Panch Rathas

Panch Rathas
Vital Information for Visitors

Panch Rathas Temples, Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu

Open & Close:

Open on all days: 06:00 AM to 6:00 PM

Entry Fees:

Indian – INR 10/-

Foreigner – INR 250/- (USD 5)


Approx 2 hr


Built in 7th Century


Though named after iconic Pandavas but presiding deties are LordShiva, Lord Vishnu & Goddess Parvati.

Mahabalipuram is the land of ancient carvings & sculptures that takes us way back to the glorious past of our country. Huddled together in the southern end of this ancient town, are the Five Rathas or the ‘Panch Rathas’, each carved out from a single large rock. All these fine pieces of art have been dedicated to gods from the Hindu culture and get their names from the great five brothers (Arjuna, Nakul – Sahadev, Bhima and Dharamraja Yudhistar and their common wife, Draupadi) from the Mahabharata. ‘Ratha’ is the Sanskrit word for ‘chariot’ and is said to be the vehicle of God. These unfinished pieces are said to have never been a place of worship, but as appreciation for the art form and examples of the Dravidian style of architecture.

The first one is the Draupadi Ratha, spectacular & simple in the form of a stylized hut. It’s dedicated to the goddess Durga who fights demons. Goddess Durgar can be seen standing on a lotus with a lion’s figure & two beautifully carved female guardian flank at the entrance.

Next in line is the chariot of the bravest Pandava, Arjuna. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva. There are no figures inside however the walls outside have detailed and intricately carved out panels of God’s and humans, of which one with two ‘apsaras’ stands out the most. There is also a figure of Lord Shiva’s mount -Nandi (the bull), right outside the Arjuna Ratha.

In front of Arjuna’s Rath is the Nakula-Sahadev Rath. Named after the Twin Pandavas, this one stands aside from the other four and is dedicated to Lord Indra-The God of Rain. This Ratha is said to be associated with elephants & its roof is also shaped like the back of an elephant. The life size stone elephant beside the shrine is one of India’s most famous sculpted elephants.

The longest of the five rathas, built in Gopuram style, is the Bhima Ratha. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, this structure has a barrel roof and a decorated porch with lion pillars. Inside the shrine, a large bas relief of Vishnu is in the form of a Shayanamurti can be found. Although, it is unfinished but still fascinating and speaks strongly of a palace architectural style.

Of the five rathas, the last one which is named after the eldest of the Pandavas, stands tall and is the largest ratha. This superior structure called the Dharmraja Ratha is also dedicated to Lord Shiva and is innovative and well carved. It resembles the Arjuna Ratha but is one storey higher, with lion pillars. The beautiful carvings on the outer walls of this shrine also represent gods, and one of the panels has a very attractive ‘Ardhanarishvara’ (half Shiva, half Parvati) carved on it. The upper portion of this structure is decorated with horseshoe-arch dormer like projections. Its top storey has rich carvings with several figures & the first floor of the structure has 22 carvings including that of Lord Shiva & Lord Krishna. This Ratha is said to be the perfect example to the later built South Indian temples. Like the Bhima Ratha, this too is not fully complete. After the death of Narasimha Varman, a king of the Pallava Dynasty, the work on this piece of architecture came to a halt.

Although the purpose of their construction is still unknown, the site was listed under UNESCO’s most heritage sites of India. Each of the Rathas, is unique in terms of their design and structure, and hold great importance in the Hindu culture for they are closely linked to the mythological characters.

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Grand Tour of South India

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Destination : Chennai-Mahabalipuram-Kanchipuram-Pondicherry-Thanjavur-Thanjavur-Trichy-Chettinad- Madurai-Periyar Lake-Aleppey-Kochi-Bangalore-Mysore-Hassan-Hospet-Hampi-Badami-Goa

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Destination : Chennai-Mahabalipuram-Bangalore-Mysore-Bandipur-Coonoor-Ooty-Kochi-Alleppey

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Best of South India Tour

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Destination : Bangaluru- Hassan – Mysore – Coonoor – Kochi – Kumarakom – Thekkady – Madurai – Trichy- Tanjore – Pondicherry – Mahabalipuram - Chennai

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