By Swami Harshananda
Dharmarājaratha is situated at a distance of about 50 kms. (31 miles) from the city of Madras (now called ‘Chennai’). It is located on an open beach in the village Mahābalipuram or Māmallapuram.
Dharmarājaratha has carved an important place in the archaeological map of the country as it contains ancient rock-cut temples called ‘Rathas,’ belonging to the period A. D. 670 to 700. These temples were built by the Pallava king Rājasimha, also known as Narasimhavarman.
Significance of Rathas
These Rathas are seven in numbers. They have adamantly withstood the vagaries of time and weather due to their structural built. They have been cut from granite in single blocks or big boulders.
Structure of Dharmarājaratha
- The Dharmarājaratha is the biggest of all the rathas.
- This Ratha is almost a square structure, measuring 8 meters by 8 meters.
- It rises up to 10.5 meters (26 ft. square and 35 ft. in height).
- It has three storeys including the ground floor.
- There are a number of images of Hindu gods like Śiva, Brahmā, Viṣṇu, Ardhanāriśvara, Narasimha and Varāha.
- Over these images are short epigraphs containing the name of the king who built the Ratha.
- This Ratha, like the others, seems to be incomplete.
- It looks as though the construction was suddenly stopped.
- A ‘ratha’ is a chariot or a temple-car, the same as a vimāna or the shrine of the temple.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore