The Legacy of Pallavas, Mahabalipuram-Part I: Rathas

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The Legacy of Pallavas, Mahabalipuram-Part I: Rathas

The group of monuments at Mahabalipuram is an UNESCO world heritage site with its monuments spread across three complex within less than 3 km, with an exception of tiger cave about 5 km north of shore temple. Shore temple is located at the seashore while the caves are distributed on the nearby hillock and the Pancha Ratha's about 1 km away. The group of monuments at Mahabalipuram are built by the Pallava kings between 630 and 728 AD using local granite rocks.

Apart from the shore Temple, the Pallava period group of monuments at Mahabalipuram are mostly rock-cut structures in the form of Ratha's or Chariots, Caves/Mantapa's, and bas-relief. All of these can be visited in a single day with an entire day to spare.
Pancha Pandava Ratha's/Chariots of Mahabalipuram
Pancha Pandava Ratha's/Chariots of Mahabalipuram
We started with Pancha Rathas or the Five Ratha's.  These Ratha's are monolithic rock-cut monuments carved out of single piece of rock in the shape of Ratha's or Chariots, and are one of the earliest examples of monolithic Indian rock-cut architecture built in 7th century by the Pallava Kings. Kailasa temple at Ellora is another example of monolithic rock-cut architecture many times larger in size than the ones in Mahabalipuram.
The monolithic structures are named after the Pancha Pandavas of epic Mahabharata, in the order from left to right in the row are the Draupadi Ratha, Arjuna Ratha, Bhima Ratha, Dharmaraja Ratha and Nakula Sahadeva Ratha is built separately. Hence it is sometimes referred to as Pandava Ratha's. There are also monolithic structures of Lion, elephant and bull carved around these Ratha's. The arrangement of these Ratha's in a row looks like a procession.
Nakula Sahadeva Ratha and the sculpture of elephant
Nakula Sahadeva Ratha and the sculpture of elephant
Draupadi Ratha (left) and Arjuna Ratha (right) along with monolithic structures of Lion (front) and bull (behind)
Draupadi Ratha (left) and Arjuna Ratha (right) along with monolithic structures of Lion (front) and bull (behind)
The massive monolithic rock-cut Bhima Ratha with a base of 12.8 m x 7.3 m and rising to a height of 7.6 m
The massive monolithic rock-cut Bhima Ratha with a base of 12.8 m x 7.3 m and rising to a height of 7.6 m
The tallest and largest of the Five Rathas, Dharmaraja Ratha with an height of 11 m and its square base measuring 8.5 m
The tallest and largest of the Five Rathas, Dharmaraja Ratha with an height of 11 m and its square base measuring 8.5 m

The terrain around the Five Ratha's is rocky which gives it a rustic outlook
The terrain around the Five Ratha's is rocky which gives it a rustic outlook
The Five Rathas starting from the left in the pic is Draupadi Ratha, Arjuna Ratha, Bhima Ratha, Dharmaraja Ratha and Nakula Sahadeva Ratha, along with the sculptures of Lion and elephant
The Five Rathas starting from the left in the pic is Draupadi Ratha, Arjuna Ratha, Bhima Ratha, Dharmaraja Ratha and Nakula Sahadeva Ratha, along with the sculptures of Lion and elephant
The constructions of these Ratha's were halted following the death of Narasimha Varman in 668 AD, and thus the five Ratha's are seen unfinished to its full glory.

At the nearby hillock near the Descend of the Ganges is another monolithic Ratha, called as the Ganesha Ratha. This monolith rock-cut temple is similar to the ones of Pancha Ratha's in resemblance but is a finished one dedicated to Lord Ganesha.
Ganesha Ratha, located behind the Arjuna's Penace
Ganesha Ratha, located behind the Arjuna's Penace
Entry ticket and Parking fee: Parking fee at the Five Ratha's is on the road and is free. Entry ticket for all the monuments of Mahabalipuram together is ₹30 for Indians.
Timings: Sunrise to Sunset, typically 6:00 am to 6:00 pm. It takes about 1 hour to visit each of these Ratha's in detail.

More on Mahabalipuram Click below:
The Legacy of Pallavas, Mahabalipuram-Part II: Caves and Sculptures

The Legacy of Pallavas, Mahabalipuram-Part III: Shore Temple

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