Known by several names such as Mamallapattana and Mamallapuram, the town was known to ancient mariners as “Seven Pagodas” alluding to the Seven Pagodas of Mahabalipuram. Mahabalipuram literally means ‘city of the Great Bali’. Derived from Mamallapuram, Mahabalipuram is a modern name of the town.
The town got its name after the Pallava king Narasimhavarman I took on the epithet Maha-malla (great wrestler) and Mamallapuram was ‘the city of great wrestler’. Pallava kings ruled Mamallapuram from their capital Kanchipuram and used the port to launch diplomatic missions to Ceylon and Southeast Asia.
Chinese and Roman coins have been found at Mamallapuram revealing the port as an active hub of global trade. The city of Mahabalipuram was largely developed by the Pallava king Narasimhavarman I in the 7th century AD. The modern city of Mahabalipuram was established by the British in 1827.
There are a number of quality hotels in Mahabalipuram. Most of the hotels and resorts are located close to the shore and offer an unmatched panoramic view of the spectacular beach. It is advisable to make hotel reservations in advance, especially during peak season. Being a beach town, one can find more resorts. However, budget hotels are also available. Summers can be especially hot and it would be advisable to book AC rooms.
Mahabalipuram is a seafood lover’s paradise. Restaurants offering fresh fish, prawns, lobsters and crabs abound. However, finding vegetarian eateries is not a difficult proposition. Pure veg restaurants offering simple and hygienic meals can be found all across Mahabalipuram. Most of the restaurants clustered around Othavadai Street and Othavadai Cross cater primarily to tourists. Food is cheap and one can get breakfast for Rs 25-45 and lunch or dinner for Rs 65–145.