Mahabalipuram Or Mamallapuram Panch Rathas or Five Rathas

The five Rathas is a set of magnificent monolithic rock temples. Panch is a Hindi world which means ‘Five’. These fine rock temples are located in a sandy compound. These five Rathas are the perfect examples of the evolution of Dravidian style architecture. There are built in the shaper of pagodas and they look similar to that of the Buddhist shrines and monasteries. Rathas in English means carrots. There chariots are constructed with Towers, The cars of gods, multipillared halls, and sculptured walls which are chissled out minutely.

      The Rathas have an association to the great epic Mahabharata which describes the heroes of Mahabharata with their wife Draupadi which is termed as pancha pandava rathas. The five rathas are (i) Draupadi’s Ratha, (ii) Arjuna’s Rath, (iii) Nakul – Sahadev’s Rath, (iv) Bhima Rath and (v) Dharamraja Yudhistar’s Rath.


This is located at the entrance gate, which is spectacular and simple, shaped like a hut and is dedicated to goddess Durga. Female door – keepers stand on the either ride of the Rath, one holding a bow and another, a sword. At the eastern wall a bas-relief stands portraying Goddess Durga standing on lotus and two worshippers at here feet offering flowers and one of the person’s head respectively. Energy other walls have the figure of the great goddess, and at the front of the temple is a Lion’s figure, which is the celestial vehicle to the Goddess.


The next Rath is the Arjuna’s Rath. This one is dedicated to Lord Shiva. This has a small portico and carved pillar stones. Inside the shrine there are no inscriptions or figures whereas on the outer walls. There are carvings of gods and humans. A panel on the4 northern wall is carved with two door-keepers. Beautiful carvings of Lord Vishnu and a Garuda on One panel and the other panel with a couple. The eastern wall is carved with a double Dwarka-Palaks, in the middle wall the portrait of Lord Indra riding an elephant, a log standing of the left with has disciples and two beautiful women are perfectly chissled out. These beautiful carvings hare been praised by many poets. There is also a figure of Nandi bull – which is still left unfinished.


In front of Arjuna’s Rath is the Nakula – Sahadev Rath. This is a double decored building, dedicated to Lord Indra – the God of Rain. As in Greek and Roman mythologies, where there are different gods for various aspects and qualified, the Indian mythologies too lane assigned specific gods for different aspects. There is some proof depicting this Ratha to which might have been dedicated to Subramanya associated with elephants. The elephants shaped sculptures face towards the sea. One who eaters the Panch Rathas, can visualize the back portion of the elephants and it named as Gajaprishthakara which means elephant’s back side. The elephant sculptures are huge and are highlights of the Panch Raths.


This Ratha is faced towards west and this is laid third of the Rathas. The shrine is gorgeous as it measures 42 ft in length, 24ft in width and 25ft in height. The pillars are lion carved whereas the other parts are plain. This Ratha too is an incomplete one. In the epic Mahabharata Bhima the huge guy is bulky and strong he is fond of eating all the time.


Of all the five Rathas, this last one stands huge. It is named after the eldest of the pandavas. Innovative and well carved designs can be seen in this Rath. This resembles the Arjuna’s Rath and it is a perfect example to the later built South Indian Temples. This Rath is also dedicated to Lord Shiva like that of Arjuna’s Rath. The ground floor is in complete. Above the ground floor stands minutely designed double floor. The peculiarity in this monumental construction is that there is no stair route from the ground floor to the first floor, but, there in stairs from the first floor to the second floor. There are eight panels in the ground floor. One panel is carved with the portrait of the kind and the rest with gods and goddesses. On one particular wall the figure of shiva is named ‘Ardhanariswarar’ which is the mixture of Shiva and Shakti. This is very attractive as one can find the manly structure and the luring female charm. Other portrayals show lord shiva as ‘Bhikshatana’ – meaning cosmic designer and the god of death.

Twenty two carves are found on the first floor. There is no central pasteurization in the first floor. The portrait of lord Krishna dancing on top of the fierce kaliya snake is depicted on the southern wall. Lord Vishnu’s portrayal is found on the Northern wall. Carving of a bearded ascetic holding a bell in his hands, a devotee with a tuft, holding a flower basket, a temple attendant with bunch of keys and carrying offering to god are marvelously inscribed. The second floor is well carved. Figures of Dakshinamurthy, somaskanda, the sun the moon and other worshippers all found in this floor.


The only completed sculpture of the fine Rathas is the Ganesh Rath. This lies west to the Bhim Rath and it resembles the Arjuna Penance. It was earlier dedicated to lord shiva and now it is a shrine of Ganesha. There was a lingam structure earlier and now an idol of lord Ganesha has been replaced the pallavas did not stop with there fine Raths but they went on to build more sculptures of them four are found lying on the outskirts of mahabalipuram. Two Raths which lie side by side on the way to Tirukkalakundram are named as Pidari Rathas. To the south of these two Rathas lies the Valayankuttai Rath and the fourth one which lies opposite to the Mahishasura Mardini Mandap is nameless.