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Top 3 Destinations for Women Backpackers Travelling Solo in India (Part II)

Updated on May 10, 2015

Part II includes South India

South India consists of the peninsular region of India which includes five major states and two group of islands - one on the east (Andaman and Nicobar Islands and one on the west (Lakshadweep). It lies in the tropical region (unlike North india which lies in the temperate zone)A tourist who has been to North India before will find absolutely no similarity with the southern region. The climate is different, the culture is different, the food is different, even the people are different. That is the beauty of India. Every region is different , yet beautiful and unique its own way. South India is replete with pristine beaches, coconut trees, amazing cuisine which is not found anywhere else in the world, magnificent temples which are not only thousands of years old but also architectural marvels, local handicraft goods and amazing sarees which are world famous.

Pristine waters of Lakshadweep
Pristine waters of Lakshadweep

1. LAKSHADWEEP

The archipelago of Lakshadweep (formerly known by the name of Laccadive, Minicoy, and Aminidivi Islands) lies in the Laccadive sea which is 300 kilometers off the Indian mainland and comprises of thirty plus islands. Out of the thirty plus that exist, around ten are inhabited by human beings. The rest are untouched but in the recent times , tourists are allowed to pay a visit and see the serenity of the waters for themselves. Lakshawdeep is a spectacular place consisting of islands, coral reefs, atolls, submerged banks, beaches, beach resorts and lots of sun. The beaches here are gorgeous owing to less human accessibility.The waters are clear and not polluted at all. The tourist attractions in Lakshawdeep are not limited only to the islands. The underwater attractions are breath taking where one can scuba dive to see the spoiled coral reefs. It really is a delight to be here.

Keep in Mind

You can visit Lakshadweep only with a permit which is issued by 'Society for Promotion of Nature Tourism and Sports' (SPORTS). A citizen from India is allowed on all inhabaited islands. A foreign national is allowed on Agatthi Island, Kadmat Island and at the Bangaram Beach Resort.

The airstrip at Agatti Island lies amidst water
The airstrip at Agatti Island lies amidst water
Aerial view of Bangaram Island and the Sea Resort
Aerial view of Bangaram Island and the Sea Resort
A diver observing a Turtle in the waters beneath Bangaram Island
A diver observing a Turtle in the waters beneath Bangaram Island
Thinnkara Island
Thinnkara Island
A beach at Kavaratti Island
A beach at Kavaratti Island
Tropical fish in Marine Aquarium, Kavaratti
Tropical fish in Marine Aquarium, Kavaratti
Light House at Minicoy Island
Light House at Minicoy Island
Minicoy Island as seen from a distance
Minicoy Island as seen from a distance
A star beach at Kadmat Island
A star beach at Kadmat Island
Kadmat Island
Kadmat Island
Coconut trees on Kadmat Island
Coconut trees on Kadmat Island

THE ISLANDS

AGATTI ISLAND: Agatti island is the arrival point for tourists, since the the only airport of Lakshadweep lies here. It's called as the Agatti Aerodrome and is beautiful.The airstrip lies literally in the middle of water. It is from here that tourists can visit other islands via ferries or helicopters.There is a sense of remoteness here owing to the less number of people living here. The beaches are magnificent and the water is clear. Coral reefs are found in abundance here under water and many people explore them through activities like scuba diving.The entire experience under water is splendid.Apart from scuba diving, one can also indulge in deep sea fishing, glass bottom boat rides and water skiing.

BANGARAM ISLAND:One of the best islands of the archipelago.The dive visibility is superb here and is one of the best locations for scuba diving in India. The water keeps changing colours here and is mesmerizing .Snorkeling is a must here. The aquatic life under water comprises of multi-coloured fish, turtles , sea horses etc. Being under water amidst the marine wild life is so amazing.The island is also abundant in turquoise blue lagoons and silvery beaches. Excellent seafood can be savoured here.The lagoon in Bangaram is shared by its sister island Thinakkara. If you want to stay , i recommend staying at Thinakara. It has better tents and is nominal. The Bangaram Sea Resort is a also a good place for staying in case you want to stay at Bangaram. During the dark, the algal blooms of bio-luminescent plankton washed ashore makes the coral beach a magical minefield. When there’s high levels of bio-luminescence on the surface water, the sea appear uniformly glowing snow white.

KAVARATTI ISLAND: This is the administrative capital of Lakshadweep and is the most developed of all islands. The island is beautiful and one can gaze the white sand against the clear blue water of the sea.The numerous coconut trees add to the beauty of this lovely place. Kavaratti island has a lot of visitors mainly because of its excellent scuba diving facilities. All scuba diving enthusiasts should also see for themselves the Dolphin Dive Centre which offers scuba packages that conduct diving in coral reef places in the island. It also holds classes for people who want to try diving. A person can also hire a glass bottom boat to check out the sea life, this region has to offer. A lot of other water sports activities can also be checked out. A marine aquarium is present in Kavaratti which is popular with tourists, especially for its sharks. The local market offers all tourists a number of southerners that can be purchased. Authorized government shops are also there. All time favourites of tourists are - Fancy jewellery made of sea items, fish crackers and oysters.

