also known as Mamallapuram is a
town in Kancheepuram district, situated
100km north of Pondicherry. It has
an average elevation of 12 metres
(39 feet). Mahabalipuram was a 7th
century port city belonging to the
South Indian dynasty of the Pallavas.
It has various historic monuments
built largely between the 7th and
the 9th century, and has been classified
as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
lunch, you can stop at Moonrakers,
Nautilus or the Sea Rock Restaurant
which is right in front of the beach.
is a town famous for its temples
and its stone carvings:
the temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
It was also built by Pallava King
in order to safeguard the sculptures
from the ocean. It is told that
after building this temple, the
remaining architecture was preserved
and was not corroded by sea.
Descent of the Ganges
- a giant open-air bas relief
- this is the world's largest bas
relief measuring 27m X 9m. It is
a relief sculpture on a massive
scale glorifying an episode from
the Hindu epic, The Mahabharata.
Varaha Cave Temple
- a small rock-cut temple dating
back to the 7th century.
- The Shore Temple - a temple along
the Bay of Bengal. Recent excavations
have revealed new structures here.
The temple was reconstructed stone
by stone from the sea after being
washed away in a cyclone. It houses
shrines for both Lord Shiva and
Lord Vishnu and belongs to the early
8th century AD.
The Five Rathas
(Five Chariots or Pancha Pandhava
Rathas) - five monolithic pyramidal
structures named after the Pandavas
(Arjuna, Bhima, Yudhishtra, Nakula
and Sahadeva) and Draupadi. An interesting
aspect of the rathas is that, despite
their sizes they are not assembled,
each of these is carved from one
single large piece of stone.
This pilgrimage centre is 14km east
from Mahabalipuram with a hill-top
Shiva temple, known for the legendary
two eagles that come here to be
fed by priests every day. It is
believed that they come from Varanasi.
This temple complex has an enormous
gopuram at the base of the hill.
One can also visit the temple from
Mahabalipuram by hiring a bicycle.
The Crocodile bank is situated barely
14km from Mahabalipuram on the Chennai-Mahabalipuram
road. Set up by an American naturalist
named Romulus Whitaker in 1976,
the number of crocodiles in the
bank grew in its first 15 years
from just 15 to over 6,000. Located
nearby is a snake farm where anti-venom
is produced for treating snakebites.
This crocodile bank houses several
species of Indian and African crocodiles
and alligators. Here, the crocodiles
are kept in their natural environment
in open pools and can be viewed
from safe proximity. The Crocodile
farm was set up to increase the
crocodile population of the wildlife
sanctuaries in the country. The
Crocodile Bank is spread over an
area of about 3.2hectares. It has
about seven crocodilian species
including three Indian types. The
Indian species include the 3.6-meter
long Marsh/Mugger variety (which
is the most widely distributed species),
the four to five meter long Gharials
(the crocodile with the longest
jaw) and the saltwater crocodiles,
the largest of reptiles.
An ideal place for water sports,
Muttukadu is 21km from Mahabalipuram.
The Tamil Nadu Tourism Development
Corporation (TTDC) has a boat house
here. Visitors can enjoy boating,
canoeing, kayaking, and windsurfing.
The Dakshina Chitra of Madras Craft
Foundation here has replica of an
old agricultural house of Tamil
Nadu, replica of Kancheepuram weavers’
house and replicas of ancient houses
presenting the lifestyle of South
65km away from Mahabalipuram, lies
the fabled city of a thousand temples,
Kanchipuram. There are 650 stones
inscriptions in Kancheepuram belonging
to different dynasties. The temples
here reflect the efflorescence of
Pallava art and the imposing embellishments
were added later by the Chola, Vijayanagara
and Chalukyan kings. The Ekambaranathar
temple, the Kailasanatha temple,
Sri Varadaraja temple, Sri Vaikuntaperumal
temple… the names stretch endlessly.
The city itself is dedicated to
the presiding deity, Sri Kamakshi
(one with eyes of love) at the Kamakshi
temple. It is a city famous for
For those who prefer an ‘off the
beaten track’ experience, Gingee
also known as Chinji or Jinji is
the ideal place. It is one of the
few surviving forts in Tamil Nadu.
Founded by the Cholas, it rose to
prominence in the 16th century.
It was called the "Troy of
the East" by the British. It
is located around 65km from Pondicherry,
in Villupuram district. Gingee is
home to a huge fort complex (stands
on 800ft). The site is composed
of three hills, each separately
fortified, with the ruins of a place,
a temple, a mosque, a granary, an
auditorium and even a harem.
