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Indian Monuments » Mahabalipuram Rathas

About Mahabalipuram Rathas

The temple city of Mahabalipuram (also Mamallapuram) is situated just 60 km off Chennai on the Bay of Bengal coast in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It extends from latitude 12°37' in the North to longitude 80°14' in the East. The city is well connected through a network of roads from Chennai and other important cities of South India. Many of the Resorts Mahabalipuram are strategically located close to the tourist spots.

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.


The climate of Mahabalipuram remains hot and sultry throughout the year with a maximum temperature of 35°C and a minimum of 19°C. The best time to visit this place is during October to March. One is advised to avoid the monsoon period. Mahabalipuram Resorts are packed during the peack season, thus advance booking for Resorts Mahabalipuram is advised.


  • Air: Chennai is the nearest airport from Mahabalipuram. Flights are available for almost all major destinations in India and abroad.
  • Rail: The nearest railway station is Chengalpattu. You can easily get trains for Chennai and several other south-Indian cities.
  • Road: Mahabalipuram is well connected by road to Chennai, Kanchipuram, Pondicherry, Madurai and other towns and cities of Tamilnadu.

Attractions in Mahabalipuram Rathas


There are a number of Mandapas in Mamallapuram, which are adorned with intricate carvings and reliefs. The sculptures display the artistic skills of Pallavan rock cutters. The main objects seen carved here are the figures of Gods and Goddesses. The Ganesh Mandapam is an active shrine even today and bears the figure of an Elephant God. Varaha Mandapam is dedicated to the incarnations of Lord Vishnu, namely Varaha - the boar and Vamana - the dwarf. Mahishasurmardini Mandapam depicts Goddess Durga, slaying a demon. Panch Pandava Mandapam is unfinished and is adorned with delicate carvings.


There are eight rathas here, which are in the form of monolithic temples - designed as chariots. The fascinating fact about these rathas is that their carvings are done with such meticulous details that it appears as if the rathas are made up of wood. The fine lines visible in timber are engraved in stone to give it the required look. Five of theses rathas are dedicated to the Pandavas and their wife Draupadi. Dharmaraja Ratha is the largest, while the Draupadi Ratha is the smallest.

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