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Five Rathas

Five Rathas

The magnificent 'Ratha' cave temples of Mahabalipuram are excellent examples of the revolutionary Dravidian architecture style. These Monolithic Cave Temples were built in the 7th century, by scooping out the scarp of the hill from front to back, which is really commendable. This architectural beauty tells about the contribution of the erstwhile Pallava rulers. The credit for excavating out such a masterpiece from the huge rocks goes to the Pallava King Narsimha.


Significance
These 'Ratha' temples (Chariot Temples) are commonly called the 'Pancha Pandava Ratha', as these are associated with the five Pandavas (the heroes of the epic Mahabharata) and their wife Draupadi.


Architectural Beauty
Built in the shape of pagodas, these Rathas look similar to the Buddhist shrines and monasteries. The largest and the smallest among these are three-storied Dharmaraja Ratha and one-storied Draupadi Ratha, respectively. The five Rathas are:


Draupadi's Ratha
This spectacular and simple Ratha is located at the entrance gate. Dedicated to Goddess Durga, this Ratha is built in the shape of a hut. Two female door-keepers stand on both the sides of the Ratha, one holding a bow and another a sword. Goddess Durga stand on lotus flower and a Lion (the celestial vehicle to the Goddess) is there at the front of the temple.


Arjuna's Ratha
This Ratha jhas been praised the most by the poets. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this Ratha has a small portico and carved pillar stones. You will surely be overwhelmed to see the beautiful carvings of Lord Vishnu, Garuda and other gods and humans. On the eastern wall are the carvings of Dwarka-Palaks, Lord Indra riding an elephant, two beautiful women, and an incomplete image of Nandi Bull.


Nakul-Sehdev's Ratha
This double storeyed building is dedicated to Lord Indra– the God of Rain. The elephants shaped sculptures, facing towards the sea, are major attractions of this Ratha.


Bhima Ratha
This west facing Ratha measures 42 ft in length, 24ft in width and 25ft in height. Although some part of the Ratha is incomplete, but its intricately carved lions on the pillars are a real treat to the eyes.


Dharmaraja Yudhishthir's Ratha
This largest Ratha is named after Yudhishthir, the eldest of the Pandavas. It's major attractions are the innovative and well carved designs. This Rath is also dedicated to Lord Shiva and its ground floor, with eight panels, is incomplete. Images of 'Ardhanarishwara' (a mixture of Shiva and Shakti) and 'Bhikshatana' (portraying Shiva as God of Death), Lord Krishna dancing on top of the fierce Kaliya snake, Dakshinamurthy, the sun, the moon and other gods and goddesses seem to be quite appealing.

Apart from these five Rathas, the complex also houses a Ganesh Ratha, a shrine of Lord Ganesha. This set of magnificent monolithic rock temples is located in a sandy compound.

 

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