The Ancient University of Architecture – Group of Monuments at Pattadakal

posted in: Asia, Heritage, India, Karnataka | 34

They cut and chiseled in the caves of Badami, beautifying every feature, every nook and corner. The learning that started in Aihole was getting close to perfection here and it was time to move to bigger ground. The high school graduates were promoted to a university. It is here that they further polished their skills to create masterpieces which survived the passage of time. This is the final stop in the ancient architecture circuit of Aihole-Badami-Pattadakal. Welcome to the Group of Monuments at Pattadakal.

Group of Monuments at Pattadakal

Where Aihole treated me to elaborate shells of different types of temples, the Badami caves showcased the intricate carvings along the walls, ceilings, and floors of temples. Pattadakal put these together into complete temples. While the Badami-Aihole-Pattadakal circuit awaits its UNESCO recognition for the evolution of Temple Art, Pattadakal exclusively has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Not as well known as its neighbor Hampi, Pattadakal group of monuments often escapes the tourist’s eye. Here is why I recommend why you shouldn’t make that mistake.

If you are keen on discovering the UNESCO World Heritage Sites at Hampi, follow me on these three trails – the Virupaksha Temple Trail, the Vittala Temple Trail and the Trail that leads through the Royal Enclosures. Discover the various wonders of the Vijayanagara Kingdom.


History of Pattadakal

They say that the valley of Kisuvolal was mentioned as the valley of red soil in the texts by Ptolemy.  In India, the same red valley was called Raktapura or the “Land of Blood‘.  By the River Malaprabha, the site was supposedly the place of coronation for the Badami Chalukya dynasty. Given this significance, the site came to called the “Place of Coronation stone” or Pattadakal. In the 8th century, several experiments in temple architecture were done here. In fact, historians feel that the skill acquisition that began in Aihole found a culmination at this Group of Monuments in Pattadakal.

The Group of Monuments at Pattadakal - the land of Red Soil

The development started in the 8th century by the Chalukyas continued even after the Rashtrakuta dynasty took over. However, once the plundering began with by the Muslim invaders of Adil Shahi dynasty, Pattadakal began to fall into ruins. Even though the Vijayanagara kingdom took over, there was little done here. It seemed as if the artisans moved to the larger sites in Hampi like the Virupaksha temple and the Vittala Temple. The temples of Pattadakal somehow survived not just these change of hands but further. From Marathas to the Tipu Sultan rule and finally the British Raj, Pattadakal stood strong – with its beauty intact enough to earn a UNESCO World heritage status in 1987.

Group of Monuments at Pattadakal

Pattadakal group of monuments consist of 10 temples that are largely dedicated to Lord Shiva. Of these 10 temples, nine are Hindu Temples while one is a Jain temple. Four of the Hindu temples are built in the North Indian Nagara style while when you see the other four, you will notice a typical Deccan Dravidian style of architecture. One temple, in particular, is a fusion of these two styles.

Technically, I should have visited this after the Badami cave temples, I ended up here before I visited the cave temples. It was on our route back to Badami and we allocated our 2nd half of the day in Aihole to the Pattadakal site. BIG MISTAKE! BIG BIG ONE!

Galaganath Temple in Pattadakal, Karnataka

For one – the Aihole sites had already frenzied my nerves with its details and I still had not gotten over the same. Visiting Pattadakal was like setting off a bomb on my senses. The insane beauty of these group of monuments was overwhelming and after a point, taking in details was like trying to soak water into an overloaded sponge. ;-).

Aihole (pronounced as Eye-Hole-ay) was like the primary school of Temple Architecture. It dates back to the 5th and 6th century and has plenty of monuments for visitors to see. You can read about the various experiments in architecture through my own adventure in Aihole. In fact, that is where I recommend you begin your tour of this Temple Architecture circuit. 

The 10 temples loomed in the mid-day horizon – each pulling me in a different direction. Thankfully, the UNESCO site requirements put some method to the madness and simplified my visit. I hope to make it even better for you by just highlighting the key features of each of these temples – so that you can recall them all when you visit Pattadakal yourself. To start with – here are the 10 temples at the Group of monuments in Pattadakal.

  1. Kadasiddheshwara Temple
  2. Jambhulingeshwara Temple
  3. Galagantha Temple
  4. Chandrashekhara Temple
  5. Sangameshwara Temple
  6. Mallikarjuna Temple
  7. Papanatha Temple
  8. Kashi Vishwanatha Temple
  9. Pattadakal Virupaksha Temple
  10. Jain Narayana Temple.

Pattadakal Group of Monuments – Kadasiddheshwara Temple

Kadasiddheshwar Temple at Pattadakal

This is the first temple that you will see on your left when you enter the Pattadakal temple complex. The temple is built in the North Indian style and has three prominent wall carvings – each facing one cardinal direction. If you have gone through my earlier post on Badami caves, you should be able to identify the Ardhanarishvara (Half Parvati- half Shiva) and the Harihara sculpture. The door has a defaced sculpture of Parvati and Lord Shiva on either side. Don’t miss the Swastika Window that has survived since its original construction.

