Post morning sunburn (spent sketching the Shore Temple), we had an OK breakfast of omelettes and toast- the eggs were a bit under-cooked, ugh. Of course we did have a pre-breakfast breakfast? at a South Indian restaurant earlier that morning. But after the 2nd meal, it was onward to the 5 Rathas.
I really don’t advise serious visitors to go on a Sunday, the place was literally crawling with people, and like I may have mentioned in my previous post- the kind who clamber all over the monuments, which offends every sensibility. These are 1400 yr old structures, have a modicum of respect. Fortunately, an artist can eliminate unsightly crowds from a picture unlike a photographer!
This is hewn out of solid rock to form 5 free-standing monoliths and I love the way the base rock is left raw, so the structures practically grow out of them, Despite the name, there is no historical basis of association with the Pandavas. They were excavated during the reign of Narasimhavarman I and are the earliest monuments of their kind in the country. The variety of super-structures indicate the many types of designs and roofing patterns used at the time.
The first temple from the north, named after Draupadi is actually dedicated to the goddess Durga. Dharmaraja Ratha, the southernmost is also the highest revealing that the rock sloped from south to north. There is also a large monolithic elephant sculpture (seen to the right of the 1st ratha).
There’s plenty more to see in Mahabalipuram like Arjuna’s penance, and numerous temples around it, but crowds and time didn’t permit anything more than rushing through them without being able to really take it all in. Oh well, I guess that calls for another trip there at some point.