The man wearing a Gandhi cap peered into the small window of my car to answer a question I had asked a few seconds ago in my amateurish incoherent Kannada. “Saar, pattadakal dhaari Ghota?” (Sir, do you know the route to pattadakal?). After staring blankly for a second, he replied in Hindi “Aap raste peeche chod diya ” (You have already crossed the route). After a few moments of highly detailed route discussion with him waving his hands to aid my understanding, I bid farewell to the kind stranger. Driving through bumpy narrow roads was not the first time for me, but driving through slush on both sides of roads was. The small village of Pattadakal greeted me with an eerie silence. The first sign of life came in the form of boy who popped out of nowhere to sell photographs of the village. The person at the ticket counter demanded Rs.100 from us, which we knew was the fare for foreigners. Now, this situation leaves two conclusions: either we were badly dressed that we were assumed to be ‘phirangis’ or maybe spotting visitors on a historical site on the day of the world cup cricket finals raised eyebrows. Whatever the reason, we had the whole site for us to explore in silence.
Pattadakal, or, as it is known in ancient times, Pattada Kisuvolal, leaves no doubt of the importance it demands as being a religious centre in the early days of Chalukyas. The temples are fine examples of the improvements in building styles of the kingdom. Its style, so diverse, that the shrines found in this group of temples are both Dravidian and Northern.
The first temple we visited was Kadsiddesvara. Most of temples at this site looked like modifications over the counterparts at Aihole. While I grapple with the idea of whether to photograph the intricacies of the temple or the overall structure itself, my itching fingers don’t want to waste time thinking. Next to Kadsiddhesvara are two other temples which look identical. It can be concluded that these temples are made by local craftsmen while that of the more majestic ones in the complex are work of more skilled architects.
Facts about Kadsiddhesvara/Jambhulinga/Chandrasekhara Temples: The Kadsiddhesvara temple has a northern style sikhara. There is an unusual dedicatory block over the shrine door with Siva and Parvati seated side by side. At the top to one side is Brahma while upon the other is Vishnu. It can be concluded that the shrine was originally dedicated to Siva.
A cave-like feature in this doorway is the peculiar setback of the moldings at the upper corners, a device used even now in Europe. Jambhulinga and Chandrasekhara are of the same class as Kadsiddhesvara. Within the shrine of Jambhulinga is a black stone linga. Chandrasekhara is only a fragment without a tower.
The Galaganatha temple looked a little different from the other three in view of the construction. This temple had a familiar northern shrine, but the wing like structure on either side represents some ancient church arrangements. The interesting part of construction is the cover these “wings” provide to the devotees who go round the shrine praying.
Facts about Galaganatha: The east-facing temple built around A.D 750 was originally a large one probably having a Garbhagriha with Pradakshina Patha Antarala entering through the eastern doorway. One noteworthy part of Antarala is the Bas-Reliefs of Ganga and Yamuna on their respective vehicles at the bottom and elaborately carved Nataraj accompanied by musicians on the lintel. The close stylistic resemblance between this temple and those at Alampur suggests that it was constructed by the craftsmen from Alampur in Andhra Pradesh.
After visiting all the smaller temples in the complex, I was left with the last three massive ones. Sangamesvara, perhaps the oldest temple in this complex with a typical crude Dravidian style Shikara. I noticed lack of fine craftsmanship in the Shikara as seen in later temples. However, history of the temple suggests that this prototype was meant to be simplistic. The huge pillars reminded me of the cave temples of Badami. Walking around this temple, I found a half constructed Nandi, perhaps abandoned or may be destroyed. Unable to make sense of its location as it was not pointing towards any Lingam, I concluded that it was moved from its original location. The Mallikarjuna and Virupaksha are very identical to each other. While certain stories say that the temples were built by queens vying for the king’s attention, the designing by itself was done by eminent architects. The hot sun made it unbearable to study the images on the outer walls of the temples. I ran inside for cover only to find two young Brahmin boys chanting prayers perhaps to seek my attention. I did not know that the temple was still worshipped, and felt awkward clicking pictures while devotees around me were chanting murmured prayers. The inside of the temple is so poorly lit that it was almost impossible to see the carvings depicting Ramayana and Mahabharata on the pillars. I was quite tempted to ask the boys for translation of some of the images in the temple but decided against it.
Facts about Sangamesvara: This is a very plain, simple and massive building, with its hall being badly damaged. An inscription on a pillar suggests that the temple was build for the god Vijayesvara by the King Vijayadiya-Satyasraya at around A.D 696 to A.D 733 which is around 60 to 100 years after Meguti in Aihole. The tower of this temple is early Dravidian style but it has no projections or image on the front. The tower of this temple may be compared with those of Virupaksha and Mallikarjuna but it is much more simple. Within the shrine is a black stone Lingam cut from a dark grey granite stone with shiny polish. This Shiva shrine indicates the Chalukyan family’s conversion from Vaishnavism to Saivism.
Facts about Mallikarjuna: Built around A.D 733 to A.D 745 by the second queen of Vikramaditya II, the temple is very similar to that of the Virupaksha built by the first queen. The temple is also named Trailokyesvara after the queen Trailokyamahadevi. It would be natural to suppose that the senior queen’s temple took priority by the fact that many parts of this temple has been left unfinished owing, no doubt, to the death of the king. The portraits of the king and second queen are carved upon one of the pilasters, on the north side of the hall. The plan of the temple is same as Virupaksha with lots of unfinished shadowy forms of sculptures emerging from the rough parts. A comparison of the towers of the two temples show that they are alike in all their parts save the crowning member which , in this temple is round instead of a square. Garuda presides over the shrine door and on the dedicatory block, is Vishnu himself seated upon Garuda. Siva and Vishnu appear to have been equally revered at that time, and the division between Vaishnavas and Saivites, which in later times became so acute, was, perhaps, non-existent in those days.
Facts about Virupaksha: This is the largest and most important Dravidian style temple in the Kanaresa districts. This is built by Lokamahadevi, the first queen of Vikramaditya II in commemoration of his having thrice conquered Kanchi. Vikramaditya was so impressed by the temples of Kanchi that he induced some of the best architects of that capital to return with him. The most interesting thing about this temple is the fact that it is exactly similar to the great monolithic temple of Kailasa at Elura caves.
However, Kailasa temple is built by the Rashtrakutas a little after the Virupaksha temple. This shows that after the death of Vikramaditya II, The Rashtrakutas swept down upon the Chalukyas and dethroned them of their northern states.
One of the most interesting aspect of these temples is the fact that in Kailasa one is stuck by the number of the repetitions of lion, which are not found, except as very small objects in the moldings of the temples at Pattadakal. These lions are found as brackets and supports at every corner, while in Pattadakal they are replaced by figures of men to serve the same purpose.
The lions were the national emblem of Pallavas, who were the natural enemy of Chalukyas, hence the change. However The Rashtrakutas had no such objections. The inside of the temples is filled with scenes of Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Architectural marvels never cease to amaze me. The beautiful journey traversed by our ancestors in temple-building and their rich gifts to posterity though blemished, leave nothing to be desired. All said, queens building temples vying for the king’s attention was indeed the highlight!
- The Chalukyan Architectures Of Kanarese Districts By Henry Cousens
- Origin Of Chalukyas – H. V. Sreenivasa Murthy