Start off early in the morning as
the heat will become unbearable
once the sun rises. Take stocks
of food and enough drinking water.
Singavaram is about 4km north from
Gingee. The temple of Lord Ranganatha,
is on top of the hill. This 7th
Century Cave Temple is a good example
of South Indian type of rock-cut-shrine.
The original Pallava shrine consists
of a pillared hall and an image
of Vishnu Anantasayini cut into
the rock. The idol of Lord Ranganatha
in a reclining posture, measures
24ft in length.
This pilgrimage town is situated
102km from Pondicherry. Tiruvannamalai
is home to the Arunachala Temple,
one of the largest temples in South
India, built between the 16th and
17th centuries by the Vijayanagara
kings. The main deity here is Shiva.
The tallest of the gopuram is over
66m in height. The 1000 pillared
hall and the gopuram have some excellent
carvings. Ramana Maharshi Ashram
is one of the most famous South
India’s spiritual centres and it
is the home of samathi of Sri Ramana
Maharshi, a 20th century guru. Here
you can also see the famous fossil
This pilgrimage site is located
60km from Pondicherry. This is one
of the most important temple in
Tamil Nadu. The Nataraja (Lord of
Dance) Temple is famous for its
sculptures and massive structure.
Nataraja is believed to have performed
his Cosmic Dance here. On the gateway
of Chidambaram, are carved 108 poses
of the Classical dance, Bharatanatyam.
Pichavaram is located 15km east
of Chidambaram. Pichavaram is one
of the world’s largest mangrove
forests. On the mouth of the three
rivers, it is a cluster of over
50 tiny islands in the midst of
hundred of canals. Row boats are
available on hire.
and around Karaikal there are many
places of interest for a tourist
and a pilgrim. Located 140kms south
of the city of Pondicherry, Karaikal
is known for its rich religious
heritage, and is a destination for
those seeking leisure and serenity.
The town enjoys a harmonious society
comprising of Hindus, Muslims, Christians
and people of other religious persuasions.
The French flavour still persists
in the peaceful land of Karaikal.
Karaikal is known all over the country
for its unique and the only temple
devoted to the Lord Saneeswaran
(Lord Saturn) at Thirunallar. Holy
Shiva and Vaishnava temples are
situated in Karaikal. Two famous
shrines, Velankanni for Christians
and Nagore for Muslims are nearby
sandy beach is one of the best natural
beaches in the South Tamil Nadu.
This beach is an excellent place
to watch the rising sun. Arasalar
offers peddled, motor and rowing
boats and children’s park.
Situated 84km from Pondicherry,
Velankanni, is a very popular Roman
Catholic pilgrimage centre and is
home to the imposing Basilica of
Our Lady of Good Health. Our lady
of Good Health, popularly called
"Our Lady of Velankanni"
is in the small town of Velankanni
(5000 residents). Our lady chose
this place to dispense her miracles
to mankind. A strong oral tradition
attests to Our Lady’s apparitions
d'Alambara (Alamparai Fort)
ruins of Alamparai Fort lie 50km from
Pondicherry on the road to Mamallapuram,
overlooking the sea. It was constructed
by Muslim rulers during 1746 AD by
Nawab of Carnatic Dost Alikhan during
the Mughal era.
The Alamparai Fort once had a 100-metre
long dockyard stretching into the
sea, from which zari cloth, salt,
and ghee were exported. In around
1760, the British destroyed a major
portion of the fort and more recently
the structure was damaged in the 2004
Now it looks like a small fishing
hamlet with scenic backwaters. You
can have a boat ride along the backwaters.
Sri Gokilambal Thirukameshwara Temple
This is located in a small town
called ‘Villianur’, 11km from Pondicherry.
The main shrine housing the ‘Shivlinga’
and the shrines dedicated to the
Devi and Murugan date back to the
12th century Chola period. This
temple has a little bit of French
heritage attached to it, though
not in its architecture, but in
some of its traditions. The annual
Temple Car Festival which is held
in the months of May and June involves
the pulling of a 15metre tall chariot
through the streets by a large crowd
During French colonial rule, the
Governor of Pondicherry used to
join this procession. This tradition
lives on with the present Lieutenant
Governor of Pondicherry participating
in the festival now.
The Church of Our Lady of
was erected in 1876 and is modelled
on that of the Basilica in France.
The statue of Notre Dame was donated
by the French Government a year
later. A curious feature here is
the Church tank, which is usually
common in all the Hindu temples.
The ritual bathing of devotees at
the tank here, a long standing tradition,
is one of the highlights during
the festival honouring the Madonna
held in June.