Mahabalipuram or the City of Bali is also known as Mamallapuram after Mamalla, who was responsible of creating the earliest monument in the city under the reign of the Pallava king Narasimha Varman I (630-668). Barely 58 km from Chennai, this world heritage site in Tamil Nadu gained this distinction in 1984. It is known best as the centre for culture and arts of Pallavas. This temple town is said to be at least two thousand years old and boasts of about forty monuments including the largest open-air bas-relief in the world. The centre of pilgrimage for centuries has an atomic power plant as its neighbor. Since the 7th century, when Mahabalipuram was made a seaport by Mamalla, the rock-cut temples have become quite popular here.
The tourist attractions of the city are the eleven excavated temples or
'Mandapas', two open-air bas-reliefs including Arjuna's Penance and one
enclosed bas-relief shrine. One of these, one of the open-air
bas-reliefs is incomplete. Beside these, a stone chariot called 'Ratha'
cut out of a rock is quite unique in its conception. There are five more
'rathas' in the south of these monuments along with three big sculptures
of a Nandi, a Lion and an Elephant. A palace in ruins can also be seen
nearby along with a structural temple. The Temple of Sthalasayana
Perumal and the Shore Temple are perhaps the best of all. The 'Tigers
Cave' is quite popular among the tourists too.