Jambhulingeshwara Temple

Jambulingeshwara Temple in Pattadakal

A little more elaborate, close to the Kada Siddheshwara Temple, this is yet another Nagara styled temple. You can identify it with its Kalash shaped design (metal pot) on its front roof. Carved within is the dancing Nataraja with Nandi and Parvati.  Along the side, walls have framed carvings of the Sun God – Surya, Vishnu and an avatar of Shiva. The Nandi in front of the entrance is missing.

Galaganatha Temple

Galaganatha Temples - one of the group of monuments at Pattadakal

The Galaganatha Temple is said to be a prototype for another temple built in Alampur of Telangana state. The temple has a short passage separating the outer hall (sabha mandapam)  from the inner one (the Mukha Mandapam).  The Mukhamandapam has a circumambulatory path around the inner sanctum which allows the devotees to walk around. The carvings within and outside might have been beautiful but right now, very little can be admired. Just remember to walk along its outer walls to spot one elaborate carving of Lord Shiva slaying the demon Andhaka.

Shiva slaying Andhaka - Carving along the walls of Galaganath Templev

Chandrashekhara Temple

I almost missed this one in the frenzy of catching the bigger Pattadakal temples. It is actually the simplest of the 10 temples in this group. Right next to the Galaganatha temple, it is a small plain construction. The only thing that you can notice here are the statues of the temple guards by the door.  The absence of an elaborate roof makes it look like a minor shrine.

Sangameshwara Temple

Sangameshwara Temple in Pattadakal was the first South Indian styled – a.k.a- Dravidian styled temple that I saw in this complex. There is no missing it owing to its elaborate construction. A high pillared passage takes you to the common audience hall with a statue of Nandi facing its Lord. Enter the Mukhamandapam and you will see a well-lit circular path for the devotees around the main Linga Shrine. There are smaller shrines dedicated to Goddess Durga and Lord Ganesha around the main shrine.

Sangameshvara Temple in Pattadakal

The temple facade and walls are carved with floral designs. You will also, find the Ganas or the dwarves at various places like the steps and the roof. If you have been to the Caves 1, 2 or 3 of Badami, you will identify the similarities between them.

Read about the four cave temples of Badami. When the Artists of Aihole – the primary school of architecture had progressed in their skills, they came to Badami to create some more masterpieces. Badami in a sense became the high school of Temple Architecture. Each of the caves here has a distinct theme with carvings that were perfected there and replicated here in Pattadakal.

The temple seemed complete to me but as evidence goes, it actually is not. Following the death of its patron – King Vijayaditya, the temple was left in its current state. There are inscriptions within the temple that thank its patron and date the temple back to 720 C.E – making Sangameshwara Temple the oldest temple in this Pattadakal Temple Complex.

Mallikarjuna Temple

Mallikarjuna Temple of Pattadakal

Another of the Dravidian temples, the Mallikarjuna Temple of Pattadakal is a little more elaborate in its details than its oldest neighbor – the Sangameshwara Temple. Here you will find that the Nandi is in a closed mandapa facing the entrance of the Temple. A wide Sabhamandapa leads you to the inner Mukhamandapa with its circular Pradakshina marg (circumambulatory) around the main shrine with the Linga. There are two other shrines with missing idols on either side of the main shrine. One is supposedly for Goddess Durga and the other is for Lord Ganesha.

Carved facade of Mallikarjuna Temple in Pattadakal

The bas reliefs along the outer walls have far more detail than what we saw so far. The pillars too, are ornate with floral designs and mythological stories. I particularly, loved the different windows around the temple. This temple was made by the 2nd Queen – Trilokyamahadevi of King Vikramaditya. There are inscriptions within the temple crediting her for the same.

Kashi Vishwanatha Temple

Kashi Vishwanath Temple - A Nagara styled temple in the group of monuments at Pattadakal

Possibly some part of the designs experimented on this temple were actually replicated in the Kashi Vishwanath Temple in the Varanasi. Or at least that is how I imagine it to be for the gorgeous Nagara styled architecture did have some superficial resemblance to the little that I saw in Benaras. Either way, this is the last of the North-Indian styled architecture you will see in the Pattadakal temple complex.

The Intricate design of Kashivishwanatha temple of Pattadakal
Close up of one of the windows of Kashivishwanath temple

The layout within is quite like the other temples with three distinct sections – the Sabha Mandapa, the Mukhmandapa and the Garbha Griha (Inner Sanctum). What makes it unique is the little details carved along the walls and ceilings. You will find the small ganas along with brackets of celestial couples flying. The ceiling there too, has a carving of Lord Shiva and his family. The pillars have plenty of mythological scenes from epics like the Ramayana and Shiva Puran. These are well-interspersed by flower and animal carvings. The Kashi Vishvanatha temple of Pattadakal is the most developed Nagara styled temple.

