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January 26th 2009
Published: June 12th 2009
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This small town 2 hours outside of Chennai is the home of the world famous Shore Temple, with a population of 13,000, it's no bigger than Maynooth Village. The shore temple was a beautiful building. Although we had expected to find the sea lapping at the base of the temple we learned that since becoming an UNESCO world heritage site, a sea wall has been built to protect the site from further coastal erosion. While this took away from what we had imagined to find, the carvings and the site itself were quite impressive.

Coupled with the beauty and the skill evident at the Shore Temple the town also boasts a park full of carvings into huge boulders. There are numerous small temples dotted around and all this work was completed in order to showcase the talents of the masons. Around the park is scattered evidence of how the huge sandstone boulders were broken using boiling water. A ten year old boy told us how they drilled holes into the boulder, then poured water into holes which they then sealed up again. They then lit a fire under the stone. As the water boiled and turned into steam, it expanded and caused the rock to break in two.

With plenty to explore and see, Mamallampuram is also a place to relax and unwind, with a real holiday vibe. We took many strolls along the beaches. One was a busier beach backed by the restaurants, bars and lined with fishing boats , the other was further away but much quieter. Here you were likely just to run into an odd fishermen or two digging up shellfish. Along the backstreets down to the beach the voices of the traders trying to entice you into their shop intermingled with the chip, chip, chip of the stonemasons as they created pieces for sale.

Whilst we were here we went to an open air dance event organised by the “Tourist Board of India and the Indian government” said about ten times in the opening speech which told us little about the dances.

The first dancers were a group of seven men holding poles and the highlight was the guy in the middle hitting an older guy because he couldn't keep up. The second half of the show featured Carnatic dancers who were excellent. The dance was used to tell the stories of the Hindu religion and the dedication to their craft was clear to be seen.

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