The history and evolution of temple art and architecture in India will be incomplete without mentioning Pattadakal. Located on the banks of Malaprabha River in Bagalkot district in the state of Karnataka, this small village represents the pinnacle of temple architecture under the Chalukya dynasty in 7th and 8th centuries. This holy site has a cluster of 10 aesthetically appealing temples, carved with a harmonious blend of northern (Nagara) and southern (Dravidian) styles of architecture.
Evolution of Temple Architecture of Chalukya Dynasty
The experiments of Chalukyan emperors in temple architecture had its beginnings in the 6th century in Aihole, the first capital of early Chalukyas, where they built more than 125 temples of various styles in rock cut architecture. Then they moved their capital to Badami and refined their architectural skills by constructing the rock-cut Badami cave temples; and, finally, reached its peak by building free-standing stone temple architectural marvels in Pattadakal, which were considered to be the finest among the triad. It was at this sacred place where the Chalukyan kings were crowned when they triumphantly returned from the battles. Most of the temples in this site were commissioned by the Queens to commemorate the victory of their husbands in the battles. In 1987 the entire group of monuments of this site had been declared as the UNESCO World Heritage site.
How to Reach there
Pattadakal is a major tourist destination and is well connected by road from major cities of Karnataka, with regular services of State-run buses and tourist buses. It is located at 180 km from Belgaum airport and 500 km from Bangalore international airport. Nearest railway station is at Badami at 22 km and the major rail head Hospet is at 120 km from the site. Tourists can depend bus or taxi services from these places to reach the site.
Temple architecture of Pattadakal – a Journey through History
Among the ten exquisite temples of Pattadakal, nine are Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and one is a Jain temple. Five temples are constructed in Dravidian style, four others in Nagara style and one temple has a fusion of both the styles of architecture. The carvings, sculpture and amazing architectural brilliance of these temples attract thousands of tourists round the year. Here we present a brief description of the individual temples.
Virupaksha temple, renowned as Lokeshvara temple, is the largest temple in Pattadakal and the masterpiece that stands out from all other temples. This magnificent temple was built in the 8th century by Queen Lokamahadevi to honor the victory of her husband Vikramaditya II over the Pallavas of Kanchi. Built in Dravidian architectural style and dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple has amazing carvings and sculptures depicting the stories of Hindu scriptures Mahabharata and Ramayana. It has three entrances, a sanctum with a circuit path and a square pedestal where Shiva Linga is installed. There is a massive stone statue of Nandi bull inside the four pillared Nandimandapa. It is believed that the architecture of Virupaksha temple served as the inspiration and model for Krishna I, the Rashtrakuta ruler, to construct the famous Kailasha temple at Ellora Caves.
Mallikarjuna temple, also known as Trilokeswara, is another temple constructed by Trilokyamahadevi, the second queen of Vikramaditya II to commemorate the victory of her husband over the Pallavas. It is a smaller version of Virupakaksha temple with similar plan and built close to it on the northern side. Built in Dravidian style, it has a four storied vimana, a circular griva and sikhara. It has eighteen pillars in the navaranga, beautifully carved with stories from Ramayana, Mahabharata and images depicting the social conditions of those days. External walls have carvings of Hindu Gods and Goddesses and the ceilings are decorated with figures of Shiva-Parvati with Nandi and Gajalakshmi. A magnificent Image of Narasimha killing Hiranyakashipu adorns the porch.
Kashivisveswara Temple built by the Rashtrakutas in the 8th century in Nagara style of architecture was the last temple to be constructed in the early Chalukya style. It is located on the north of the Mallikarjuna temple. It has a sanctum with Shiva Linga on a square plinth, an ardha mandapa and a mandapa. Only the inner passage and the sanctum that has a Rekha nagara tower remain now. Pillars of the inner passage are engraved with beautiful figures of females.
