Back from Shore Temple, we went to Pancharathas(literally meaning five chariots). These monolithic structures which date back to 7th century, are named after the five Pandavas and Draupadi. Knowing a bit history of the place whenever you visit a tourist place can add to the excitement and thrill of the trip! Well, I have experienced it when I visited Chitradurga fort. I had read the Kannada novel, Hamsageethe. Though it is a work of fiction, historical elements are nicely blended, which makes you feel it is a real story. Now, lets turn back the pages of history about Pancharathas.
Pancharathas, MahabalipuramBit of history about the Pancharathas : This is what ASI(Archaeological Survey of India) plaque at the place had to say about the Pancharathas - "These monolithic temples are known as Rathas as they resemble wooden chariot and they are an innovation of Pallava king Narasimhavarman I (Mamalla)(630-668 AD). A huge rock sloping from south to north was utilized judiciously to cutout different forms of temples, besides few animal sculptures. Though these monolithic temples are termed as Panchapandava rathas, they have nothing to do with Mahabharata. These rathas with their ekatala to tritala vimanas and different in plan and elevation exhibit splendid forms of south Indian art and architecture.
Draupadi Ratha, MahabalipuramThe Nakula-Sahadeva ratha has apsidal vimana. A relief sculpture of Ardhanariswara on the wall of Dharamaraja ratha with perfect balancing of the masculine and feminine features is considered to be one of the finest specimen of early Pallava plastic art. The ratha also contains pallava grantha inscription recording the titles of Narasimhavarman I. The group of five rathas were executed as models of south Indian temples and were not consecrated as their stupas are still attached with the bedrock."
Bhima Ratha, MahabalipuramThe first structure you find here is named after Draupadi, is different from other rathas as there are less carvings and the dome resembles the roof of a hut. Also, this is the smallest ratha. Next you can find the Arjuna Ratha. Further Bhima Ratha covers a large area, seemingly attributed to the large built of Bhima. Dharmaraja Ratha, is a larger version of Arjuna Ratha. You will find Nakula-Sahadeva Ratha on your right. For more info on the Rathas, you can visit this link. Apart from these structures you will also find statues of Nandi(bull), lion and elephant.
Nakula Sahadeva Ratha, MahabalipuramFrom Pancharathas, on way to Arjuna's Penance, you will find the hill temple. You can walk up the hill, to get a nice view of the Mahabalipuram town and sea nearby. I felt the hill temple similar to the Stone chariot at Hampi though the wheels are not present here.
Dharmaraja Ratha, Mahabalipuram
Nandi Statue, Mahabalipuram
Hill Temple, Mahabalipuram