Mahavellipore. The Five Raths
Lithographer: Dibdin, Thomas Colman (1810-1893)
Medium: Lithograph, coloured
This is plate 21 from James Fergusson's 'Illustrations of the Rock Cut Temples of India'. The Pancha Ratha or Pandava Rathas, at Mamallapuram near Madras, are five monolithic shrines carved out of granite blocks that resemble raths, the wooden chariots used in temple processions to transport deities. They most likely dating from the seventh-century reign of Narasimhavarman Mahamalla of the Pallava dynasty.
The Draupadi Ratha, Arjuna Ratha, Nakula and Sahadeva Ratha, Bhima Ratha and Dharmaraja Ratha take their popular names from the Pandava brothers and their wife in the epic Mahabharata. The temples are apparently unfinished. Despite this, they reveal the finely balanced combination of architectural elements and sculptural decoration of the classical Pallava style, which set the template for much temple building in south India.