Mahabalipuram or Mamallapuram is a laid back beach town, situated 60km south of Chennai. It was the major sea port of Pallava kings in 7th Century, who conducted a thriving maritime trade here with the Far East till 11th century. Mamallapuram is a marvelous open air museum displaying richness of the Pallava craftsmanship. The magnificent Shore Temple, although ravaged by the elements and the pounding ocean waves, still reflects the glorious past of these intrepid merchants. Best of them are The ‘Arjuna`s Penance’ - the immense Bas-relief that is sculpted from one rock. It is done in fascinating detail on a huge whale-back shaped rock depicting the story of the descent of the river Ganga to the earth. The ‘Five Rathas’ Symbolising equality of men & women, represent the five Pandava heroes of Mahabharatha. These rock carvings (Rathas) are the masterpieces of the Pallava temple architecture and sculpture and the famous Shore temple is the land mark of Mamallpuram.