This was my third trip to Mahabalipuram in 13+ years or so. Every time I travelled to Mahabalipuram I used a different mode of transport to go and a different camera with me. This time, I stopped at Mahabalipuram on way to Chola Temple Trail. Saw the rock-cut temples and caves once again. Shore temple at dusk looked majestic as ever with winds of time showing on its sea face. For the first time, I went to the backpackers area of Mahabalipuram or Mahabs as the happening youth of Chennai call it.
There are shacks and small guesthouses lined along the beach with the Shore temple jutting out on the right. You see only foreigners here and wonder where in the world are you. In my last visits, I do not remember the stone carvers whom I noticed aplenty this time, almost everywhere in the city, carving big and small idols as if keeping the ancient profession of the land alive. This time, we hired a Moped and drove through the lanes in the city. And the far-off caves like Tiger cave.
Tiger cave stands in the middle of a water body with a stone in front that could be an uncarved Nandi. Or may be a representation of the bull in a Shiva temple.
Though I remember going up the tower in my first visit and have about a 300-degree view of the sea. This time, I did not climb but captured the tall standing watchtower and many caves scattered around it. The place is the same but I have grown up and my understanding of the architecture, iconography has gone up. And hence, this time, I found my wanderings around these caves more meaningful. The commercial aspect of the place has definitely gone up. As I remember the whole fencing of the Shore temple was not there. And nor were there as many curio selling stalls around the monuments. But unlike Hampi Mahabalipuram did not disappoint me despite catering to many more tourists.
In 13-14 years so many things have changed. In 1999, it was my first trip to South India. There used to be only three airlines in the country: Air India, Indian Airlines, and Jet Airways. I still hold the Jet frequent flyer number that I had taken up with my first flight with them. I used to have a film camera then. And there used to be an excitement about how the photographs will turn up when they finally came. Next time I went about 5-6 years back I had a high-end point & shoot camera. But I only visited for the music festival that was happening there and the stage looked majestic with Arjuna’s Penance as a backdrop. This time, it was a backpacking trip with a DSLR to capture the details of the temples, caves, and beaches.
Wondering what will the next trip hold!
Recommend you to read following Places to visit in Tamil Nadu.