Between 501 to 1000 CE, Pallavas, Tamilnadu

Mamallapuram – Draupadi Ratha

Mamallapuram – The Workshop of the Pallavas

 

Draupadi Ratha

 

Draupadi Ratha is one among the five in the Panch Ratha complex. This ratha can be categorized as the simplest one among the lot. This is also the smallest in dimensions among all. In its appearance, it resembles with village huts having a conical roof. This kind of huts are still existing and in use in our villages. Brown1, and many other scholars, are of opinion that the rathas of Mamallapuram were derived out of earlier Buddhist structures of chaitya and viharas. However, Draupadi ratha does not resemble to any earlier Buddhist structure and defies the logic of Buddhist derivation.

 

Draupadi Ratha

This ratha faces west and is constructed as square measuring 11 feet. Above it, a curvilinear roof is placed, reaching the heights of 18 feet. Above this roof, a finial would have been placed, however it is missing at present. The roof has foliage and creeper designs at its corners.

 

Draupadi Ratha (image courtesy – indiancolumbus.blogspot.com)

Durga standing over a buffalo-head

The ratha is built on a platform where a frieze of alternating lions and elephants is carved out. A pillar is placed at each corner, the projected beams on its top, suggests the influence of similar structures in wood in the earlier times. Three niches are provided on the three walls. These niches are topped with a Makara-torana having two bends. Figures of Durga standing on a buffalo head are placed in all the three niches. Only the figure on the eastern niche is complete, the rest were left in incomplete state. The entrance, on the west, has a makara torana above its lintel. The entranceis  guarded by two female dvarpalas (guardians). the dvarpala on the right is shown holding a sword and the one on the left is shown holding a bow.

Durga as Korravai (image courtesy – kevinstandagephotography.com)

Ganas on Durga Panel (image courtesy – kevinstandagephotography.com)

The cell inside the ratha is a not a square and measures 6.5 feet by 4.5 feet. On the back wall is a figure of Durga in form of Korravai2. She is shown standing on a lotus in samabhaga posture. She has four hands, carrying shankha (conch) and chakra (discus) in her upper hands, one lower hand is in abhaya mudra while another lower hand is resting on her thighs. Two devotees are shown on her either side. One is shown offering flowers while another is holding his hair to make his neck tight in order to put an incise with a knife held in his one hand. Four ganas, two on either sides, are shown in the upper corners. We have discussed this form of Korravai and blood sacrifice in our earlier article on Varaha Mandapa.

Lion (image courtesy – kevinstandagephotography.com)

In front of the western entrance is carved a 6 feet high lion out of a separate boulder. Whether this lion was associated with this ratha may be contested, however presence of the female dvarpalas, an image of Durga inside the sanctum and in the niches suggest that this ratha was dedicated to Durga and therefore presence of a lion in front of the entrance should not be a surprise. Instead, carving out this animal on a separate boulder, suggest the ingenuity and innovative skills of the artisans of that period.

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1 Brown, Percy. Indian Architecture: Buddhist and Hindu Period.
2 Gift Siromoney (http://www.cmi.ac.in/gift/Archeaology/arch_mahabalipuram.htm)

  • http://www.poetryinstone.in vj

    hi saurabh,

    female door guardians / dvarapalikas..and
    ritual self sacrifice was practised – its called navakandam and involves cutting off bodily parts one by one. there are many inscriptions on this and the family of such ( eg: when done to bring good fortune a king's campaign etc) were rewarded with land and higher stature.

    vj

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16485971842518838054 Saurabh Saxena

    Hi vj,
    Thanks a lot for this information, I have updated this in the article.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01420464521174227821 P.N. Subramanian

    Very exhaustive and informative. It looks like a full fledged research paper.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15997290005034321837 injamaven

    Great job! Saurabh.

  • Anonymous

    so much information..you are cool