This post is a guide to the visitor who would like to find himself/herself wandering through age-old temples looking at intricate sculptures done by artists centuries ago. This post serves as a Temples of Pattadakal travel guide for those who would like to visit this amazing jewel in the state of Karnataka,India.
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Introduction to Pattadakal
Situated in Bagalkot region of Northern Karnataka, Pattadakal has a vast collection of monuments and temples. It Is at a distance of 22 km from Badami. Pattadakal is a village and still retains the same theme. Moment one is out of the village, there are wide open cultivated fields under the blue sky with the state highways snaking through them.
Incredibly soothing to the soul. I used to just park my vehicle and have a cup of tea from the travelling flask and soak in the scenic vistas. To know my ROAD TRIP from West coast of India to the East Coast, do READ HERE.
My blog focuses quite a bit on ancient temple history among other places of travel which I keep doing. The temple history posts come up because there has been in ancient Indian History so many monumental architectures which were created. Read through the posts on Land of 1000 temples , Tamil Nadu or Stunning churches of Goa. I am sure a visit to them would be fascinating to just about anyone purely from an architectural magnificence prism of view. Temples of Pattadakal travel guide is based on the same theme. In case interested read about HAMPI here.
India, for long, has been spoken as a land with a glorious tradition. There have been many dynasties that made their mark felt in the Indian Subcontinent. Even to this date, their visions are still visible in the form of monuments built. One such dynasty was the Chalukyas who at the height of their power during the 6th century were the dominant force in Southern India. India also witnessed the grandeur of the Cholas through their Great Living Chola Temples.
The Chalukyas kings were highly acclaimed patrons of art. It was during their reign that the various artists practised their craft in a free-flowing manner at a place known as Aihole. Those who attained excellence in their field eventually went on to create Temples of Pattadakal.
Pattadakal, meaning “coronation stone” was said to to the place where the Chalukyan kings were anointed to their throne. The other name for Pattadakal is “Kisuvolal”, meaning Valley of Red soil. The reason is that this sandstone was used to build most of the temples of this region. In fact, when I visited Badami, I saw the Bhootnath Group of temples standing majestic under the shadow of a gigantic cliff of sandstone. Read Here about my Badami Trip.
So I took a guide when I reached Pattadakal, and I would recommend that one does so. This helps in understanding the History of the temple and specific instances related to the temple as well as the region. Most of these anecdotes are local folklore, but then it is always good to hear local legends
There are a total of 09 Hindu temples comprising Temples of Pattadakal. Let me summarise the same in the form of short paragraphs. So to begin the Temples of Pattadakal travel guide.
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Temples of Pattadakal travel guide
The Kadasiddeshwar Temple, built in the 7th century is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is a single gopuram temple, with sculptures denoting the form of Ardhanarishvara as well as Harihara. Speaking of Ardhanarishwara, I would draw your attention to the temple of Ardhanarishvara in the holy temple town of GuptKashi in Uttarakhand. Read here about that visit.
Coming back to Kadasiddheswar, this temple is not very big; however, it has symmetry in the entire construction and is right at the start of the temple complex. It is to be noted that all the Temples in Pattadakal that are to be seen are enclosed inside one single complex itself.
A classic example of experimentation and finesse achieved by the sculptor is seen in the Sangameswara Temple. We see a twin-towered tower or Shikara rising upwards. It is not very tall but highly ornate. In the inner sanctum, one can see the Shiva linga with Nandi in attendance. The periphery of the inner sanctum is dedicated to a large number of ornate figures and sculptures.
I wonder even today; these are so arrestingly mesmerising. How would have been the glory of the Sangameswara temple in the 6th century when it was built. One finds so many decorative windows in the interior that add to the beauty. Try clicking the other temples of Pattadakal through the windows, they make a pretty frame indeed.
Standing next to the Virupaksha Temple, built by Queen Trilokeshwara, to commentate the victory of her King. The temple is a fine example of architectural glory. One thing to note is the use of the temple panels to create carvings which do the function of storytelling. The friezes here show the various activities of everyday life depicting human emotions of love and sorrow. The inner sanctum used to contain images of Goddess Durga as well as Lord Ganesh, but both are empty now.
The temple has witnessed the destruction of the Chalukyan dynasty during the various wars that these lands have seen. The signs of plunder and destruction is widespread in almost all the temples of this region. It is unfortunate to see how something created so painstakingly was disrupted maybe within a matter of a day and lost forever.
The conservation work done by ASI to halt the onslaught of nature as well as humans is definitely helping in prolonging the longevity of these ancient temples of Pattadakal.
Monolithic stone Pillar
In front of the Mallikarjuna temple stands an 8th-century monolithic pillar. The temple has inscriptions invoking hymns in tribute to Shiva and Maa Gauri. It refers to the reign of the Chalukya kings, especially King Vikramaditya. The inscriptions are in the local Kannada-Tamil script and have been studied exhaustively by the historians.
The most magnificent of all the temples in Pattadakal is the Virupaksha Temple. Built by Queen Lokamahadevi, in the 7th century. The temple was built to commemorate the victory of her husband over the Pallava dynasty.
The temple is one of the most intricate in the entire Pattadakal complex. Inscriptions offer a glimpse onto the life of the people in those days. The inner sanctum is encircled with a passage. The outer courtyard too has detailed sculptures created with doorways on three sides leading inside the temple.
The number of carvings that I saw here, it’s like there is not one square foot of stone panel which has been left devoid of any sculpture. The attention to detail and depth of the carvings depicting everyday life as well as scenes from the Mahabharata and the life of shiva is mesmerising.
The Jambulingeswara temple is similar in construction to the Kadasiddeshwar temple. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple houses a lingam and consists of a single shikhara. My guide explained that this temple shows the experimentation of carving ornamented features projecting outwards from the main temple framework.
Built during the 8th century, this temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. I found the construction of the temple different from the others in terms of geometry and shapes. The carvings as usual, are intricate and heavy. One can see the various murals depicting Shiva and other Gods. There is a Kalash on top of the Shikara, and outward projections are seen.
I must admit that I love the simplicity of these temples and the concept of construction. No doubt that the carvings are complicated and the story they speak are lost to mere individuals such as me. However, the entire projection of the temples of Pattadakal is one of harmony in sync with nature and mankind depicting coexistence.
The Kashivisveswara temple built in the 8th century. It denotes a form of architecture where we have the shikhara known as Rekha sikhara rising up in stages. The temple is adorned with exquisite panelling, and the main mandapa depicts Shiva, Maa Parvati and Lord Ganesha.
The temple is unique in shape and depicts so many stories from scriptures and the time when they were built. However other than historians, most of the travellers like me can only marvel at their construction and try to understand what they are trying to convey.
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This is built not within the main complex but just at the end of the periphery. The temple is unlike the other temples and does not have any shikhara. It was built not by the Chalukyas so maybe that is the reason for the difference in construction.
However, I found the temple to be more ornate than most of the others. It was quite interesting to see the same. The door frames were all ornamental with full-length figures carved.
Afterthought on Temples of Pattadakal
The interest in the temples of Pattadakal came much later and post the efforts of ASI, these were declared a UNESCO heritage site in the year 1987. The temples of pattadakal silently speak about the way of life. They give an insight into the social and religious life of the period when they were constructed. These are a treasure house of knowledge about the Chalukyan dynasty.
Pattadakal is truly a showcase of the workmanship and mastery of the builders of the early Chalukya dynasty. As my guide said to me, these temples are a harmonious blend of various construction styles from both North India as well as South India where we have the Shikara as well as the Gopuram. The architects of Pattadakal were at their glory when they constructed this complex of temples which still stands even to this day.
Definitely visit the temples of Padatakkal. These are reminders among many of what extraordinary era of History our country has passed through. Declared a UNESCO heritage site, architects of Pattadakal are immortalised by their works.
I would urge each one of you to take time out and explore these hidden gems in India. You will definitely come back with your heart and soul satiated and with a bucketful of memories of a different kind.
How to reach Pattadakal and related aspects.
One has to reach Pattadakal by road. It is best to get here from Hampi or Badami. Pattadakal forms a part of the Northern Karnataka architecture circuit comprising of Hampi, Badami and Aihole.
My suggestion would be to use train services if coming from other parts of the country till Hospet. From Hospet, hire a cab/ auto rickshaw for Hampi. Once done with that, once can visit Badami by road and after that take a taxi for Pattadakal. If one wishes to travel by air, reach Hubli airport and then take a cab.
For staying purposes, I did see a Karnataka tourism guesthouse in Aihole. However, I would recommend you to stay at Badami, which has some better properties.
Best time to visit would be any time other than summer for Karnataka gets very hot during Mar-Jun. The visit in monsoons would showcase dramatic skies while in winter it would be bright blue with tufts of white clouds.
Tips for visit and Photography on Temples of Pattadakal
- Try arriving early so that one can beat the crowds. Avoid weekends and public holidays.
- There are public toilets available. However, I did not see any rated eatery in Pattadakal. So carry something definitely.
- For Photography, smartphones are definitely recommended. However, if one is into technical composition using DSLR, I would suggest a lens combination of 12mm onwards, 28 mm for murals and a 200 mm upwards for some specific frames. Do carry GND filters if you use them.
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