Mahabalipuram reveals yet another impressive aspect of the incredible land of India. It is one of the foremost tourist attractions of Tamil Nadu which has made a place for itself in the Tamil Nadu Tourism Map because of the rock cut temples that reveal architectural brilliance and sculptural dexterity. The Mandapams of Mahabalipuram are very remarkable.
Even though the Mandapams are scattered at various spots, the distance between the various Mandapams in Mahabalipuram are not much, and so one can easily cover all of them on foot. The sculptures carved on the surface of the Mandapams depict stories from the Ramayana and Mahabharata and also from the Indian mythology.
The eight Mandapams that are to be found in Mahabalipuram are Dharmaraja, Kotikal, Mahishasura Mardini, Krishna, Pandava, Varaha, Ramanuja and Shiva Mandapams. Unfortunately two of them have been left incomplete. Of these the Mahishamardini Mandapam, the Krishna Mandapam and the Kotikal Mandapam deserve special mention as they have earned a permanent place for themselves amongst the outstanding works of Indian art.
The Krishna Mandapam is a 12 column rock cut cave temple. What is sure to catch your attention immediately after entering the Krishna Mandapam is the figure of Krishna holding up the Govardhan Mountain to protect his people from Indra's flood. It also shows a cow being milked. It is a very picturesque pastoral scene.
Kundala is a special kind of jewellery that was worn by the people of this period. They are sculpted in abundance at the Kotikal Mandapam. The kundala on the dvarapalika in the Kotikal Mandapam bears a lot of resemblance to the one worn by king Mahendra. So the Mandapams bear important evidence about the social life of the people.
The Mahishamardini Mandapam is carved out of solid rock on the side of a hill. The sculptural reliefs that adorn the walls of this temple deserve superlative complements. In the grey stone of the left wall one can see the figure of Vishnu fighting the demons Madhu and Kaitabha. On the opposite wall, there is a carving of Devi Durga with eighteen arms killing the demon Mahishasur.
The Varaha Mandapam exhibits the sculptures of Varaha, an avatar of Vishnu. He is lifting Bhoomi Devi from under the ocean. The other sculpture to adorn the wall is that of Vamana Avatar or a dwarf Brahmin boy.
It is indeed a privilege to witness the sculptures which have won eternal fame in the Mandapams of Mahabalipuram.