MINICOY ISLAND: This is the southern most atoll in the archipelago of Lakshadweep and is at a distance of only 70 kilometers from Maldives. The natives share a lot of similarities with the people of Maldives. In the local language , it is known as Maliku. There are numerous villages here and can be visited to see the local flavour. The waters here are crystal clear and the colourful marine life can be enjoyed via scuba diving. There is an ancient lighthouse on the island which is popular among tourists. The island also has an annual Minicoy Festival which is held in the month of December. So if you visit Lakshadweep in December, you can witness it. A minimum of two days is recommended on this alluring island.

KADMAT ISLAND: One can call it mini paradise with greenery everywhere. It has a lot of international tourists visiting it since it is one of three islands on Lakshadweep which permits foreigners. The locals are extremely courteous. The food is great too with both Indian and International cuisine available. The waters around Kadmat island are not just clean but also safe for both adults and children. Like all the other places mentioned before, Kadmat island too offers excellent scuba diving facilities, snorkeling, other water sports. The marine life is gorgeous with turtles, sharks, eagle rays, lobsters, moray eels, and plenty of various tropical fish. The island sits in splendid isolation and that adds to the beauty of it. Kadmat has a prepossessing quality about it. Over all, it has the perfect feel to it.





CORAL REEFS

A coral reef is essentially formed due to skeletal deposits of Corals (Muticoloured and hard skeleton secreted by certain marine polyps). Lakshadweep is filled with coral reefs. It forms a very important ecosystem. Most of the Lakshwadweep Islands are naturally decorated by white coral sands and large coral boulders in places are also seen. A walk along the coral reefs will be bring you closer to some live coral reefs. The Reefs in Lakshwadweep are inhabited by some rare sea weeds and plants. You can see the butterfly fish and parrot fish along with numerous other kind of fishes. Many known and unknown birds visit the reefs in search of food. Standing over the reefs, you can smell of the fragrance of the sea. Relax in a easy chair, sip in those delicious coconuts and enjoy watching the waves ricochet against the rocks.

Cheriapani Reef:The largest among all the Reefs in Lakshwadweep, the Cheriapani Reef has an area of about one hundred and seventy two Square Kilometers. The Cheriapani area is blessed with a massive lagoon, which forms the center of the tourist attractions. The tourists come in large number to visit this place and engage themselves in varied activities like fishing and diving. The greenish water is the breeding ground for numerous types of fish. The untouched appearance of the Cheriapani Reef brings in many birds, making it an ideal place for a bird watcher. The mangrove fringe, the lines of coconut tress, the live corals, the snowy sand and the calm atmosphere make the place a heaven on earth. Stand in the edge of the sea and feel the pureness of the air. The water crashing against the rocks will sprinkle its water to welcome you in the paradisaical island of Cheriapani. If you are planning to visit the Lakshwadweeps, then Cheriapani must find its place in the list of preference.

Cherbaniani Reef:The Cherbaniani Reef is one of the several beautiful reefs in the Lakshadweep area.The Bassas de Pedro, a submerged atoll, lies close to the Cherbaniani Reef.Lakshwadweep's Cherbaniani Reef is one of the emeralds of the blue sea and it will please any mortal with its sheer beauty. The Cherbaniani Reef has an extensive sandy side, which is an ideal track for a beach hike. One can find live corals while they trek along the sandy path. The shallow water near the reef is an excellent option for fishing. One can also get engaged in scuba diving. The Cherbaniani Reef is visited by a substantial number of tourists and fishermen. However one drawback of the Cherbaniani Reef area is the scarcity of drinking water. Otherwise it could have been a major tourist destination. Environmentalists and the authorities are trying hard to tackle this huge problem.

Byramgore Reef: One of the uninhabited islands of the magical Lakshwadweep Islands, the Byramgore Island is bestowed with breathtaking natural beauty. The Byramgore Reef decorates the island with its marvelous appearance. The Byramgore Reef is among the two isolated north western Reefs in Lakshwadweep. The rich marine life of the Byramgore Island and its reef attracts people from all over the region. Fishermen from other islands crowd in the Byramgore Island in search of Tuna and other kinds of fish. The exotic reef and its adjoining places cover an area of 87.5 Square Kilometers. The wonderful Byramgore Reef in Lakshwadweep is embellished with milky white coral sands, lush green vegetation, colorful fish, rare species of birds, fringes of juicy coconut trees, shallow green sea water and live corals. The Byramgore Island and reef has emerged as a major tourist attraction of the Lakshwadweeps. The serenity of the Byramgore Reef will please any human being. Nature lovers will worship the place. Anglers will have a gala time here with a great opportunity of fishing. The Byramgore Reef area has one islet, which is blessed with rich flora and fauna. The Byramgore Reef is a must inclusion in your Lakshwadweep tour plan.

