Trip to the Chalukyan Era – IV – Pattadakal – R&D in architecture 1400 years ago !

Research and Development, is the “in” thing in our world today. “Focus on R&D” is what every business, every field, every country is expected to do. If you thought R&D is the key word of the 2oth Century, think again, because somebody seems to have beaten us by 1400 years !

A place for coronations

20 kms from Badami lies Pattadakal, a slumbering little village today but in the days of yore, this is where the Chalukyan power was unleashed. Pattadakal was where the Chalukyan kings were coronated. Pattadakal gets its name from the word “Patta” which also means coronation. Though Badami was the capital, the coronations happened at Pattadakal.

Such a place needed something grand, worthy of the importance it held in the kingdom and the Chalukyas gave the place the grandeur it deserved, they adorned Pattadakal with temples as beautiful as jewellery. Not just any temples but temples that seem to have been built after research and experimenting with different architectural styles. Pattadakal not only held significance for the Chalukyas, several centuries later the Chalukyan legacy has earned for Pattadakal the status of a World Heritage Site and added some more value to the Indian tourism map.

The Road unfit for kings

After the tiring but exciting tour of Badami, we started to Pattadakal at 3.30 PM, delayed by half an hour because as expected, we broke our promise of not dozing off, a refreshing cup of chai and crunchy Poha at our now favourite eating joint, Hotel Mahakooteswara was all we needed to re-energise.

From Badami, Pattadakal is one straight road. You would expect the road to a place where royalty took shape would be one that was fit for kings but sadly as we discovered, the road was not even fit for our cars, forget kings ! Potholes everywhere, in some places there was no road, diversions elsewhere, surprising how the road leading to a World Heritage Site could be as bad as that, wonder what happens to all the UNESCO funding?

A 45 minute bumpy ride later, our Google maps told us we had arrived at Pattadakal but couldn’t find the road leading to the site. We stood at a crossroad, when an old man, dressed in the traditional white dhoti and Gandhi cap, seemed to understand what we wanted and showed us the direction without even waiting for us to ask ! At the end of a dusty road, we found the temples of Pattadakal, standing for 1400 years as a quiet witness to history being made.

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10 marvels

Pattadakal has 10 temples, built during different periods of time during the Chalukyan rule. Spread across the site, these temples are built in different styles, some in the Dravidian temple style, some in the Rekha Nagara or Nagara style of North India, the trademark Chalukyan temple style. Looks like the Chalukyan architects were shown the site and asked to go all out and have a ball and they seemed to have enjoyed themselves as they let their creativity loose, they seemed to have used it as an architectural lab !

The temples stand one beside in a single file like very disciplined students. ASI’s boards placed before every temple, give interesting information about when and who built those temples. The first temple that greets you as you enter the site is the Kada Siddeswara temple built in the Nagara style.

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Confluence of architectural styles

As you walk down the path, you will find the Nagara style alternating with the Dravidian style.

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It is interesting to note that Pattadakal, geographically almost at the centre of India has temples merging both architectural styles. Further north, you would only find temples in the Nagara style and to the South, all temples are in the Dravidian style, it is like both there is a confluence of both cultures at Pattadakal in the middle, symbolic isn’t it?

The temples are too beautiful to describe, neither do our words nor our pictures do justice. There was so much to see and so much information to gather, if we were to sit down and write about each one of them in detail, wordpress would ban us for taking up all their space !

Here are the most prominent temples, we will let the pictures do the talking and your imagination to do the rest.

Galaganatha Temple

Of the Nagara style temples, the Galaganatha Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva is the flagship temple.

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An interesting feature of this temple is its sloping roofs, this seems unique to the Chalukyan temples. The temples have stood for so many centuries and the sculpture has lost its sheen, also, temple sculpture was in the early stage of development during this time.

Close to the Galaganatha temple are two other temples, the Jambulinga Temple that looks very similar to the Kada Siddeswara temple and a small shrine, called the Chandrasekhara temple. It does not have the Vimana or the tower, you could mistake it for mandap of bigger temples.

Sangameshwara Temple

The next prominent temple is the Sangameshwara temple, built in the Dravidian style, yet the style is very typical of the Chalukyas. This is the oldest of the Pattadakal temples built around 720 A.D. The temple was also called Vijayeshwara temple, named after Vijayaditya, the king who built this temple.

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The pillared mandapa at the entrance, ornately pillared interior halls, the sculpture on the walls, all will remind you of various temples in South India, now you know where it all began !

Kasivisveshwara temple

The next temple in the Nagara style is the Kasiviveshwara temple.

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This temple was probably the last temple to be built in the group, towards the end of the Chalukyan era.

Mallikarjuna temple complex

The Mallikarjuna temple is again in the Dravidian style and was built in 740 A.D by Lokamahadevi, the queen of Vikramaditya II in commemoration of the king’s victory over Pallava kingdom. This temple is mostly ruined and is supposed to have been built on the lines of the Virupaksha temple that stands right next to it.

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A victory pillar stands before this temple which talks about the Queen who built this temple and the grants made. All around the complex, there are ruins of structures, probably mandapas, shrines.

Virupaksha Temple

The most important, the biggest and the grandest of the temples at Pattadakal is the Virupaksha temple, considered the pinnacle of temple building prowess of the Chalukyas.

