Krishna’s Butterball (also known as Vaan Irai Kal and Krishna’s Gigantic Butterball) is a gigantic granite boulder resting on a short incline in the historical coastal resort town of Mamallapuram in Tamil Nadu state of India.
Being part of the Group of Monuments at Mamallapuram, a UNESCO World Heritage Site built during the seventh- and eighth-century CE as Hindu religious monuments by the Pallava dynasty, it is a popular tourist attraction.
The rock is believed to be naturally formed but theorists believe a natural formation such as this is highly improbable, as natural corrosion could not have brought upon such a shape.
There has been a lot of debate how this enormous rock ended up on the hill. Even in modern days, moving a 250 ton rock uphill would be a very difficult task and require complex equipment such as cranes.
Several attempts to move the rock have been made, but none of them has been successful. In 1908 the Governor of Madras Arthur Lawley thought that this rock was too dangerous and would slide off the hill and cause harm to people and houses nearby. So he ordered it to be moved with help of seven elephants however, the rock did not move an inch and the Indian government gave up leaving Krishnas butter ball where it is now.
The original name, Vaan Irai Kal, according to the Atlas Obscura, translates from Tamil as “Stone of Sky God”.
One of the myths is also that the Pallava King Narasimhavarman (ruled South India from 630 to 668 A.D) made first attempt to remove this rock as it was believed that ‘heavenly rock’ should not be touched by sculptors.
It remained in its position and did not moved a little bit. In fact, the rock is heavier than the monolithic stones of Ollantaytambo, Peru or Machu Picchu.
According to Hindu scriptures, lord Krishna often stole butter from his mother’s butter handi; this may have led to the namesake of the boulder.
In 1969, a tour-guide is said to credit its present name, Krishna’s Butterball, to Indira Gandhi who was on a tour of the city.
It is listed as a protected national monument by the Archeological Survey of India.
Further Butterball or rock is an inspiration behind the famous mud dolls called Tanjavur Bommai.
As, the King Raja Raja Chola (1000 C.E) was impressed by the way rock stands on such a small base and did not roll down a slope.
Thus, a tradition developed from here to make mud dolls that never fell down. This was made on a half-spherical bottom which allows tilting but never falling down.
The Pallava king Narasimhavarman (630–668 CE) also made a failed attempt to move the boulder.
The Indian Tamil king Raja Raja Chola (985 and 1014 CE) was inspired by the balance of this massive stone boulder and it led to the creation of never-falling mud dolls called Tanjavur Bommai, which having a half-spherical base tends to come back to its original position every time one tries to make it fall.
In 1908, then-governor of the city Arthur Havelock made an attempt to use seven elephants to move the boulder from its position due to safety concerns but with no success.
On 12 October 2019, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping took a photo in front of Krishna’s Butterball holding hands during their second “informal summit”.