Mamallapuram – Pancha Ratha Complex


    Mamallapuram – The Workshop of the Pallavas

    Pancha Ratha Complex

    Plate 1 from the fifth set of Thomas and William Daniell’s ‘Oriental Scenery’ called ‘Antiquities of India.’ | British Library

    This complex, located little away from the main town, is one of the frequently visited tourist attraction. As the name suggests, there are total of five rathas inside the complex. The name Pancha Rathas or Pancha Pandava Rathas is derived from the five Pandava brothers of the Mahabharata. The tradition of naming temples or monuments to the Ramayana and Mahabharata characters is found throughout India. In this tradition, if the number of temples is five then association of these to the five Pandava brothers is natural. Apart from the naming, there is no historic foundation in associating the monuments of the said characters.

    Pancha Ratha Complex (image courtesy –

    The five rathas inside this complex display various architectural styles of a Hindu temple. These rathas are described in details in the following chapters. The topic of authorship is also disputed, however, I am skipping the discussion here the authorship is discussed in detail in another chapter of this series.

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