The big temple at Thanjavur was the first UNESCO World Heritage Site on our trip, and the rock-cut temples and shrines of Mamallapuram our second.
The Thanjavur temple dates from the tenth and eleventh centuries, when Chola rule of South India was approaching its height. The Chola kingdom was quite powerful, and made its impact all over Southeast Asia, contributing Hindu/Indian culture to that region.
The temples and shrines of Mamallapuram are from the seventh century, from the Pallava kingdom. In case you are not familiar with rock-cut, or monolithic, structures, they are made by chiseling away at a big rock–so while some of these appear to be full-fledged buildings, they are almost more like huge sculptures carved from one stone. We will be visiting more rock-cut temples and shrines at Ajanta and Ellora (the Ajanta caves are particularly ancient and are said to have inspired the Mamallapuram ones). The most impressive rock-cut sites we have seen are those at Lalibela, Ethiopia, which are essentially full-fledged (small) churches that you can enter and worship in, all carved out of a single rock.
A sadhu outside the temple.
Schoolchildren visiting the temple.
A view through the entryways.
Detail of entrance to central shrine.
Bicycles parked outside main entry.
Sunset on the tower above the central shrine.
Two views from outside the walls:
Local boy on sculpture (relief) inside cave temple.
Five Rathas, rock-cut temples.
Children on field trip at Five Rathas.
Krishna’s butterball, a boulder defying gravity.
Relief inside a cave temple.
Fishermen breaking the waves.