The Rathas, monolithic [Mamallapuram]
Photographer: Nicholas and Company
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of two of the five Rathas (or Chariots) at Mahabalipuram
(Mamallapuram) in Tamil Nadu, from the Ramsden Collection, taken by Nicholas and Company around 1880. The view is taken from the south-west, with the Dharmaraja Ratha in the foreground and the Bhima Ratha beyond. The other rathas are not clearly seen. Mamallapuram derives its name from the title 'Mahamalla' or Great Wrestler of the Pallava king Narasimhavarman I (ruled 630-about 668 AD). The five monolithic temples hewn from granite and known as the Pandava Rathas are ascribed to his reign. They are: the Draupadi Ratha, the Bhima Ratha, the Dharmaraja Ratha, the Nakula and Sahadeva Ratha, and the Arjuna Ratha, named after members of the Pandava family in the Hindu epic Mahabharata. Their shapes have no surviving precedents in earlier Indian architecture, and they appear to have provided the templates for the subsequent development of much south Indian temple architecture. The multi-tiered Dharmaraja Ratha is the most complex of the temples, crowned with an octagonal domed cupola. The Bhima Ratha is rectangular and crowned with a barrel-vaulted superstructure.