Mahabalipuram is a temple town that is situated along the Coromandel Coast 55 kilometers off Chennai, the capital of Tamilnadu. The place is famous for its Ratha temples that are a part of the famous shore temple complex. The Pallava king Narsimha built the magnificent 'Ratha' cave temples of Mahabalipuram. The beauty of the sculptural art of the rock-cut temples tells about the architectural contribution of the erstwhile Pallava rulers. These 7th century temples are regarded the pioneer of an entirely revolutionary style of architecture that came to be known as Dravidian architecture style.
These 'Ratha' temples of Mahabalipuram are commonly called the Pancha
Pandava Ratha. These temples are considered pioneer of the Dravidian
monolith era and mark the point of transition between the earlier
tradition of rock-carved temples and the later tradition of freestanding
stone structures. There are actually eight Rathas at Mahabalipuram out
of which five are named after the five Pandavas of Mahabharata and one
after Draupadi. The five rathas that can be seen are Dharmaraja Ratha,
Bhima Ratha, Arjuna Ratha, Draupadi Ratha and Nakul Sahadev Ratha.
The interesting features among all these Ratha temples are the fact
that all of them are monolith and are based on the Buddhist Viharas and
Chaityas. The largest and the smallest among them are three-storied
Dharmaraja Ratha and one-storied Draupadi Ratha respectively. The
magnificent way in which these Monolithic Cave Temples were excavated by
scooping out the scarp of the hill from front to back is a real treat
for the eyes.
Apart from the famous Rathas, there are other magnificent temples in
Mahabalipuram too. These temples are renowned for their Mandapas (cave
sanctuaries). A Mandapa is an open pavilion or a hall with cells in the
back wall and is cut out of a single piece of rock. The giant open-air
relief such as the famous 'Descent of the Ganges' and the temple of
Rivage, with thousands of sculptures to the glory of Shiva, are the most
attractive. Both of these temples attract a lot of crowd every year.
How to Reach Rathas Temples
Chennai is the nearest airport from Mahabalipuram. Flights are
available for almost all major destinations in India and abroad.
The nearest railway station is Chengalpattu. You can easily get trains
for Chennai and several other south-Indian cities.
Mahabalipuram is well connected by road to Chennai, Kanchipuram,
Pondicherry, Madurai and other towns and cities of Tamilnadu.