Sangameshvara temple, also known as Vijayeshwara, is the oldest temple in Pattadakal and was constructed by Chalukya King Vijayaditya (696-733 AD). Constructed in Dravidian style, the temple remains attractive to the visitors for its amazing architectural excellence. The main vimana of the temple has three storeys. It has a sanctum and inner passage enclosed by a path way for circumambulation with a number of frameworks of multiple designs. There are 20 pillars arranged in four rows and the walls are decorated with beautiful sculptures like Nataraja and Ugranarasimha.
Chandrashekhara temple, a small temple in the complex with simple architecture, is situated between Sangmeshvara and Galaganatha temples. The temple is positioned on an adhisthana and has a sanctum with Shiva Linga on a pedestal, a small hall and a sculpture of dwarapala (doorkeeper) standing on either side of the sanctum. There is no shikhara over the shrine. It is believed to be built in 750 A.D. to commemorate some major military victories or some other important events.
Galaganatha temple was constructed during the first half of 8th century in the Rekha Nagara Prasada architectural style. Unique feature of the temple is the sculpture of Lord Shiva in the posture of killing the demon Andhakasura, a testimonial of amazing ancient sculptural art. It is located to the north of Virupaksha temple, facing west. The sanctum, with the installation of a Shiva Linga, has a pathway for circumambulation and has several niches with figures of Gajalakshmi, Kubera and others. There is an impressive figure of Lord Shiva on the external wall niche of the circuit path.
Constructed in 680 AD, Papanatha temple is a blend of Nagara style and Vesara style of architecture. Located in the southern side of Virupaksha temple, it has a big antechamber, portico, main hall and the sanctum with circular pathway. The 16 pillars in the main hall have beautiful carvings of females and couples. Amazing figures of Vishnu, Shiva-Parvati and Gandharvas decorate the ceiling. Walls have impressive figures of royal court, elephant riders and several sculptures depicting the scenes from Ramayana and Mahabharata. The temple is the venue for the famous annual Pattadakal Dance Festival which attracts thousands of tourists from across the world.
Kadasiddheswara Temple was built in 7th century in the Rekha Nagara style. Built on a raised plinth, it has a square sanctum housing a sacred Shiva Linga on a plinth. The ardhamantapa decorates a beautifully carved sculpture of dancing Shiva and Parvati, with Shiva holding a trishul (trident) in his hands. Niches of the outer walls of the sanctum have the images of Shiva, Ardhanariswara, and Harihara. Doorway has pilasters with Shiva and Parvati seated at the middle with Brahma and Vishnu on either side.
Kadasiddheswara and Jambulingeswara – the twin temples
Kadasiddheswara and Jambulingeswara temples are twin temples with same size and similar architectural style located very close to each other. Jambulinga temple has a square sanctum with Shiva Linga installed on a plinth. Idols of Nandi and Virabhadra can be seen at the entrance of the ardhamandapa and the niches of the outer wall sanctum have sculptures of Shiva, Vishnu and Sun god. Ruins of a raised platform and basement of a Nandi-mandapa with a worn out couchant image of Nandi are seen on the eastern side of the temple.
Located at about 10 minutes walk away from the temple complex, separated from the other temples by time and space, is a Jain temple renowned as Jaina Narayana Temple. It was built in the 9th century by the Rashtrakuta ruler Krishna II and was the last addition in the temple complex. Built in Dravidian style, this three-storeyed temple has a square sanctum, an antechamber, a hall and a mukhamandapa and has been provided with massive pillars. The temple is famous for some beautiful sculptures and large figures of elephants.
When to Visit
Though the monuments are open to visitors throughout the year, the most popular time is between October and March, when the weather is pleasant. The famous Pattadakal Dance Festival is held during January at Papanatha temple and the Jain temple, which gives a great opportunity for the tourists to enjoy the rich cultural heritage of Karnataka.
Being a small village, you cannot find any accommodation there. Badami is the nearest city, where good lodges and hotels are available.
If you are fascinated by the history and architecture of India, visit these monuments once in your lifetime and feel yourself how the Malaprabha River valley has been transformed into a cradle of Temple Architecture.