(References:http://www.mapsofindia.com/lakshadweep/tourism/reefs.html)

Aerial view of Bangaram Island along with the shallow lagoon.
Aerial view of Bangaram Island along with the shallow lagoon.
The phenomena of bio-luminescence by algae makes the water shine in Bangaram Island
The phenomena of bio-luminescence by algae makes the water shine in Bangaram Island
Aerial view of Minicoy Island
Aerial view of Minicoy Island
Beach Resort at Kadmat Island
Beach Resort at Kadmat Island
An isolated boat on Kavaratti Island
An isolated boat on Kavaratti Island
Gorgeous coral reefs are present in Lakshadweep
Gorgeous coral reefs are present in Lakshadweep
A scuba diver in the waters of Kadmat Island
A scuba diver in the waters of Kadmat Island
Sea food is Lakshadweep's most sought after cuisine
Sea food is Lakshadweep's most sought after cuisine

GRAB A BITE

The chief cuisine of Lakshadweep consists of delicious sea food with a flavour of coconut. Vegeterian food is also available easily.Coconut is an inseparable part of the cuisine. Being close to the south Indian state of Kerela, the cuisine does have an influence of food from there. Cuisines from other parts of the world are also served especially Thai food, Chinese , Korean and European. Every Island has eating joints and beach resorts that offer you good food. Coconut water is a 'must try'. It is good for health, it tastes good and will also keep you hydrated at all times in this tropical environment. Consumption of alcohol is strictly prohibited in Lakshadweep except on the Bangaram Island.

Important Information For Tourists

BEST TIME TO VISIT: October to May

BEST WAY TO REACH: Lakshadweep Island can be reached by ships and flights operated from Kochi. 6 passenger ships - MV Kavaratti, MV Arabian Sea, MV Lakshadweep Sea,, MV Bharat Seema, MV Amindivi and MV Minicoy operate between Cochin and Lakshadweep.

INTERNAL TRANSPORT: Through Ferrys and helicopters

ACCOMODATION: Tourist Cottages and Beach resorts.

Paddy Cultivation around Alappuzha
Paddy Cultivation around Alappuzha

2. ALAPPUZHA

Alappuzha also known by the name of Alleppy is located in the enchanted Indian state of Kerela. Kerela is a serene and a beautiful state with a perfect geographical location. It's location makes Kerela a fine blend of lush green trees and pristine blue waters. Alappuzha is one of the oldest planned cities in the state. Some times it is referred to as the, 'Venice of the East.' It is a picturesque city consisting of backwaters, lagoons, beaches, canals, houseboats, paddy fields,coconut trees, and temples. It is also famous for the coir manufacturing industry.The backwaters of Alalpuzzha are host to a lot of migratory birds every year.The marine wildlife is also abundant. The place is a gateway for the backwaters of Kerela. A place in Alapuzzha by the name of Kuttanad is the 'rice bowl of kerela.' It has extensive paddy cultivation.It's the area with the lowest altitude in India, and one of the few places in the world where farming is carried out below sea level. One can explore the place best on a motorboat. The area is rich in different varieties of birds. Aslo, one can see the vendors selling fruits and vegetables on small boats. The native people of this place have an active community life and often participate in water carnivals, competing in snake boat rides and other activities. A tourist has a lot to explore and see in this scenic and quaint land.

Keep in Mind

Apply a good spf sunscreen at all times. Also keep yourself hydrated by either having plain water or coconut water at frequent intervals.

Backwaters of Alappuzha
Backwaters of Alappuzha

THE HOUSEBOAT EXPERIENCE IN ALAPUZZHA's BACKWATERS

Alapuzzha is extremely popular for its backwaters. It is the core of backwater cruises and houseboats. One can enjoy a relaxing and comfortable stay of a Houseboat in Alapuzzha's delightful backwaters for 1-2 days or even more as one wishes. The houseboat charges vary depending upon duration, type of house boat & facilities.You can opt for either a single or a double deck houseboat. Some agencies also offer you a day full of houseboat experience and another day in the beach resort along the backwaters. The food served is mouth watering and the staff is hospitable.Also it is fresh and hygienic. You can decide the menu in advance on the on board crew will cook it for you just like home. If you feel like watching television , the cable gets connected post 5 pm once the houseboat is parked. You can also buy exotic fishes at one of the islands the boat stops at and buy fish for cooking in your houseboat. When the houseboat moves from one location to another , you can catch a glimpse of some migratory birds , tortoises and elephants. Usually the houseboat will be shared with other travelers as well. It's enjoyable to interact and have a good time with people from different parts of India as well as from the world in these houseboats. The houseboat experience is good when in company, else one can get bored. Give yourself a little treat by being a part of the unforgettable experience. I'd go as far to say that a trip to Alapuzzha can not be termed complete without the houseboat experience. Do not forget to carry your camera and binoculars. In case you just want to enjoy the backwaters and don not want to stay (though i insist you should), you can go for a Shikhara boat ride as well. Either way, the backwaters will stay in your memory forever.

Houseboats in Alappuzha's backwaters

Marari Beach
Marari Beach
Allapuzzha Beach
Allapuzzha Beach

BEACHES

Marari Beach: It is a bissful location for a vacation.It is at a distance of only 11 Kilometers from the city of Alappuzha. One can either stay in one of the few resorts near the beach or get back to Alapuzzha the same day.It is an an excellent beach to spend an evening , maybe enjoy a good meal watching the sunset. The beach is long and coconut trees on one side add to the beauty of the shoreline. Best thing about the beach is that is clean and isn't very crowded. The waves here can be rough at times so be careful.

Alappuzha Beach: After one has thoroughly enjoyed the backwaters of Alapuzzha, this beach should be visited where one can spend some alone time and relax. It is well connected with the backwaters. The beach has clean shores and there are plenty of eating outlets available. One can enjoy a camel ride here. It isn't really a bathing beach because the waves are rough and it can be dangerous sometimes to go deep within it. Enjoy the water and the view from a distance. The most beautiful aspect of this beach is the sunset. Also it's location is quite good, being at a distance of just 2 kilometers from the Alapuzzha railway station.

Pathiramanal Lake Resort
Pathiramanal Lake Resort
Vembanad Lake
Vembanad Lake

PATHIRAMANAL ISLAND & VEMBANAD LAKE

Pathiramanal is a small island in the backwaters of Alapuzzha. It is surrounded by the Vembanad Lake and the journey through the lake is just beautiful. The island is accessible only by boat. Nature forms a spectacle here. It is a must visit place for all bird enthusiasts. The island is uninhabited and is so small that it can be explored on foot, once you reach there.Besides the species of local birds, various kinds of migratory birds from around the globe visit here. It is like second home to them. Some rare varieties of medicinal plants are also found here in the foliage. The Vembanad lake is the longest lake in India and covers many districts besides Alapuzzha. is a vast network of rivers and canals which empty into the great expanse of water called the Vembanad Lake. The lake, an enchanting picnic spot and a fast developing backwater tourism destination, provides boating, fishing and sightseeing experiences that are truly exhilarating. Many tourists pass through the lake when they are traveling via houseboats. That is a sure way to see the enormity of the lake. Vembanad lake can be accessed from Kumarakom or from Muhamma boat jetty on the Alapuzzha side.The lake is breathtaking and is extremely important from an ecological point of view. It is the second largest wetland in India and needs to be maintained. It is an important spot for migratory birds and other animals.It is recognised as a Ramsar site – a wetland of global importance as defined by the Convention on Wetlands, signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971, and joined by India in 1981. Some of the avian species include - Cuckoo, Waterfowl, erget, heron, darter, parrot, teal, lark, siberian crane etc. The migratory birds come here from the Himalays as as well as from Serbia.

Various Birds around Pathiramanal Island

Cormorant
Cormorant
Egret
Egret
Flycatcher
Flycatcher
Stork Billed Kingfisher
Stork Billed Kingfisher
Lark
Lark
Brahminy Kite
Brahminy Kite
Common Hoopoe
Common Hoopoe
Plum Headed Parakeet
Plum Headed Parakeet

KATHAKALI

Kathakali is the traditional dance form of the state of Kerala.The Word Kathakali means a 'Story - play.' Hence it is synonymous to a dance-drama. If your'e in Alappuzha and have an opportunity to witness these dance form , you should surely be a part of the experience. The elegant dance form is known for its large, elaborate makeup and costumes. A Kathakali performance is a major social event. They generally start at dusk and go throughout the night. Kathakali is usually performed only by men. Female characters are portrayed by men dressed in women's costume. However, in recent years, women have started to become Kathakali dancers. Kathakali has a long tradition. It dates back to the 17th century. The actors rely very heavily on hand gesture to convey the story. These hand gestures, known as mudra, are common through out much of classical Indian dance.The makeup is very elaborate. It is so elaborate that it is more like a mask than makeup in the usual sense. The materials that comprise the makeup is all locally available. The white is made from rice flour, the red is made from Vermilion (a red earth such as cinnabar). The black is made from soot. The colours are not merely decoration, but are also a means of portraying characters. For instance, red on the feet is used to symbolise evil character and evil intent. The music of Kathakali has some similarity to the larger body of South Indian classical music (Carnatic sangeet); however the instrumentation is decidedly different. Before every performance a detailed explanation is given to the spectators so that they understand the dance form.


A Spectacular Kathakali Dance Performance
A Spectacular Kathakali Dance Performance
Different Stages of a Kathakali Performer in one Frame
Different Stages of a Kathakali Performer in one Frame

AYURVEDIC MASSAGE

After exploring the beautiful city of Alappuzha , give yourselves a treat by getting some Ayurvedic Massage in one of the massage centers. The massage is extremely professional and relaxing. The masseurs know their work. The primary idea and purpose of Ayurvedic massage just as all other Ayurvedic treatment protocols are to help break and remove the toxins within the gross and subtle bodies. The toxins (Ama) are understood to be leftover putrefied-food stuff that has taken a grease-like form. The longer the Ama is retained in the bodies the more stubborn and harder they get and become embedded, thereby making removing them difficult, time consuming and unpleasant at times. Ayurvedic treatment protocols may include some or all of, correct dietetics, massage, specially compounded herbal formulas, yoga therapy as well as proper Life style management according to one’s constitution.In Ayurvedic body massage, the specialized Dosha Oil (warmed), continuous strokes and techniques, full-body steam application, followed by the herbal formula wash/scrub, is an intense, dynamic and expansive experience.


Sadya
Sadya
puttu
puttu
Paper Dosa at Hot Kitchen
Paper Dosa at Hot Kitchen
Stuffed Crab with Shell at Dreamer's Cafe
Stuffed Crab with Shell at Dreamer's Cafe
Grilled Fish at Dreamer's Cafe
Grilled Fish at Dreamer's Cafe
Banana Chips
Banana Chips
Toddy
Toddy

GRAB A BITE

Kerala is every foodie's paradise, especially if your'e the kind of person who likes to try new food. I have always believed that one should definitely try the food of the place one visits and not keep looking for the food one has been eating all their life. Unlike other South Indian states, Kerala has both vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian food as part of its cuisine. The food can be spicy (Kerela is known as the 'land of spices.' So make sure to tell the chef or the cook to moderate the spices to your own level.Grated coconut is included in virtually every dish. Coconut milk is used to make the gravies and lends a sweet tinge to the cooking. The oil used for cooking also is mainly coconut or vegetable oil. Rice that grows well in this fertile soil is the staple food.Sea food such as fish, crabs, shellfish, lobsters are included in everyday cooking especially in the coastal regions. Smaller varieties of fish are dried salted and pickled. They may or may not be fried before consumption. Sardines and Mackerel are the everyday fish.Sadya is the traditional vegetarian feast of Kerala. Usually served as lunch, it consists of par boiled pink rice, side dishes, savouries, pickles and desserts spread out on a plantain leaf. Tradition insists that the tapering end of the leaf points to the left of the seated guest. Rice is served on the lower half of the leaf. Sadya will be available at various eating places, resorts and even houseboats. Also try Puttu and Kadala Curry. Puttu is a cylindrical steamed rice cake cooked with coconut shavings and is an extremely popular breakfast dish. It's usually served with kadala curry (black chickpeas). One of the best vegetarian restaurants in Alleppy is Hot Kitchen. Even if you're not a vegetarian, stop at this place just for the various varieties of Dosa it offers. Personally, i prefer the cone shaped dosa. Dosa is a very good meal for any time of the day including breakfast. It is usually served with Sambhar , Rasam and some coconut chutney. Some times South Indian food is served on Fresh and clean banana leaves. If you're a fan of sea food, grab a bite at Dreamers Cafe and Restaurant located near Alappuzha beach. The place has the perfect food and the perfect ambiance. Try various dishes that use fish, shrimp and crabs. A snack that you would want to munch while taking a local tour is a packet of locally prepared Banana Chips.They are readily available not just in Kerala but across South India. Lastly, for all the alcohol lovers, there's the palm wine which is known as Toddy in the region. It isn't hard liquor but a mild alcoholic beverage made from the sap of coconut tree. You can sip it with food.

Important Information For Tourists

BEST TIME TO VISIT: November to February

BEST WAY TO REACH: By Air(The Cochin International Airport, located at a distance of 75 kilometers is the nearest airport to Alappuzha), By Train (The Alleppey Railway Station lies within the city limits.From the railway station, one can board a bus, hire a taxi or get in an auto-rickshaw to reach the main city).

INTERNAL TRANSPORT: Houseboats, Shikaras, Cabs, Buses, Auto-Rickshaws.

ACCOMMODATION: House Boats, Resorts, Budget Hotels

A submerged temple in Mahabalipuram
A submerged temple in Mahabalipuram

MAHABALIPURAM

Mahabalipuram is an important historic town in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It lies in the Kancheepuram district. Its ancient name was Mamallapuram. One should visit the town for the amazing monuments that were built by dynasties that ruled over the town.Even after centuries, the monuments still lie tall. They are rock cut monolithic monuments. The town is a living testimony to the artistic temperament of the great Pallava kings who were trendsetters of the Dravidian architecture. It has been classified as a world heritage centre by UNESCO. Most of the temples and rock carvings of this place were built during the reigns of Narsimha Varman I. The town was a chief seaport of the Pallava rulers.The temples of Mamallapuram, built largely during the reigns of Narasimhavarman and his successor Rajasimhavarman, showcase the movement from rock-cut architecture to structural building. The mandapas or pavilions and the rathas or shrines shaped as temple chariots are hewn from the granite rock face, while the famed Shore Temple, erected half a century later, is built from dressed what makes Mahabalipuram so culturally resonant are the influences it absorbs and disseminates.Mahabalipuram art can be divided into four categories: open air bas - relief, structured temples, man-made caves and rathas ('chariot' temples). The famous Arjuna's Penance and the Krishna Mandapa, adorn massive rocks near the centre of the village. The beautiful Shore Temple towers over the waves, behind a protective breakwater. Sixteen man-made caves in different stages of completion are also seen, scattered through the area.

Keep in Mind

Every monument in Mahabalipuram is maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. Most of them have been declared as 'World Heritage Sites' by UNESCO. The monuments are spectacular and have their origins traced back to hundreds of years, hence help maintain them. Do not loiter around.

The Shore Temple stands tall on the shore of Bay of Bengal (Back View)
The Shore Temple stands tall on the shore of Bay of Bengal (Back View)
The Shore Temple Complex (Back View)
The Shore Temple Complex (Back View)
The Shore Temple Complex (Front View)
The Shore Temple Complex (Front View)

