After spending a couple of weeks in Sri Lanka, I flew to Chennai (formerly Madras) the capital of Tamil Nadu in south India. Having neatly sidestepped the insistent and extortionate taxis at the airport and stumbled upon the bus into town I took another bus down the coast to the hippyfied small town of Mamallapuram, the present name of Mahabalipuram.
The monuments here are a group of seventh and eighth century temples, cave sanctuaries and rock carvings, created by the late Pallava empire, which ruled a large area of south India for seven centuries.
Most of the monuments are cut out of the bedrock and the group show the transition here from rock-cut to built structures. The most prominent of the latter is the Shore Temple, although centuries of sea wind and sand have eroded the details of the decorative carving.
One specific style of rock-cut temple here is the ratha, intended to represent a ceremonial chariot. A group of five of these (plus some animals) all carved from one outcrop of rock, was the most impressive part of this site for me, as I pictured the huge amount of rock that must have been removed to create them.
Then there are the pillared sanctuaries hollowed out of the side of cliffs, with decorative carved panels on the walls inside, some of them still in great condition, although the tendency of most visitors to fondle them (or sit their kids on them for photographs) does not bode will for their ongoing survival.
At least the huge open-air reliefs are fenced off and not fondleable. This one, the biggest, shows the god Shiva sending the river Ganges to earth at the request of King Baghirata.
It includes vast amount of detail, including this cat, mimicking the posture of a holy man, higher up on the panel.
Many of the monuments are dotted around one area of rocks, trees and grassy parkland, a popular local picnic location. A couple of constructed (rather than rock-cut) structures are perched right at the top of the outcrop, with great views over the surrounding landscape.
For the Lego model, I picked this small temple:
and built this: