Mamallapuram – The Workshop of the Pallavas
Valayankuttai Ratha – This ratha is located near the Buckingham Canal, on the edge of a pond, Valayankuttai (fisherman’s pond)1 and named after it. This incomplete ratha faces east, with its northern side is most complete. It is a double story shrine topped with a square dome. This square dome puts it under the Nagara shrine category. This dome has a big arch (nasika) on each face, inside the arch is shown another mini shrine.
Both the stories have a regular arrangement of oblong (sala) and square (kuta) miniature shrines. Dormer window (kudu arches) decoration is found on the cornice of the ground story, two at each side. Each arch is connected to two pilasters going downward, thud forming a niche which is carved projecting forward. Each face has two such projecting niches, except the eastern face which has a projecting mandapa in front. This ratha is helpful in understanding the construction mode, top to down, where the carving starts from the top and moving downward in stages.
Pidari Rathas – These two incomplete rathas are located near a village goddess temple called, Pidari Temple, and named after it. Lockwood2 mentions that Pidari is a Tamil name of goddess Kali. These two rathas can be assigned to the same period as that of the Pancha Ratha. One ratha faces east and the other faces north. Both are two story shrines, upper part is complete but the lower portion is very much left incomplete. Both of the rathas are carved in different profile, as one has a square dome and another has an octagonal dome.
The ratha with a square dome has a projecting mandapa in front. The dome has dormer arches (nasika) at each face. Regular arrangement of mini shrines, oblong and square, at each story separates each other. Six dormer windows (kudu arches) are on the cornice of the ground floor. This arrangement results in a big niche at each face of the wall. These niches on the side walls are adorned with Makara torana with double bends, very similar to the decoration of the Draupadi Ratha.
The ratha with octagonal dome has a mandapa in front. An entrance is carved out, though in a very crude manner. There are six kudu arches on the cornice, suggesting two pillars and two pilaster arrangement. The space between the pillars and pilasters would be forming a niche to position the dvarpalas (door guardians). This same configuration is followed in the first story. We find here six kudu arches, forming two niches at the terminals. These two niches are housing two dvarpalas, partially visible to a visitor. The second story supports the dome, which has a bhuta-mala (ganas) running around, just below the dome. The ridges of the dome are decorated with floral creepers.
Ganesha Image – On the way to PIdari Rathas, you will encounter a boulder on which an image of Ganesha is carved out. It might not be easy to find the whether it is a Pallva period image or a later, however it appears that it does not belong to the Pallava period. A point in this argument may be the absence of Ganesha, on a large scale, in Mamallapuram, except being found at Shore Temple and among the ganas in Dharmaraja Mandapa. This suggests that Ganesha was not very popular among the Pallavas during the Mamallapuram period.
1 R, Nagaswamy. Mahabalipuram. p 58
2 Lockwood, Michael. Mamallapuram. p 175