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The ringing of chisels on volcanic rock has been the defining sound of Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram) near Chennai (Madras) for over a thousand years, when it was one of the most illustrious ports in Asia. The town’s former centre now lies on the seabed a kilometre off shore, but plenty of its wonderful religious monuments survive amid the sandy lanes and hump-backed boulder hills inland, ranging from temples and rock-cut caves to elaborately worked bas reliefs. You can watch the village’s stone carving tradition in action at innumerable workshops around the back lanes, where a pantheon of many-armed deities, mythical monsters and film stars are chiselled from slabs of local granite.