Krishna’s Butterball

nameKrishna’s Butterball
coordinates12.6191°N, 80.1923°W

Krishna’s Butterball (also known as Vaan Irai Kal and Krishna’s Gigantic Butterball) is a gigantic balancing rock, 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 locally. It is listed as a protected national monument by the Archeological Survey of India.


The original name, Vaan Irai Kal, according to the Atlas Obscura, translates from Tamil as “Stone of Sky God”. 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.


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”.


Krishna’s Butterball is located in the tourist town Mahabalipuram in Chengalpattu district in the state of Tamil Nadu in south India. It is easily accessible via the East Coast Road (ECR) at a distance of 55 km from Chennai Central railway station and 53 km from Chennai International Airport. To the south, Pondicherry is 95 km distant. The boulder is approximately 6 m high and 5 m wide and weighs around 250 t. It seems to float and barely stand on a slope on top of 4 ft high plinth which is a naturally eroded hill. It is said to have been at the same place for 1,200 years. A part of the boulder on top back has broken away, making it look like a half-spherical rock from the back, while it appears round shaped from the other three sides.

In media

  • Krishna’s butter ball was shown in an episode of History TV18’s television infotainment show, OMG! Yeh Mera India, hosted by Krushna Abhishek.

See also

  • List of gravity hills in India