THE SACRED COMPLEX AT PATTADAKAL is picturesquely situated on the banks of the Malprahha river. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, its superb 8th-century temples are a fitting climax to the artistic achievements of the Chalukya kings, as seen in neighbouring Badami and Aihole. While these towns were important ancient settlements, Pattadakal, with only a small resident population, was mainly used for royal festivities and coronation ceremonies.
The main temple complex is situated in landscaped gardens next to the small village. Built in a combination of the North Indian and South Indian temple styles these striking structures reveal a great deal about the evolution of temple architecture in South India.
North Indian-style Temples Characterized by their curved towers (shikharas) over the inner sanctum, North Indianstyle temples are exemplified in the Kadasiddeshvara and Jambulinga Temples, which are situated near the entrance. These are unassuming sandstone structures with damaged wall sculptures and curving tiered towers. The larger but incomplete Gahganatha Temple nearby has a wellpreserved tower with sharply cut tiers of horseshoeshaped motifs and a ribbed finial. The Kashi Vishvanatha Temple, which lies to the west, dates from the mid- 8th century and further illustrates the developments in the North Indian temple style. Its faceted tower is entirely covered with a mesh design of interlocking horseshoe-arched motifs. The columns inside the small vestibule preceding the sanctum are carved with a variety of mythological scenes.
South Indian-style Temples South Indian temple towers (vimana) rise in a stepped pyramidal formation, as in the Sangameshvara Temple, the earliest in the complex. It was erected by the Chalukya king, Vijayaditya, who died in AD 733 before the structure was completed. Its multistoreyed tower is capped with a square domed roof. The incomplete hall in front has been restored.
The largest temples are the twin Virupaksha and Mallikarjuna Temples to the south. Both are dedicated to Shiva and were constructed in AD 745 by two sister queens of the powerful Chalukya king, Vikramaditya II, to commemorate his victory over the Pallava rulers of Tamil Nadu. These temples represent the climax of early Chalukya architecture and are said to be based on the Kailasanatha Temple in Kanchipuram. They also served as the inspiration for the colossal Kailasanatha monolith at Ellora.
Today, the Virupaksha Temple is the only functioning shrine in this complex. In front is a Nandi pavilion with a magnificently carved hull covered by a cloth. The temple itself consists of a spacious, columned hall with triple porches leading to the linga sanctum, surrounded by a passageway. The ornately carved pillars and ceilings portray mythological and religious stories. The finest reliefs are on either side of the east porch and include one of Shiva as lirzgodbhavamuni , appearing out of a fiery linga, and a depiction of Vishnu as Trivikrama, traversing the Universe in three steps. The Mallikarjuna Temple, though identical, is smaller and more compact. The carvings on the columns of the interior hall show scenes from the Parzcbatarztra, a collection of fables with bird and animal heroes. The walls surrounding the temple, and the Nandi pavilion in front of it, are incomplete.
A path from the Virupaksha Temple gateway along the river leads to the Papanatha Temple. This early 8thcentury temple was extended several times, as can be seen in the unusual arrangement off double halls leading to the sanctuary, and in the later addition of passageway walls with porches on three sides. The interesting exterior combines South Indian-style pilastered wall niches with North Indian-style mesh patterns and curvilinear towers. Battle scenes from the Ramayana carved on the east wall, conclude with Rama’s coronation, shown on the column of the main porch. Both the halls have central aisles, with pot and foliage motifs carved on the capitals. Ornate brackets and beams support ceiling panels, the finest of which show a coiled naga (snake) deity and a Dancing Shiva (Nataraja), in the inner hall.
Jain Temple To the west of the village, is a 9th-century Bain Temple built by the Rashtrakuta rulers, who succeeded the Chalukyas in the middle of the 8th century. A spacious open porch with peripheral latheturned columns is overhung with angled eaves. Some remarkable carvings of lifesize elephant torsos are placed beside the doorway that leads into the inner hall.