The Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram
This was our third stop of the day trip to Mahabalipuram, just outside of Channai (once called Madras). After seeing the Pancha Rathas, we took an auto rickshaw down to Mahabalipuram's beach, to visit the Shore Temple. Built in the 8th Century in what was once a once bustling port town on the Bay of Bengal, it is the last remaining temple of seven used by sailors to navigate by. About ten years ago the Indian Ocean/Sumatran tsunami revealed the ruins of another further out to sea.
|The bottom part of the temple has been eroded by water.|
"It has been bitten by the ocean" said the french member of the party.
The main shrine in the large temple is dedicated to Shiva, but as you continue through the temple you'll pass a dark chamber off to the side housing a reclining Vishnu. Another shrine to Shiva can be accessed from a second entrance outside. There are three shrines in two buildings in one temple complex, so depending on the source there are one, two or three temples on this site.
As we were walking towards the temple, someone pointed out this bird. She couldn't remember the name in English, but she remembered there is a children's song in German about animals being invited to a wedding, and this kind of bird uses it's long thin beak to curl the bride's hair. So in the middle of the walk way to a temple in India, there were two people singing children's songs in German.
You do have to take off your shoes to enter the temple, but you just leave them next to all the others somewhat willy-nilly and they'll be waiting for you when you come out.
Smaller statues and shrines surround the temples. The complex is quite small and looks the most striking when viewed from a distance. The proprietors must have realized this, and have put up a chain link fence around it to stop people from taking photos without buying a ticket.
After that we stopped by the Tiger Temple (very small, not worth a stop if I'm honest, and made our way back to Pondicherry.