast and arrived in Mahabalipuram, guidebook in hand, before the crowds and the heat of the day arrived. Mahabalipuram is about a 45 minutes drive south of here, right on the Bay of Bengal. We drove down the East Coast Road to get there, and saw some nice scenery on the way. We stopped off at Kovalam to enjoy the migrating birds.
Mahabalipuram is full of monuments, rock temples and sculptures created during the 6th to 8th centuries AD. Each of the monuments tells a story. Our first stop was at what is called the Penance Panel. There are various versions of the story this panel is supposed to tell, all quite complex. The one we liked best is the story of the descent of the river Ganga from the heavens to the earth. The river first fell on the god Shiva's head so that the waters wouldn't wash away the whole earth. There is incredible detail and many delightful characters on this panel. I think my favorite one is the hypocritical cat, who is pretending to do penance. He is even surrounded by mice, one of whom is worshipping him. All you who know cats know how sneaky they can be!
There is a cave temple right next to the penance panel. The Varaha-II temple is cut right into the side of the mountain. The rooms were not cut very deep. Still amazing, given that the rock is granite, which is why the details of the carvings have survived for all these centuries.
Next we went to see the five Rathas. The beauty and detail of these is amazing. I've included a few pictures below, but they are just a small sampling of the elegant carvings there. All of the rathas were carved in situ from one large granite hillside. They are all unfinished.
Our next stop was to see the Mahishamardinin temple and the Olakkannesvara temple. The story is best told through pictures, which I've included below. The same is true for the shore temples, which was our final stop. The guidebook we had with us was really helpful, and definitely increased our enjoyment of the experience. "Mamallapuram: A Guide to the Monuments" by Michael Lockwood. Mamallapuram is another name for Mahabalipuram.
So what about doctors, you ask? Well, I've had a bit of a problem with my balance, and I decided it was time to see a doctor. Ravi knew an ENT specialist who he took me to see. I just walked in, no appointment, and didn't even have to wait very long. He asked me some questions and examined the problem ear, gave me some meds for the balance issues and ordered a hearing test. The consultation with the doctor cost less than $7, and the meds and the hearing test each cost less than $10. (My hearing is normal, by the way.) I go back next week, after 10 days. In the meantime, the balance issue is improving. The reason that I'm even mentioning this here is for those of you who might be reluctant to come here for fear of having a medical issue while here. I was able to get immediate attention, felt well cared for, and didn't have to spend a bundle of money. I do have travelers insurance in case there is a big problem. But for little things, the healthcare system here seems to work a lot better than it does back home.
Migrating birds at Kovalam, with Chennai in the background.