Among the numerous rock-cut structures, dating from the Pallava period that can be visited with South India tour packages is Pancha Rathas in Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu. These are monolith shrines named Dharmaraja or Yudhishthira, Bheema, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva and Draupadi rathas. The Dharmaraja Ratha faces west, has three storeys and a square shape, with its sides being 28 feet. The structure is built like traditional temples with a pillared hall and a conical tower with a total height of 35 feet. Throughout its façade, there are depictions of Lords Shiva, Brahma, Kartikeya and Krishna. On its pillars are carvings of lions; the second floor has images of various aspects of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu and the tower has small shrines. The temple of Bheema has two floors, a barrel-vaulted roof, with floor dimensions of 42 by 24 feet.
Grandeur of Arjuna
The third one is named after Arjuna, the third Pandava sibling. This ratha measures roughly 11 by 16 feet in base dimension and 20 feet in height. At the top of its vimana is a small octagonal pedestal that looks incomplete. The two pillars, supporting its ceiling, and ornamental pillars at the vertices, as well as the front of the platform on which it strands, have relief and carvings of lions. Cut into its outer walls are ornamental shelves with sculptures of Vishnu, Kartikeya, Shiva and other figurines like apsaras. Lord Kartikeya is depicted as riding an elephant while Lord Shiva is portrayed as seated on Nandi, his bull and greatest devotee.
On the raised platform is the idol of Lord Shiva, the presiding deity, shown with crossed legs and leaning on his divine bull. An interesting relief is that of Ardhanareeswara, a combination of Lord Shiva and his consort, Parvati, on the southern face. Also on each of its outer faces are two shelves with carvings of human couples. The inner sanctum is a square-shaped chamber without any presiding statue. To the east of the monument is a large statue of Nandi, facing the shrine as per tradition while two dwarapalas or gatekeepers can be seen outside.
The Nakula Sahadeva Ratha is like that of Bheema, with a barrel-vaulted roof, but it has a curved shape. Right next to it is a life-size statue of an elephant and its front porch also has two columns to support the ceiling. Like other structures here too the outer walls and the vimana have outward projecting images of demigods, gods and other mythical creatures. However, the boundaries of its main entrances do not have any images at all, while the inner chamber has statues of elephants. The last shrine to see here when on a holiday package to this place is named after Draupadi. It is the smallest and the least adorned of all rock-cut shrines at the site with floor dimensions of 11 by 11 feet and a height of 18 feet. The roof here has no tower, but a rectangular frame, looking like the top of a hut. A lion statue lies beside it and on its exterior and inside the sanctum are numerous portrayals of Goddess Durga, shown either alone or with worshippers.