Temples of Pattadakal bear testimony to the opulence of Chalukyan architecture

This town was also known as Raktapura, or ‘bleed town.’
Temples of Pattadakal bear testimony to the opulence of Chalukyan architecture
Temples of Pattadakal bear testimony to the opulence of Chalukyan architecture
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By Susheela Nair

Cradling in the loop of the fast flowing Malaprabha River, a cluster of rust-tinged, beautifully chiseled temples, ravishes the eye. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Pattadakal was also once an experimental ground for temple architecture. It is said that this town was known as Kisuvolal or red town because of the reddish colour of the local sandstone, from which the temples are constructed. It was also known as Raktapura, or ‘blood town.’ Ptolemy referred to it as ‘Petrigal’ in the first century AD. It was the erstwhile ceremonial centre, where Chalukyan kings were crowned and commemorated. Pattadakal reached its pinnacle of glory under the Chalukyan kings. They bear testimony to the opulence of Chalukyan architecture.

Sangameshwara Temple

Each temple displays interesting styles of architecture like curvilinear spires, contrasting temples with square roofs and receding tiers. The southern or Dravida and the northern or Nagara styles of temple building are discernible here. Immediately inside the entrance are the Kada Siddeswara and the Jambulinga, the northern style temples with their curvilinear shikaras or spires adorned with horseshoe-shaped arched motifs and ribbed elements. The Jambulinga Temple houses a figure of the dancing Siva next to Parvati and the Galaganatha Temple has a relief of Siva killing the demon Andhaka in a wall in one of the three porches.  One can see a fusion of these two styles in the Papanatha temple to the south of the complex. With a 16-pillared main hall, rich in detail, and a ceiling with delicately chiseled scenes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata, the Papanatha Temple is a marvelous piece of architecture. The carvings on its walls, pillars and porches will take one’s breath away. The basement of the front porch of the temple is carved with elephants and lions. The friezes on the outer walls illustrate episodes from the epics.

 Pattadakal Temple complex

The southern style ones with square roofs rising in receding tiers are the Virupaksha, the Sangameshwara, and the Mallikarjuna. The Chalukyan love of imagery is exemplified in the majestic Virupaksha and the exquisite Mallikarjuna temples which are the symbols of the love and pride of the two sister queens, consorts of King Vikramaditya II. The Mallikarjuna Temple is akin in design to Virupaksha Temple, but smaller in size. The ceiling feature panels of Gajalakshmi and Nataraja with Parvati and the pillars have images depicting the birth and life of Krishna. The Sangameshwara Temple,dedicated to Lord Shiva dates from the reign of King Vijayaditya and is one of the earliest temple in this complex.

Graceful figure of an amorous couple in Virupaksha Temple

Virupaksha temple, the biggest temple in the complex, flaunts a massive gateway, several inscriptions, a mandapa with 18 columns and a plethora of friezes from the epics. Overlooking the temple is a pavilion containing a massive Nandi made of deep-green stone and covered in a red floral cape. This temple is still used for worship. Besides scenes from the Ramayana and the Mahabharatha depicting battle scenes, lovers and decorative motifs, around the roof of the inner hall are sculptures of elephants’ and lions’ heads. One can marvel at the ingenuity of the sculptor in making an elephant appear as a buffalo when viewed from a different side.

Intricate carvings on pillars

Getting there: Bangalore- 495 km, Aihole – 22km, Badami- 22km Pattadakal is connected by regular buses to Badami (45min) and Aihole (45min).

(Susheela Nair is an Independent Food, Travel Writer & Photographer contributing articles,  content and images to several national publications, travel guide books, website, etc. Also dabbles in organizing various tourism related seminars and curating photo exhibitions.)

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