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    ARTICLE

    Draupadi Ratha

    Map Academy

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    The smallest of the cluster of Pancha Rathas at Mamallapuram, the Draupadi Ratha is located at the northernmost end of the cluster. It is a square one-storey shrine 3.3 metres long on each side and 5.4 metres tall, with a single cell and a curved roof with decorative motifs on its corners. The structure shares a low plinth or upapitha with the Arjuna Ratha; on one corner of the plinth is a small bell-shaped sculpture. Some scholars believe that there may have been an additional stone structure on top of the curved roof, which possibly fell off or was removed by later rulers.

    The entrance to the cell has two niches featuring carved figures of life-size dvarapalakas. The cell itself contains a carved beam on the doorway resembling the woodwork architecture of the Pallava period, as well as a carved four-armed female deity standing on a lotus and surrounded by worshippers. While earlier scholarship identified this deity as Lakshmi, more recent literature argues that it is Durga. This claim is supported by the presence of a sculpture of a lion (Durga’s vahana) outside the shrine, and a worshipper on the panel performing self-immolation. The sculptural programme of this shrine is differentiated from others in the complex due to the recurring presence of female figures in niches.

    Though the structure is today named after the Pandavas’ wife Draupadi from the Mahabharata epic, there is no evidence from its original construction attesting to this.

     
    Bibliography

    Archaeological Survey of India. “Monolithic Temples of Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu.” 2013. https://web.archive.org/web/20130312100940/http://www.asi.nic.in/asi_monu_whs_mahabalipuram_monolithic.asp.

    Fergusson, James, and James Burgess. The Cave Temples of India. London: W.H. Allen & Company, 1880.

    Huntington, Susan. The Art and Architecture of Ancient India: Buddhist, Hindu, Jain. New York: Weatherhill, 1985.

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