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The extent of the rivalry between the Chalukyas and the Pallavas is evident from the fact that this temple was also built to commemorate the same victory of king Vikramaditya II’s over the Pallavas along with the Mallikarjuna temple. Was the latter a prototype for the bigger masterpiece?

The Virupaksha temple, supposedly, bears striking resemblance to the Kailasanatha temple at Kanchi built by the Pallavas. Didn’t we tell you these Pallava and Chalukyas had a big story between them?

A striking feature of the temple is the grand Nandi mandapa and a huge Nandi.

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When we entered the temple, we were taken aback by the grand interiors.

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The entire temple is rich in sculpture, the outer walls, the ceilings, almost every pillar is filled with sculpture that almost drives you insane with wonder !

This overlapping chain idea seems to be the popular sculptural design, you will find this in almost all temples of the Chalukyas. It is so beautifully done that it looks like the chains are really overlapping the other.

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Check out this three-in-one figure. The three figures share the same pair of hands !

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Don’t be surprised if you find this idea in almost every noted temple in South India, Hampi, Warangal and all the way to Tamil Nadu !

This one is the writer’s pick, we loved the elephant on this pillar, lit up by the sunlight streaming in.

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Ventilation ideas, anyone?

But our favourite feature of all the Chalukyan temples was the lattice designs meant for ventilating the dark interiors of the temples. Every Chalukyan temple that we visited starting from the Fort temple at Badami to the temples at Aihole, 44 kms from Badami, had these lattices in different designs and no two designs were the same even within the same temple, now what do say about the height of this creativity !

Here is one from the Virupaksha temple.

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Another one from the same temple.

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So you get the idea, these Chalukyan architects and sculptors were sheer geniuses !

Outside the Virupaksha temple you can see the Malaprabha River flowing by. Pattadakal is located on the banks of this river.

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The rock like structure in the picture above is actually a very old statue of a Nandi. It is unfinished and must have been meant for one of the temples but abandoned.

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By now, our eyes were tired. There is only so much beauty that the naked human eye can take in and at Pattadakal there is a sea of beauty to be explored !

The temples were slowly getting crowded with a huge group of students on an educational tour. They followed us throughout Badami and to Pattadakal. Temples like these need to be visited in peace and we decided to wind up our visit, we had visited all the temples anyway, or so we thought.

Why it is important to research about a place before visiting?

Before every trip, we make sure that we have read about the places on our list and have enough information, we read up the history, important features, specialities, must sees, not to be misseds, everything. For most of the temple visits, we don’t hire a guide. There have been only two instances when we took the help of a guide, that was because in both those cases, we did not do enough reading. Having a guide is definitely useful so that you don’t miss out on some important things but reading up about a place on your own and finding it in person at the monument makes it all the more interesting. If the guide is not well-informed, you will end up getting the history and the story all wrong !

This time, we decided just one day in advance about this trip and did not have enough time to read up on Pattadakal’s temples, as usaul we did not hire a guide. We realised what a grave mistake we made only after returning and reading all the information on Pattadakal.

Papanatha temple

A short distance from the Nandi in the above picture, the Papanatha Temple is located. While all the other temples are built in either the Nagara or the Dravidian style, this temple is probably the only one of its kind. The temple is a unique mix of both the styles, it has a Vimana in the Nagara style and the rest of the mandapas and the garbha griha in the Dravidian style. Looks like after experimenting with both the styles, the architects decided they had enough and built one temple combining both the styles !

No, we do not have pictures because we did not visit this temple, a regret that we will carry all through our lives if we do not make a trip to Pattadakal ever again !

The Papanatha temple is located away from the main complex of temples and we had no idea that this temple existed. We could have known if we had done enough research or hired a guide or atleast followed the boards ! By the time we finished visiting the Virupaksha temple, we were tired and also running short of time, the net result, we missed the Papantha temple. If you want to know more about it, check the internet, we have spent enough time regretting !

Symbolic of India?

Historically, India has always been divided into North and South India. The two parts of India are different in their cultures and styles, it has been a subject of strife for ages, they call it the land to the North and South of the River Narmada. But here, on the banks of the River Malaprabha, the Chalukyas managed to bring the two parts of the country to a meeting point and merged them, they seem to be telling us that their temples are symbolic of India’s varied cultures and how despite the diversity, they are still part of the same land.

This parting picture of the Galaganatha and the Sangameswara temples is what Pattadakal is all about.

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We needed a hot cup of tea to assimilate all that we had seen and we left Pattadakal as closing time was nearing. Our next plan was to visit the Mahakoota group of temples, located halfway between Pattadakal and Badami.

Info tidbits

There are no hotels or accommodation at Pattadakal, the nearest center is Badami.

There is only a small stall selling tea and snacks (the tea is awesome!).

Pattadakal is open from 6 AM to 6 PM. The entry fee is Rs.5 for Indians, Rs.100 for foreign citizens.

If you are interested in historical monuments, sculpture and architecture and want to visit the place in detail, you will need atleast 3 hours.

It is advisable to take your own vehicle or hire a cab or go on a package tour, we didn’t find buses plying on this route and it is too far to take an auto.

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