Last Updated on October 16, 2019 by Soumya
Pattadakal – a name I had not heard before this November. Who knew it housed such beautiful temples! And was the seat of some of highest levels of art and architecture! When I started searching for it online, I was so proud to see it listed as one of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The article said, “Pattadakal Group of Temples, in Karnataka, represents the high point of an eclectic art which, in the 7th and 8th centuries under the Chalukya dynasty, achieved a harmonious blend of architectural forms from northern and southern India”. This was enough motivation for me to pack my bags and get going. And explore some of the best among the Pattadakal Group of Temples.
We planned a trip to Hampi earlier in November. And decided to spend a day in Badami too. Those rock-cut caves were just too captivating to miss out. As we scanned the map for further attractions, we stopped at Aihole and Pattadakal. This was the Golden Triangle of the Chalukyan Kingdom – three places wrapped in age-old history, art, and culture.
Pattadakal is not usually found in Indian itineraries. Neither is it something that you will stumble upon as you explore India. You have to go looking for it. And that is what makes it so special and offbeat.
The Temples of Pattadakal – An Epitome of Chalukya Art & Architecture
Along the banks of river Malaprabha, are located Aihole, Badami, and Pattadakal – all important centers of the era of the early Chalukyan dynasty. While Aihole was the architectural lab, Badami was the governing center, Pattadakal was deemed to be the cultural center of the kingdom.
On a hot sunny day, even though it was mid-November, I started from Hampi, toured Aihole, drove through the scenery of red sandstone cliffs against a background of yellow and brown, already-harvested fields, and arrived at Pattadakal. And as I entered the gates of Pattadakal, I was both excited and overwhelmed for a minute. In front of me, in a sparkly-clean courtyard, stood the beautiful Pattadakal Group of Temples from 1300 years ago – temples I could touch and feel. I ran to them!
Here comes my list of the very best things at the Pattadakal Group of Temples.
Pattadakal is located in the Bagalkot district of Karnataka. “Badami Chalukyas” or the earlier kings of the Chalukya dynasty (between 6th – 8th century AD) built a huge complex of temples in this area. These temples were used for the coronation ceremonies of future kings or their “Pattavishekham” in the local language. This is how the name Pattadakal came into being. Pattadakal slowly became the cultural capital of the Chalukyas. It was also here that architecture of the highest order was practiced. While Aihole functioned as a laboratory for experimenting architectural styles, Pattadakal was the seat of the final presentation.
Let’s start with some details.
The temples of Pattadakal are unique because they include temples built in two different styles: The Dravidian style and The Nagara style. Nagara style is prevalent in North India while the Dravidian style is common to South India. In the picture below, you can clearly see the difference between the two Dravidian style temples and the only Nagara style temple in the middle. The middle one is said to have been inspired by the Lingaraja Temple in Bhubaneswar. For details on Hindu Temple architecture, click here.
Tourists usually spend about 2 hours in the complex looking at each and every temple. If you have a tour guide, he will explain to you the uniqueness of each, the architecture, and the purpose. You can find guides at the ticket counter in Pattadakal or can hire one starting at either Aihole or Badami and ask him to do the three places for you. These temples are the main attractions of Pattadakal. In my Pattadakal travel guide, you will see a list of some of the interesting ones.
The Virupaksha Temple is the biggest and the most impressive of all the temples in the Pattadakal complex. This was built in the early 8th century by Queen Lokamahadevi to commemorate the victory of her husband, King Vikramaditya II over the southern kingdom of Pallavas. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva and has a big Nandi temple facing the sanctum. The temple has a Dravida style shikara. In the picture above, you can actually see both kinds of temples: Dravida and Nagara. Virupaksha is the Dravida one.
The picture gets prettier as you enter the temple. Inside the temple, are stones inscribed with details of kings, queens, and architects who laid different foundations, pillars adorned with tales from Ramayana, Mahabharata, and the life of Krishna, a beautifully carved toran (a decorative door hanging) atop the entrance to the sanctum, and a number of filigreed windows. Each of these windows represents something unique and is different from its counterparts. If you have some time to spare, you can ask your guide to explain them to you.
A relief depicting Surya or Sun God is extremely beautiful and is a famous sculpture within the temple premises.
