Mahabalipuram is located at a distance of 58-km from Chennai. It is one of the most exciting and memorable destinations, with rich tradition, history, piety and western annals. It is one of the popular tourist places, known for great architecture much visible in its rock carvings and monolithic sculptures. It also has the famous shore temple, the only one to have survived the wrath of nature. Also known as the Seven Pagodas (temples), six of them now lie drowned in the sea. The architecture of the temples at Mahabalipuram are inspired by the Pallava Art and were built during the period 830 - 1100 AD. At Mahabalipuram, there are two low hills of about 400m above the sea. There are about 11 excavated temples, called Mandapas on both sides of one of the hills. A 'cut-out' temple, called Ratha is carved out of a big rock standing nearby. The other hill is much smaller and stands about 200m to the south. There are five more rathas, three big sculptures of a Nandi, a Loin and an Elephant carved out of it. On the top of the bigger hill there is a structural temple, and at a little distance there is the magnificent beginnings of a Vijayanagar Gopura which is also believed to be survivals of a so called palace. Mahabalipuram also has about forty monuments known for their architecture including an "open air bas relief" which is the largest in the world. Since many centuries it has been a center of pilgrimage, and even today it pulls innumerable devotees and tourists.
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