Mamallapuram: surfer paradise, backpacker loungeville, and home to Unesco-listed 7th-8th century rock carvings.
The Arujuna Penance is set back from the road, unreachable to greasy, corroding tourist hands (a good thing when you consider that the Five Rathas and Shore Temples have become play parks for many tourists, and in the case of the furthest shore temple, a lavatory). You can stand and gaze at this terrific scene of gods and animals and make up your own stories for ages, or read the Archaeological Survey of India's website.
Although carved thirteen hundred years ago, the figures are still fresh, like naive art. I loved the monkeys sitting off to one side, as well as the cat lecturing his mice and the snake (gods?) falling through the Ganges. Ignore the touts and "guides' and just enjoy it for its own sake.
The other great thing? It's free.
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