The Sangameshwara Temple is another large Dravida-style temple built in early 8th century by King Vijayaditya. It predates the Virupaksha Temple. The temple has an east-facing sanctum inside which is a Shiva Linga. The temple walls have niches that are adorned by various images or avatars of Vishnu and Shiva. The temple is built on a higher plinth which has a number of decorative friezes. Windows of different designs or jaalis amplify the beauty of the temple.
Galaganatha Temple is a Nagara-style temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Nandi, the bull or the carrier of Shiva, sits outside facing the sanctum. This temple was constructed in the mid-8th century. You will notice tales from the Panchatantra in the friezes of this temple. Another reason why this temple is unique is that it consists of a covered circumbulatory path which shows that the tradition of going round temples and idols of gods even existed back then.
The Mallikarjuna Temple is another temple that was constructed by a queen – Queen Triloka Mahadevi. It was also called the Trilokeshwara Temple after the name of its initiator. It is often referred to as the twin of the Virupaksha Temple because of similar architecture and common antecedents. The tall pillars narrate stories from Puranas and the Hindu epics. The sculptures of Mahisasuramardini and Samudra Manthan are some of the popular ones.
The Jambulinga Temple is another Nagara-style temple among the Pattadakal group of temples. It has a sanctum and a small mandapa. The walls of the sanctum have carved images of Shiva, Vishnu, and Surya. The uniqueness of this temple lies in the fact that the temple plinth is decorated with the figures of various kinds of birds.
A half-broken monolith pillar stands in the middle of the courtyard near the Mallikarjuna Temple. It bears inscriptions about the reigns of king Vijayaditya and Vikramaditya of the Chalukya dynasty, the wars they fought, and the temples they constructed. The inscriptions are in the Kannada-Tamil script and another descendant of Brahmi script called the Siddham.
Tickets & Other Logistics
Tickets are priced at INR 40 for Indian nationals and INR 600 for foreigners. You need to pay an additional charge of INR 25 for your cameras. Tickets are available at the ticket counter near the gate. You can also find tour guides at the gate or near the ticket counter. These people are usually wearing white shirts and white pants which makes it easy for you to identify them. Our guide charged us INR 350 for taking us through the Pattadakal complex. And he was one of the best guides I have had so far.
Toilets are available on site and were decently clean when I used them. Western toilets are usually rare and there may be one around. Crowds are thin at Pattadakal because of lack of awareness. However, there may be groups of kids or college students who might suddenly flood the area. These are usually a noisy but quick bunch. If you want to see the temples in silence, it is always advisable to wait for a bit and let the group pass.
How To Get To Pattadakal
Pattadakal does not have its own airport or railway station. So the road is the only means to get here. We were in Hampi for a couple of days after which we took a taxi to Aihole and then the same one to Pattadakal and Badami. The taxi stayed with us for a day and dropped us at the Hubli airport the next day. All this at a cost of INR 7000.
Alternately, you can take a train to Badami which has the closest railway station. Use Badami as a base and take a day trip to Pattadakal, the distance between the two is approximately 20kms. The closest domestic airport is the Belgaum Airport and the closest international one is the Goa International Airport.
Best Time To Visit
The best time to visit Pattadakal Group of Temples is in the winters (November – February) when the temperatures are lower and the sky is clear. Southern India does not really have a winter. It is just a less harsh summer. Additionally, we were blessed with an unadulterated, blue and white sky all the time that we were there. What is better if you have such wonderful views and no rains!
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The Temples of Pattadakal are some of the most beautiful temples in Southern India. A UNESCO Heritage Site, Pattadakal was the cultural epitome of the early Chalukyan Dynasty. . . Read more about the temples of Pattadakal at www.storiesbysoumya.com . . #pattadakal #pattadakaltemples #karnatakatourism #incredibleindia #incredibleindiaofficial #templesofindia #templesofsouthindia #temples #travel #travelphotography #wanderlust #culture #architecture #travelblogger #indiantravelblogger #indiantraveller #storysbysoumya #storiesbysoumya
The Pattadakal Group of Temples is an extremely beautiful and well maintained UNESCO World Heritage Site in India. The most unique aspect of these temples is the harmonious blend of North and South Indian styles of temple architecture.
I could only spend a few hours this time and was able to explore only the Virupaksha Temple in detail. I wish to go back and spend a day when I can spend an hour learning about the history and architecture of each of the temples in the complex. Till then, these pictures will have to satisfy my wanderlust!
Have you been to Pattadakal? Did the temples of Pattadakal fascinate you? Feel free to drop me a comment below and we can get the conversation going.