A visitor’s guide to The Monolithic temples of Mahabalipuram
Tourists and visitors come to Mahabalipuram to have a good time and admire the ancient architectural achievements that are a testament to the art and culture of the Pallava era.
(Note: A ‘monolith’ is a geological feature consisting of a single massive stone or rock, such as some mountains, or a single large piece of rock placed as, or within, a monument or building.)
There are nine monolithic temples or locally known as Ratha’s. The five best Ratha’s were named after the Pandavas. The structural design and planning that went into carving these temples is something archaeologists revere.
The five Ratha’s:
- Dharmaraja Ratha
- Bhima Ratha
- Arjuna Ratha
- Draupadi Ratha and
- Nakula-Sahadeva Ratha
Dharma raja Ratha:
The biggest among the five Rathas it stands three stories tall structure. The sculptures surrounding the structure show various forms and depictions of Shiva.
Many historians believe it’s built on palace style architecture. There have been comparisons to palace building style owing to its barrel vaulting and long columns. The roof of the Ratha resembles a boat, a pillared open space in front and a column with a lion sculpture.
It’s a simple structure carved out of an elongated rock formation with small rising slopes from north to south or its circumference. It has a square build similar to the Dharmaraja Ratha.
The Draupathi Ratha is filled with carvings of Durga especially in the sanctum and the east side wall. Two female guards are depicted in the doorway.
The speciality of this Ratha is, when it is viewed from the entrance gate it looks like the back of an elephant which gives it another name gajapristha (back of an elephant).
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