SHORE TEMPLE

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Shore temple is named so because it is built on the shore of the Coromandel Coast on the Bay of Bengal. An Indian tourist has to pay a fee of RS 10 for entering the complex while any foreign national has to pay about $5. It is essentially a complex of three temples. Out of these one is large and two are small in size. The three temples have been built by rulers of the Pallava dynasty. It's three sanctuaries are dedicated to Hindu gods Vishnu and Shiva.Vishnu is the preserver and Shiva is the destroyer acocording to Hindu mythology.The key attraction of the Shore Temple are the five chariots or the Pancha Pandava Rathas, four of which are named after the Pandavas and the fifth one is known as the Draupadi Ratha. Each of these Rathas is huge and distinct from the others, speaking of the aesthetic excellence of the artisans of that time.The Rathas shrines are reminiscent of the wooden processional Chariots , vehicles of Gods and Heroes models , which exist in all the temples of South India. The ancient city of Mamallapuram has been called the town of the seven pagodas ever since the first European explorers reached the city several centuries ago. According to popular belief, once upon a time six other temples stood along with the now famous shore temple on the shores of Mahabalipuram’s rock strewn beaches. Myth has it that the God Indra became jealous of this earthly city, and sank it during a great storm, leaving only the Shore Temple above water. Local fishermen have for long claimed to have had glimpses of at least some of the other temples glittering beneath the waves. During the Tsunami that struck the coast in late 2004, the sea pulled back about 500m. During this time, tourists and residents were reported to have seen a long, straight row of large rocks emerge from the water just before the waters rushed back again. The tsunami also made some immediate, lasting changes to the coastline, which left a few previously covered statues and small structures uncovered on the shore like the large stone lion left sitting uncovered on Mahabalipuram’s beach. One hopes that some day we will see all seven temples on the beaches of Mahabalipuram restored to their pristine glory once again welcoming visitors to this ancient temple port.


The Shore Temple
The Shore Temple
The Complex around Shore Temple
The Complex around Shore Temple
Carvings on the Shore Temple
Carvings on the Shore Temple
Panch Rathas
Panch Rathas
Tiger Cave
Tiger Cave

TIGER CAVE

The Tiger's Cave is situated at a distance of five kilometers from Mahabalipuram. It is the ideal destination for nature lovers. Though the name `Tiger Cave' may conjure up awesome images of tigers living in caves, it is far from it. It gets its name from a cave set apart among the rocks with a crown of carved tiger heads around the temple. With the maintenance of the cave the responsibility of the Archaeological Survey of India, the space has now been neatly developed with lawns dotted by palm, casuarinas and other trees. The small hillocks and rocks offer a natural excuse for children and adults alike to climb and run around. The rock cut cave temple with a Shiva Linga and a Nandi is at a corner of the Tiger Cave complex, which a few visitors remember to visit. The temple is situated below ground level and hence the top of the rock that forms the roof of the temple is accessible for climbing. Sitting over the roof of the cave temple is a photographer's delight with rocks dotting the foreground, trees in the middle and the Bay of Bengal in the background. From the Tiger's Cave premises, the beach is also accessible.

Varaha Cave Temple
Varaha Cave Temple

VARHA CAVE TEMPLE

Varaha Cave Temple is a monolithic rock-cut temple with a mandapam( temple porch). This cave dates back to 7th century and is constructed on the rocky walls of the granite hill. The temple is dedicated to the Hindu God Vishnu. On the walls of mandapam, Lord Vishnu as Varaha along with the boar, holding Bhudevi - the earth goddess in his arms, is sculptured beautifully. On the inner wall is the shrine of Goddess Gajalakshmi, seated on a large lotus with elephants showering water on her from both sides. There is another sculpture of Goddess Durga with four arms and Trivikrama overcoming demon king Bali. The mandapa in the front has two lion- pillars and two pilasters, and beyond this in the centre, the cell is guarded by two dwarapalas (security guards).These artistic Pallava sculptures depict the contrast in mood and style.It is one of the finest specimens of rock cut architecture in Mahabalipuram.The delineation and modelling of the figures are remarkable. It is a lovely carved cave temple with 4 columns with lions as it's feature. Beautiful detail and a structure in the complex you must see.

Krishna's Butterball - The rock that has not moved even a millimeter for thousands of years.
Krishna's Butterball - The rock that has not moved even a millimeter for thousands of years.

KRISHNA'S BUTTERBALL

Krishna’s butterball is monolithic granite rock found in Mahabalipuram. Its original name is Vaan Irai Kal. It means “Stone of The Sky God“. 20 feet high and 5 meter wide, this rock estimated to weigh over 250 tons miraculously stands on an extremely small, slippery area of a hill. The rock is balanced upon a 4 feet area of the hill and is perilously resting at an angle of 45 degrees. Several attempts to move the rock have been made, but none of them has been successful.There are no documented legends attached to how Krisna’s Butter Ball came to rest in this particularly precarious position. From one angle, this free-standing granite stone appears to have sheared off some larger formation, but there is no evidence of any nearby location where it might have originated.Usually surrounded by a gaggle of tourists attempting to push it, Pallava kings had actually attempted to drag the granite boulder with ropes tied to the back of elephants. Needless to say, the boulder refused to budge even a millimeter. It is amazing to see this rock standing still for such a long time at the same spot despite tsunamis, earthquakes & typhoons.