Virupaksha temple in Pattadakal

Covered Nandi Mandapam in front of Virupaksha Temple  at the Group of monuments at Pattadakal

The largest and the most overwhelming Pattadakal temple would be this one. Quite like its namesake in Hampi, the Virupaksha temple will make any history buff go into raptures and any art lover into a tizzy. From the roof to the pillars, every inch of the temple has a story to say. The live temple is often teaming with devotees.

The Western side of the Virupaksha Temple at Pattadakal with its roof

This Dravidian styled temple has a temple roof of Vimana that is topped with a Kalash. Along every level of the roof, you will notice motifs from various Hindu stories. Follow that down to the sides and the outer walls – you will be able to identify characters from Shiva and Vishnu stories. In fact, if you have been to the Badami caves, you should be able to identify all of them – from Harihara to Narasimha (half lion) and Varaha (Boar).

Walls of the Pattadakal Virupaksha Temple
Close up of some of the carvings along the walls of the temple

The temple from within is also, quite spacious with around 18 tall pillars. Again, each of the pillars has stories carved onto them. Owing to it being a live temple, you might not be able to take pictures within. An inscription in the temple credits Queen Lokadevi – wife of King Vikramaditya for building this temple. As the story goes, she did it to honor her husband’s win over the Pallavas.

Virupaksha Temple at Pattadakal Group of Monuments

We ended our visit to the group of monuments in Pattadakal with this temple. If anything, I was so caught up that I almost missed a lot of details here. It was hard to capture it all. In fact, I highly recommend a guide and lots of time for anyone going to the Pattadakal temples. It should help you absorb the place better.

Papanatha Temple

There were two more of these group of temples in Pattadakal that we were to visit. However, it had been a really long day with our first half in Aihole and the 2nd one here. We chose to let go of the other two. This was just as well for I was in no position to absorb any more details. However, I expect all of you to be smarter than me and plan Pattadakal for a separate and exclusive day. Given you will do that, just sharing the details of the other two temples to include in your visit.

Long passages in one of the Group of monuments in Pattadakal

The Papanatha temple is around half a kilometer away from this cluster of Pattadakal temples. It is a unique one for it is a fusion of both – North Indian and South Indian style of architecture. As per what I read, it could be owing to the fact that these constructions might have been done in phases. You can well see the Nagara (North Indian) style on the roof and outer towers while the decor within is Dravidian. They say that the ceilings have gorgeous carvings of Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva.

Jain Narayana Temple – Last of the group of monuments at Pattadakal

Ideally, I would have liked to visit this one for it is supposedly different from the other temples that I saw so far. For one, the faith itself is different, which is obvious in its decor and ambiance. The 2nd is that it was not built by the Chalukyas. It was in fact, constructed by the Rashtrakutas in the 9th century. The Temple is seemingly simple from the outside but is quite big and has a Tirthankara installed within. Again, this is a little off the cluster that we had visited.

Excavated temple pieces at the site of Group of monuments at Pattadakal
Inscriptions on one of the pillars of Pattadakal temples

Within the Group of monuments, keep an eye out for the fallen roofs or vimanas, lone pillars with inscriptions and unfinished or damaged sculptures. You can find these behind the temples. From what I understand, there is plenty more being uncovered with excavations here. Possibly, a lot of university work is still buried under the sands of time.

As much as I might have missed, I feel I did cover quite a bit. Pattadakal is completely unmissable and is one such site that no matter how many times you go, you are bound to have left something out. I am sure that the next time I go, I will be bringing in nuggets to add to this post. Until then, just pin this up as your informal guide and get going to the Group of monuments at Pattadakal.

How to reach Pattadakal?

  • Pattadakal is actually, a village on the outskirts of Badami in Bagalkot district of Karnataka. The only way to get here is by road from Badami. The to distance between Badami to Pattadakal is 22 km.
  • To get to Badami, you can opt for a train or bus from Bangalore, Mangalore, Hubli or Belgaum. You can even hire a private cab to get you here.
  • The closest airport to Badami is at Hubli at 105 km. The other airport that you can consider is Belgaum at 150 km. There are regular flights to these two airports from the key metros of India.

Where to stay in Pattadakal?

  • Being a village, there are almost no stay options in Pattadakal. It is best to opt for a hotel in Badami.
  • There are a few budget hotels in Badami that can give you a comfortable stay when exploring Badami-Pattadakal-Aihole. Remember to book them well in advance through any of the key websites as they all have limited capacity.

Travel Tips

  • The entrance tickets to Pattadakal Group of monuments cost INR 30 for Indians and INR 500 for foreigners. Cameras are charged INR 30 per piece.
  • Pattadakal can be very overwhelming especially if you combine it with Aihole. Plan for it as a separate outing else you might end up feeling frenzied. This tip would be the most valuable if you are a history enthusiast and like to explore a place for its details.
  • Restroom facilities are available at the site.
  • There are no big restaurants here. However, I highly recommend the local eateries opposite the Group of Monuments. Try the local Jowar rotis with the home-cooked vegetables.
  • Though the place is well-marked and you will be able to identify most of the temples, it is better to hire a guide. It will add to the depth of information.

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