Pancha Rathas at Mamallapuram or Mahabalipuram (Tamil Nadu, India) fascinated me since childhood, when I had read about them in my history text books. The very idea of carving out intricate & huge structures in ancient times (630–680 AD) from a single rock baffled me and I so very much wanted to see it in person. During my extensive family trip through south India, I visited Mamallapuram finally and got to experience the magnificent Pancha Rathas. It was a dream come true and the monuments were every bit fascinating in person as I had read about them!
The Pancha Rathas are part of the Group of Monuments in Mamallapuram which have been designated as UNESCO World Heritage. There are around 40 sanctuaries, including the largest open-air bas-relief in the world at Mahabalipuram, which made it enter the distinguished UNESCO World Heritage site list in 1984.
The Pancha Rathas or Five Chariots are monolith rock cut monuments carved out of a single, long stone or monolith, of granite. The monuments date from the late 7th century and are attributed to the reign of King Mahendravarman I and his son Narasimhavarman I (630–680 AD) of the Pallava Kingdom. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has confirmed these monuments to be unfinished. Each monument has been named, for no specific or related reason as – Dharmaraja Ratha, Arjuna Ratha, Bhima Ratha, Draupadi Ratha and Nakula Sahadeva Ratha. Each monument has been carved in a different style of Indian architecture, which lends this monument complex a certain charm.
Among all the Rathas/monuments, I found the Draupadi Ratha monument (see below pic) to be the most cutest!
Apart from the monuments, there is a bull & an elephant sculptures carved out within the monument complex, which look to be perfect accompaniments to the monuments.
As I walked among the monuments and admired the carvings, my mind went back to the times when these were made – what a feat it must have been to do all this without the machinery of modern age and to survive all these years!!
Please visit Mamallapuram and pancha rathas, if you go for South India Tour ever.