1/9/11 - Mamallapuram

Sight-Seeing in Mamallapuram

Shobhana stayed with her mother while Tricia and I went on a day trip to Mamallapuram, about an hour away.  This is the site of an amazing collection of carved stone temples, sculptures, and reliefs that date back to the 8th century AD. 

We were struck by the sign at a tollboth on the drive there.

Arriving in Mamallapuram, we first stopped at the Shore Temple, right on the edge of the water.  It has suffered some weathering from the salt spray but was still very impressive.

Then we visited a nearby cluster of cave temples and reliefs carved into the rock, including Arjuna’s Penance, the world’s largest bas-relief.

Next we saw the Five Rathas, a cluster of small temples that were apparently just carved as models for planned large temples!

Lunch and Shopping in Mamallapuram

For lunch and shopping, we again successfully resisted the wishes of our guide and driver, and struck out on our own.  We had fun wandering around, and found a small shop that sold beautiful and crazy cheap silk clothing.  The owner was the tailor, and he told us that his son, who studied fashion design in Chennai, created the designs.

The Indian Ocean

Tricia did not want to leave Mamallapuram without finding a place where we could dip our toes into the Indian Ocean.  So our driver took us to Tiger Cave.  This was another ancient stone carving, and it was set in a lovely park that abutted on the water.

The Chelliahs

Shobhana’s mother Sita had prepared a lovely dinner for us.  I enjoyed talking to her about cooking and many other topics.  It was so generous of Sita to open her home to Tricia and me.  We really appreciated getting a view of home life in India.  Sita had a spacious apartment in a large complex – it was larger than my modest home.  The décor was not too different from that of my European family and friends, although with a more Indian flavor.  She employed three part-time workers: a driver, a cook, and a maid.  They were always coming in and out.

Shobhana’s father, Raja Chelliah, who died in 2009, was a nationally-recognized economist.  He founded the Madras School of Economics as well as the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy in Delhi.  He was an expert on tax reform and economic liberalization.  Here is a plaque commemorating an honor he received from the national government.  The photo was taken by me, that's why it's so bad.