Panchapandava Cave Temple, Kancheepuram, Tamil Nadu

Panchapandava cave temple, an example of Indian rock-cut architecture of the late seventh century is located at Mahabalipuram. This beautiful monument kissing the Coromandel coast of the Bay of Bengal, in the Kancheepuram district of Tamil Nadu. This monument represent the Dravidian architecture.

The Panchapandava Mandapa is situated on the top of the high range along with other caves in Mahabalipuram near the open air bas- relief of Arjuna’s penance. It is about 20 miles (32 km) from Chingelpet and 58 kilometers (36 miles) from Chennai City. The Pancha pandava Mandapa (rock sanctuary) shares excellent similarity with the group of monuments at Mahabalipuram. The Pancha pandava cave Temple which is the finest testimonial to the ancient Vishwakarma Sthapathis has been considered as one of UNESCO’S World Heritage site as per 1984 criteria.

The entrance of the unfinished cave temple is facing east. This temple has the longest cavern (50 feet) amongst the other cave Temples. The lion bases of the verandah column shows a typical style of Pallava architecture. From the Pallava architecture carved in the cave we can conclude that this cave was carved or created between the period of Narasimhavarman I Mamalla and Narasimhavarman II Rajasimha which accounts to the midst of the seventh century.

The front facade of the caves have six lion based pillars apart from the pilasters at both ends abutting the rock. The main peculiarity of the cave is the circumambulatory passage which leads us to the main shrine. Each caryatid consisting of three lions constitute one lion facing to the front while the other two facing the sides with no lion on its backside. The decorations of griffins with human riders in addition to the lions form the brackets above the pillars. The pillars and pilasters are carved out   from a single square pitha bass plate. The second row of four pillars and two pilasters constitute a long chamber within the cave near the front facade. There is an octagonal shaped small chamber flanked by two niches lies to the back of second verandah. The base including the center and a small chamber being carved out from a single main rock. The main purpose of this is to elaborate the idea of circumambulation.

At the entrance, besides the pillars and pilasters there is  a curved cornice with a series of shrines projecting out forming an inverted majestically cone. The roofs of the shrines are carved with horse shoe – arch dormer – like projection which form a carved deity. Along with this ferocious looking lions are also being carved. The two fresco wall panels cut one of the cave faces with one denoting Lord Krishna lifting the Govardhana hill to protect the gopis and cows from the wrath of Lord Indra. This   carvings   is also known as Govardhanadhara while the other fresco denoting Krishna is known as Krishna dudhadhari. There are many scripts and sculptures which is in excellent agreement with Jainist script in Samanar hills and of other South Asian countries.

The PanchaRatha cave in Pancha pandava cave Temple is donated by King Mahendravarman I and his son Narasimhavarman I. In   earlier   times these Pancharathas were mistakenly recognized as a temple because they were never completed. King Mahendravarman I and Narasimhavarman I carved these caves as a   tribute   to Pancha Pandavas and their common wife Draupadi. These caves have no religious significance. There are 5 Pancharathas caves and they are ought to be called as DarmaRaja Ratha , Bhima Ratha , Arjuna Ratha , Nakula Sahadeva Ratha and Draupadi Ratha resembling the Pancha Pandava and their common wife . The rathas are stated to be modelled by Buddhist Viharas and chaitgar.  This beautiful monument is surrounded by landscapes and granaries which has been awarded the awesome site of 1990 by UNESCO and are protected by special firms of Indian government.

It is not just a spot for a fun-filled picnic, it is history and knowledge, never conquered.