All You Need To Know About Krishna’s Butterball In Mahabalipuram

From its unique mythological background to history and much more, find out all about the mysteries rock boulder, the Krishna’s Butterball of Mahabalipuram
The mysterious Krishna’s Butterball of Mahabalipuram
The mysterious Krishna’s Butterball of MahabalipuramShutterstock

The town of Mahabalipuram has many wonders. From its iconic Shore Temple to the ancient Olakkannesvara Temple, the city is a boon where the ancient and the modern exist peacefully. Among the many mysteries and riddles that entail this old haven, one the befuddling Krishna's Butterball: a colossal granite rock that has been hanging suspiciously since 1200 years defying scientific laws of friction and gravity. The mythical aura of the city is attributed to such instances of mind-boggling architecture that brings people to say that it's been crafted by the hands of the God. Here is a deep dive into the history and architecture of the God's plaything that hangs mid-air in the city of Mahabalipuram.

History and Mythology

The Krishna’s Butterball perched on a slope
The Krishna’s Butterball perched on a slopeShutterstock

Krishna's Butterball, also known as "Vaana Krishna's Butterball," is a huge granite boulder about 20 feet (6 metres) tall and 16 feet (5 metres) wide. It sits on a steep slope of a small hill near Ganesh Ratha in Mahabalipuram, defying gravity and remaining steadfast despite its precarious position. The rock's name comes from Hindu mythology, where Lord Krishna, known for his mischievous nature as a child, loved to steal butter. The rock's shape resembles a large dollop of butter, hence its playful name. The name, however, is attributed to a local guide who coined it to India Gandhi, who was on an exploration of the site.

According to local legends, a divine being placed this colossal boulder in its current position. This remarkable wonder not only showcases nature's marvel but also symbolises the playful spirit of Lord Krishna and the delicate balance between mortal and immortal realms. Another myth suggests that the rock was part of a failed attempt by the Pallava king Narasimhavarman I (also known as Mamalla) to move it with elephants. Regardless of how it got there, the rock remains steadfast, serving as a testament to the limits of human strength.

A report dating back to 1908 recounts a story about Governor Arthur Lawley of Madras, who was worried about a rock on a hill above a village. To address his concerns, he attempted to move the rock by sending seven elephants. Unfortunately, the elephants were unable to move the rock, and it remained in its original position.

Architecture and Science

Krishna’s Butterball seen resting along the slope
Krishna’s Butterball seen resting along the slopeShutterstock

Krishna's Butterball is a jaw-dropping example of nature's geological forces. The rock is composed of a type of granite called gneiss and is known for its durability and resistance to erosion. What makes this formation remarkable is its seemingly impossible balance, which defies the laws of physics. Scientists believe that the rock's unique positioning is due to its shape, the slope of the hill, and the natural friction between the rock and the ground.

The structure in question is a part of the Group of Monuments located at Mamallapuram, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Pallava dynasty built These monuments during the 7th-8th centuries as Hindu religious structures. Additionally, this particular structure is designated as a protected national monument by the Archeological Survey of India.

The boulder's stability can be attributed to a concept in physics known as the "lever principle." The rock's rounded shape and the hill's slope create a pivot point that supports its weight, preventing it from rolling down despite its massive size.

Nearby Attractions

The Shore Temple of Mahabalipuram
The Shore Temple of MahabalipuramShutterstock

Shore Temple: Shore Temple is an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is renowned for its stunning coastal location and magnificent architecture.

Pancha Rathas: Pancha Rathas, also known as the Five Rathas, are monolithic rock-cut temples that showcase the marvels of ancient architecture. Each of these temples is carved from a single rock.

Descent of the Ganges, known locally as Arjuna's Penance
Descent of the Ganges, known locally as Arjuna's PenanceShutterstock

Arjuna's Penance: Arjuna's Penance is a gigantic rock relief that depicts intricately carved sculptures showcasing scenes from the Mahabharata and Hindu mythology.

Mahabalipuram Beach: Mahabalipuram Beach is a serene and picturesque beach that offers relaxation and stunning sunsets.

If you are visiting during January or February, don't miss the Mahabalipuram Dance Festival, where you can witness classical dance forms against the backdrop of ancient monuments.

Getting There

Air: The nearest airport is Chennai International Airport, Meenambakkam, about 55 km away.

Rail: The nearest railhead is Chengalpattu Railway Station, about 23 km away.

Road: Frequent bus services available from Chennai, Pondicherry, Madurai and Coimbatore to Mahabalipuram every day.

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