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Things To Do In Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram)
One of the most offbeat tourist places in Tamil Nadu, Mamallapuram is a quaint ancient town that has been painted with a few strokes of modernity, with resorts and water sports to keep the tourists engaged. When you have finished exploring the temples, indulge in some of the best kinds of water sports, go trekking, relax in your beach side resort watching the fishermen bring in their haul or hire a cycle and go pedalling down the country roads or on the sea shore.
Shop for trinkets on the beach bazaars, collect sea shells and conches or picnic under Krishna’s Butterball. Mamallapuram is a small coastal region and you might finish your sightseeing in a day or two. Take a couple of days to visit the neighbouring towns and villages around, for there are some interesting places a little away from Mamallapuram. Just hop on to a car or a bus and get going, because here are the amazing things you can do in Mamallapuram.
The waters have a strong pull and are rather choppy with strong undercurrents. Swimming is not a good idea, but you could walk along the beach or ride a horse. If you are staying over in Mamallapuram, park yourself on the beach and watch the beautiful sunrise and sunset. Check out the dark shadow of the shore temples under the silvery moonlight. Keep your camera handy. The temples on the shore and the colourful boats provide for a great visual treat.
Surf and Sport
You’d be surprised to know that the quiet, placid town of Mamallapuram offers one of the most off beat adventures that has become well-known the world over. The Bay of Bengal that borders the coastline of this pilgrim town is one of the best places for Surfing. The breakwaters put up by the government around the Shore Temple to prevent erosion gives the waves great breaks that is so good for surfing. If you are game for it, you could have a great surf time in Mamallapuram and if you’re a newbie, there are people like the local boy called Mukesh Panjanathan or Mumu, a rescue Scuba Diver and a PAD1 certified dive master who runs Mumu Surf Shop, who will coach through your first surfing lessons.
Stone carving was introduced to Tamil Nadu as early as the 7th century CE, with a craft and art form that flourished during the Pallava period. For tourists who are inspired by the architectural splendour of the monuments and temples of Mamallapuram, the heritage town offers the opportunity to try your hand at stone carving all by yourself. There are centres in the Main Market and in E. Raja Street near the beach that can teach you the skill of carving on stone.
Bicycling through the town
Hire a bicycle and pedal your way through the ancient streets of Mamallapuram. It’s a small town and there isn’t much traffic, so ride away as merrily as you please. One of the most popular thing to do in Mamallapuram is the bicycle or auto rickshaw tour to Kadumbadi, Poonjeri and Kuchikadu villages, lush with fields and coconut groves. Experience the rustic countryside, far away from the din and dust of the cities! If you are staying in a resort, they will arrange for a Bicycle tour round the town.
Madras Crocodile Bank
The Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and Centre of Herpetology, a home for crocs and snakes is one among the biggest reptile sanctuaries in the world. Go on guided tours, feeding demonstrations and night safaris around the zoo. There are about 2500 reptiles, along with over 60 species of birds and Olive Ridley Turtles. Check out the Gharials underwater at the Aquarium. It’s at night that the crocs get up and about and the ponds are full of life. Go on an exciting torch lit Night Safari in the zoo accompanied by trained guides. The Crocodile Bank is about 14 km from Mamallapuram. Visit the Snake Venom Centre where you can watch as vemon that is used to make anti-venom drugs, is drawn forth from the snakes.
Covelong Beach and Temples
Visit the fishing village of Kovalam aka Covelong. The region is a pretty ancient one, developed as a port town by the Nawab of Carnatic, Saadat Ali, and had gone through occupations by the Dutch, French and the English. Visit Dr.Arun’s Photography and Vintage Camera Museum at East Coast Road, which showcases about 1,700 cameras collected from the world over, the oldest one dating back to 1875. Go surfing and take a speed boat ride on the sea. Check out the places of worship close by - the Dargah for Tamim ibn Zayd al-Ansari, the temple for Jagganath and the Covelong Catholic Church. Covelong is about 20 km from Mamallapuram.
Mamallapuram is a tourist town in the true sense and gets a constant flow of tourists from all over the world and holiday makers, throughout the year. There are history buffs who want to visit the ancient temples, people who want to relax by the beaches and those who wish some adrenaline pumping sports on the waters. The town has resorts and budget hotels to suit every pocket. There are dormitories, hostels and resorts, hotels and villas overlooking the sea.
Resorts have swimming pools, suites and cottages, most of them in a very short walking distance from the tourist sites. So transport from the place of stay to the monuments would not be a problem.
Some of the resorts come with a mini bar and pubs and cooks up delicious food that tastes all the more delectable when you eat your dinner, sitting on deck chairs under the moonlit night, watching the silvery waves lapping at the shore. That’s the night life that Mamallapuram can offer the tourists. Check out the Dera Campsite where you will be spending a night out with friends, under the sky and tents, with a barbeque and inflatable pool.
You could naturally buy a whole lot of decorative stuff made of sea shells, conches and glass. Buy granite carved items, soapstone, idols and real leather goods like bags and wallets, wall hangings and artificial jewellery and paintings. If you visit the Sea Shell Museum, you can buy jewellery made of sea shells and pearls from their shop called Maya Bazaar that’s right inside the campus. Buy croc T-Shirts, post cards, books and other memorabilia at the Croc Shop in the Crocodile Bank.
Mamallapuram’s a traditionally Tamil land. But since the place is a tourist town, you find plenty of Chinese, Italian and North Indian food. Not to say plenty of sea food, with even the shacks close by the beach selling crabs, fried fish and prawn fry or mutton varuval fresh from the day’s catch. You could try Mamallapuram’s veggie or mutton biriyani, crab soup with tender baby crabs, kotthu parotta and the pastas, pizzas and momos.
Tamil Nadu Tourism Department organises the Mamallapuram Dance Festival around December-January, in which dancers from all over the country participate to showcase the various dance forms of India. Against the backdrop of the Shore Temple and the sounds of the waves crashing against the rocks beyond, the festival is a time to be in Mamallapuram. Celebrate the One People Festival in September at Chariot Beach Resorts, where there’s going to be plenty of music, food, a flea market, camping for the night under the starry skies, art installations and live art.
Mamallapuram celebrates traditional festivals like Pongal and Maasi Magam.