An art gallery in Cholamandal Artists Village
An art gallery in Cholamandal Artists Village

CHOLAMANDAL ARTISTS VILLAGE

The place represents an important arts centre in the state of Tamil Nadu. 'Cholamandal Artists' Village is built over eight hectares of land in the Injambakkam region. It is around 30 kilometers away from Mahabalipuram.This place is a treat for all those who love art and architecture. People can actually not exactly visit the whole Cholamandal artists’ village because we are not supposed to enter the artists’ houses but there is an interesting gallery split on two floors with a permanent collection and few items that can be purchased, and another gallery that seems to contain only temporary exhibitions. Though small the collection is made of paintings (oil, acrylic, and water colour), sketches, drawings, and sculptures .Tucked away in a corner of the Cholamandal artist village is a canteen that has been serving scrumptious food to artists and the public for more than two decades. So after you see around stop here to enjoy a meal.

 A weaver weaving a Kanchipuram Saree
A weaver weaving a Kanchipuram Saree

KANCHIPURAM SAREE

If you visit Mahabalipuram and want to buy something that is unique to the region, it has to be a Kanchipuram Saree. A Kanchipuram saree (also known as a Kanjivaram saree) is a type of saree traditionally made by weavers from Kanchipuram located in Tamil Nadu, India.These are woven naturally and distinguished by their wide contrast borders. Temple borders, checks, stripes and floral prints are traditional designs found on a Kanchipuram sarees.They are woven by pure mulberry silk. This industry comprises weavers and handloom weavers.In a genuine Kanchipuram Silk Sari, body and border are woven separately and then interlocked together. The joint is woven so strongly that even if the sarees tears, the border will not detach.

Varieties of Kanchipuram Sarees

Idly(white), Vada(brownish yellow) and Sambhar
Idly(white), Vada(brownish yellow) and Sambhar
Uttapam
Uttapam
Chettinad Cuisine
Chettinad Cuisine
Fish Curry
Fish Curry
Filter Coffee
Filter Coffee

GRAB A BITE

Rice and legumes play a significant role in Tamil Nadu's cuisine. Lentils are also consumed extensively, either accompanying rice preparations, or in the form of independent dishes. Vegetables and diary products are essential accompaniments. Coconut, tamarind, asafeotida are a must for most vegetarian dishes. Rice is the chief staple as with the rest of South India. On special occasions, traditional Tamil dishes are prepared in almost the same way as they were centuries ago—preparations that call for elaborate and leisurely cooking, and served in traditional style and ambience. The traditional way of eating a meal involves being seated on the floor, having the food served on a banana leaf, and using clean fingers of the right hand to transfer the food to the mouth. After the meal, the fingers are washed, and the banana leaf becomes food for cows. A typical Tamilian would eat Idly/Vada/uthappam/Dosa etc. for breakfast and rice accompanied by lentil preparations Sambar, Rasam and curd for lunch. An Idly is a south Indian steamed cake of rice, usually served with sambhar which is a lentil based vegetable stew or chowder based on a broth made with tamarind. Uttapam is a thick pancake made from rice flour to which onions, tomatoes, chillies, and other vegetables are added during cooking. Rasam is a thin, very spicy southern Indian soup served with other dishes, typically as a drink. A non-vegetarian lunch, includes curries or dishes cooked with mutton, chicken or fish. The pappad and the pickle finishes a complete Tamilian meal. Chettinad cuisine is a speciality in Tamil Nadu and will be a delight for those who like hot and spicy non-vegetarian food. This type of food has several variations of fish, mutton, and chicken dishes of which the Chettinad Pepper Chicken is a specialty. Besides these food items, Filter coffee is extremely popular in the region and is served in tiny steel glasses.There are plenty of eating places in and around Mahabalipuram where both Tamil cuisine as well as other cuisines are served. New Cafe is one of the best restaurants in town with good food, friendly service, free wifi and a central location. Seafood, curries and fresh fruit juices are especially good. If you want to enjoy authentic Tamil Cuisine, you should surely eat at Golden Palate restaurant. The Wharf is another superb eating place. It is a little expensive but the food is worth it. Excellent dishes are prepared fresh by the chef. They also suggest wine pairings with the dishes,which cover both South and North Indian favorites.

Important Information For Tourists

BEST TIME TO VISIT: November to February

BEST WAY TO REACH: By road (Take a cab from Chennai)

INTERNAL TRANSPORT: Cabs, Bikes

ACCOMMODATION: Budget Hotels

PLAN A TRIP

show route and directions
A markerLakshadweep -
Lakshadweep, India
get directions

B markerAlappuzha -
Alappuzha, Kerala, India
get directions

C markerMahabalipuram -
Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu, India
get directions

References:


Historical facts about monuments of Mahabalipuram have been taken from the official site of 'Archaeological Survey of India' ( http://asi.nic.in/index.asp)

Facts about Kathakali have been taken from (http://chandrakantha.com/articles/indian_music/nritya/kathakali.html)

Photo Credits: (https://images.google.com/)


Do you feel like visiting 'South India' after reading this post ?

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    • profile image

      Joey Richarssen 23 months ago

      Awesome!!! Amazing!!! Thank you for sharing!!

    • Akriti Mattu profile image
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      Akriti Mattu 23 months ago from Shimla, India

      Hey thanks :)

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 23 months ago from Massachusetts

      What a beautiful area. The islands are stunning and I would love to take a vacation on one of those house boats. Would love to explore those temples also. Thanks for sharing your beautiful country with us.

