After leaving from The Shore Temple or The Seventh Pagoda, we were on the street within ten minutes. Though it was terribly hot outside, we decided to take a small detour towards the opposite side cutting across the road where we could see some sculptural work... off course, on the rocks.
Do not be surprised if you find lots of unfinished sculptural work all over the place. The whole surrounding is abundant with many artefacts of rock carvings. It is really perplexing to find huge amount of rich craftsmanship having been done on the stray rocks and stones splintered across the big campus. Many of these are located on the obscure corners hidden behind the trees and bushes while some are at the top of hillock which are not that easy to reach out.
All this gives a surreal feeling as if a big team is working on the project and has just left for a break in the middle of the work. I could not stop myself from visualizing a team with hammers and chisels working frantically on the rocks. The monolithic work includes the complex carvings of various animals, temple structures, stray steps on small rock ending at nowhere and more such intricate puzzling work. The whole place gives a look of any craftsman's workshop. I must add that though these structures are unfinished but they do reflect the finesse and subtlety of the work performed which leaves the person dumbfounded, wondering and puzzled with no answers because you cannot find any reason for this type of work having been done for no purpose.
As one local guide told me and which later I could relate while trolling through Google that this place could have been a school of architecture for budding sculptors at that time. The reason could have been the rocky terrain of the place or may be because of the geopolitical significance this place might have found suitableness for sculptors. I find the later one to be more reasonable.
In those times, the sea route was the predominant way of global trade. As Mahabalipuram was the major seaport of Pallava’ s empire, many traders would embark on trade missions from this port as well as the traders from other parts of the world would lay anchor here after a long voyage. The sailors and traders would spend couple of days at the city and while returning would buy stuff to trade at their next ports. The young and budding artists could sell their creations to traders embarking on the trade missions at this port.
Despite all this, there is an air of mystery around the place. One is bound to stumble upon something while walking around the area. Even if you go inside the bushes or any obscure corner, you would find some sculptural work in one form or other. I could find ample stuff in the small area as I meandered along the bushes & trees. This made me believe in the fact that this indeed could have been a school at that time.
After rambling through the place for about another hour, we decided to drive back though still with an unanswered question - Where are the other Six Pagodas?
My Travel Tips
- If travelling to Chennai, do not miss this place. It is very conveniently located on the road towards Puducherry. Both the places can be covered in a day.
- Chennai to Puducherry is about 170 kms. You have to take East Coast Road (ECR) that passes through Mahabalipuram which is about 60 kilometers.
- If travelling from Chennai city to Mahabalipuram, it will take about 6-7 hours to complete the trip. Preferably, start early in the day.
- You may want to hire a cab which will help you in planning better as well as you can stop over at couple of places on the way.
- Don't forget to carry a hat as that will be the only savior in the scorching sun.
Chennai is a one of the metro cities of the country and well connected via trains, roads and flight network. It is connected via direct trains with many major cities of the country. Chennai has an international airport which also happens to be one of the busiest airports in the country. It is connected with direct flights from many Indian as well as international cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangkok, Sydney, Seoul, London and Washington apart from many other cities of the world.