Mahabalipuram hosts excellent specimens of early Pallava art around 680-720 AD. The Pallavas were the then rulers of the land and used Mahabalipuram as a port city. The sculptures consists of Monolithic carvings, Reliefs, Excavated carvings. The most notable of them all are the five rathas (chariots), said to be carved out of a single stone. The rathas are dedicated to the Pandavas and their wife Draupadi. The different styles of chariots allows one to understand the designs that the sculptures back then used. The excavated caves/mandapas (ones built into the stone) are present about a kilometre away. The temple of Govardhandhari and Ramanuja Mandapa shows the showcases craftsmanship and perhaps engineering expertise that people of that age exhibited. The Ganesh chariot, made square and carved of a single rock (monolithic carving) does leave you in awe as you would look closely at the details carved on it. The Bhima ratha is of a similar style. The other notable temple is the Shore temple. Being next to the sea, has caused a lot of it's details to be eroded with time, but the architectural splendour of the temple would still catch you breath. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, it has Shiva in a reclining pose within one of its temple chambers.
Pallava Dynasty: A powerful dynasty in south India which ruled for more than 500 years with its capital at Kanchipuram. Read more at Pallava, Pallava Dynasty
Pandavas and Draupadi: Mythology has it that the Pandavas were borne to Kunti and Madri, wives of king Pandu, by gods due to a boon received by Kunti from sage Durvasa. Read more at Pandavas.
Mahabalipuram is connected by road to Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu and is 52 kms away. One can hire a car or take a bus from the city. The entire trip to Mahabalipuram would last a maximum of 2-3 hrs. Do ensure you have a guide with you when you visit the town, as without it the importance of the sculptures would never be evident to you. Sadly enough the ASI has done little on that account, with hardly any plaques around describing the importance of the structure.