    • Akriti Mattu profile image
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      Akriti Mattu 23 months ago from Shimla, India

      Thank you for the lovely feedback :)

      The first chance you get to visit India, take it. I insist :)

    • Sandra Micheals profile image

      Sandra Micheals 23 months ago from Sydney, Australia

      These 3 places are so beautiful and amazing. Thanks for posting this nice hub.

    • Akriti Mattu profile image
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      Akriti Mattu 23 months ago from Shimla, India

      Thank you.

    • profile image

      Keshav Sharma 23 months ago

      Wow, Speechless :)

    • Akriti Mattu profile image
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      Akriti Mattu 23 months ago from Shimla, India

      Thanks :)

    • profile image

      C.S.Billore 23 months ago

      Akriti Mattu...very nice...aapki jai ho..

    • vasantha  T k profile image

      vasantha T k 23 months ago from Bangalore

      Amazing, colorful pictures, it's visual treat. Voted up! Thanks for sharing

    • profile image

      AadityA 23 months ago

      WaW!!!Wonderful And quite interesting ....thanx for sharing!!!

      Keep uP Akriti!!!

      C

    • profile image

      Nidhi Sharma 23 months ago

      Hey another gem of an article from you Akriti...makes me feel like visiting all of the Places mentioned above ,many of which I haven't even heard of !!

      Didn't know South is such a treasure trove of historical monuments.

      The article is exhaustive and covers the various aspects crucial to any traveler visiting a new place be it food places to see weather or history attacked to it. And the colorful and vibrant pictures added to the charm.

      Very well done and keep writing

    • Akriti Mattu profile image
      Author

      Akriti Mattu 23 months ago from Shimla, India

      Thanks for reading :)

    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 23 months ago

      these are beautiful pictures of India from the food, the destinations, the birds, and the beautiful and colorful pieces of clothing, it is all very beautiful. voted up and shared.

    • poetryman6969 profile image

      poetryman6969 23 months ago

      Given some of the news coming out of India I would be worried about a woman traveling alone there.

      But the photos are stunningly beautiful. Voted up for beauty.

    • Akriti Mattu profile image
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      Akriti Mattu 23 months ago from Shimla, India

      Had women not been safe in India i would have not taken these solo trips alone. I'm not saying India is 100% safe ..but neither is any other place in the world including United States. I've written this hub specially for women and i can vouch for the fact that these locations are really safe. It's sad that the outside world thinks otherwise just because of some media houses. Anyway, thanks for visiting.

    • Besarien profile image

      Besarien 23 months ago

      Beautiful hub! I would love to run out a visa in India. Maybe once my son is through with school I'll have the time and be able to afford it. These photos are amazing! Voted up.

    • Akriti Mattu profile image
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      Akriti Mattu 23 months ago from Shimla, India

      Thanks. Yes do visit :)

    • Buildreps profile image

      Buildreps 23 months ago from Europe

      Yes, I did now :) A real masterpiece! You perfectly balanced the tips, the amazing photo's, and the text. You told so much about India I didn't know. Thanks.

    • Akriti Mattu profile image
      Author

      Akriti Mattu 23 months ago from Shimla, India

      Thanks for reading :)

    • radhikasree profile image

      Radhika Sreekanth 23 months ago from Mumbai,India

      Fantabulous!! Nice to see a North Indian writing about South India. You've given a detailed description of all those delightful spots. Loved it.:)

      Voted up, beautiful, awesome and interesting. Sharing in Hubpages.

    • Akriti Mattu profile image
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      Akriti Mattu 23 months ago from Shimla, India

      Thank you for the feedback.

      As for north Indian writing about South India - Well the entire country is mine so why regionalize. It is one country and every part needs to be explored :-)

      I am a fan of travel so i have visited every nook and corner of my country. Wanted to share the experience here. Our country is gorgeous :-)

    • Mellyunplugged profile image

      Melvin Augustine 23 months ago from India

      Great Hub!

    • Akriti Mattu profile image
      Author

      Akriti Mattu 23 months ago from Shimla, India

      Thank you.

    • Kappygirl profile image

      Kappygirl 21 months ago

      All of the places you featured here look amazing! From the sea life, to the wild birds, to the food, the beaches, the houseboats, the people--I'm ready to go! What a thorough hub. Voted up! I'll try to check out more of your hubs.

    • Akriti Mattu profile image
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      Akriti Mattu 20 months ago from Shimla, India

      Thanks a ton :)

    • the rawspirit profile image

      Robert Morgan 20 months ago from Hutchinson Island, FL - Myrtle Beach, SC - Scottsdale AZ

      Once again you have written a wonderful hub. I am not a single lady, lol, but who would not love to travel to these beautiful places. Well done. Blessings, Bobby. I think I told you my wife has spent many months in India and we will be going back together soon. We will use your hub as one of our travel guides. Blessings. Voting it up.

    • Akriti Mattu profile image
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      Akriti Mattu 20 months ago from Shimla, India

      How nice of you :-)

      Feels good that my hub could help a traveler :)

      If u have any more questions, feel free to connect here or on any of my social media.

    • the rawspirit profile image

      Robert Morgan 20 months ago from Hutchinson Island, FL - Myrtle Beach, SC - Scottsdale AZ

      Absolutely. I am blessed to get to know you.

    • Akriti Mattu profile image
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      Akriti Mattu 20 months ago from Shimla, India

      Likewise Sir :)

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