General view from the south-west of the Bhima Ratha, Mamallapuram
Photographer: Rea, Alexander
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of the Bhima Ratha at Mamallapuram in Tamil Nadu, from the Archaeological Survey of India Collections, taken by Alexander Rea in the 1880s. Mamallapuram, a tiny village south of Madras, was a flourishing port of the Pallava dynasty during the 7th-8th centuries. The site is famous for an early group of monolithic temples, known as the 'Pancha Ratha' and some monolithic sculptures assigned to the 7th century reign of Narasimhavarman Mahamalla (r. c.630-668). The rathas or chariots are monolithic buildings carved out of granite and are so-called as their shape is similar to that of the temple chariots used to take the deities in procession during the temple festivities. They were never completed and could have been used as models for different buildings. The Bhima Ratha dates back to the 7th century and is a barrel-valuted structure, incomplete in its lower level. The entrance portico has four free-standing columns with seated lions at the base.