Pattadakal’s temple architecture seems to be greatly influenced by the Dravidian style of the Chalukya dynasty of the 6th century era. When you look closely at the architecture in these temples, you will realize how a whole lot of detail will be forthcoming about these styles. Pattadakal, Aihole as well as Badami tend to have a lot of similarities in the way their temples were constructed. If you were to study the intricacies of this Chalukya style of architecture, you need to first and foremost understand that it is an amalgamation of styles picked up from 2 separate periods. Here is what you will learn about Chalukya architecture from these periods and how they influenced Pattadakal’s temple structures:
Badami Chalukya Period
The Chalukyas belonging to Badami were the rulers there for over 200 years between 500A.D. and 750.A.D. During this time, they established a style called the Vesara style. This style was born from the marriage of the Dravida and Nagara styles. Nearly all temples the Chalukyas erected were in Badami, Aihole, Pattadakal and Nagaralu. Some of the temples found here follow a different type of building. They have been built using red and yellow colored stones from the city of Bijapur. The specialty of construction in this era was the use of stone masonry. The thing of beauty in these is their marvelously intricate carvings, thematic variety and murals. It is unbelievable how much attention they have paid to smallest details! This being said, stone masonry was progressively superseding the rock-cut styles. In fact, a lot of temples became the site of exploration and experimentation and thus you will actually find that a lot of these temples bear unfinished structures! They all ultimately look more and more complete as you proceed to Badami and Pattadakal. When you visit the temples and study them carefully, you will see that some of these temples had flat roofs while some had sloping roofs. There are parts of the temple like the ‘sukanaasi’, ‘garbhagriha’, ‘mukha mantapa’ and ‘pradakshina patha’ which is the Circumambulatory path – these were brought about much later and this is even more evident if you see the earliest Chalukyan temples. You will not find them there at all! By the time you arrive in Pattadakal, most temples give you the distinct impression of being totally complete and not only that, you find additional features and aspects in them too!
Kalyani Chalukya Period
The Kalyani Chalukyas were also referred to as the Western Chalukyas. They started their rule later on following the failure of the Rashtrakuta Empire. The period in which they were supreme was between 975 A.D. and 1190 A.D. The architectural influence of these times spread far beyond the few towns in the vicinity. It spread its wings to several parts of the whole state of Karnataka. The material they used for their temples was soapstone and black stone. The result of this combination was that the structures turned out a lot more decorated and prettier. You will find that these temples are rectangular in shape. Another distinct feature is the absence of the customary circumambulatory path. At the end of it, what is noteworthy is that this period shows no resemblance to architecture from the Badami Chalukya times.
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Galaganatha Temple dedicated to lord Shiva is a compact yet strikingly unique temple in Pattadakal. The most striking part of the Galaganatha Temple is its dexterously executed tower and the fluted final atop. Most likely the Galaganatha Temple was built around 750 CE during the regime of the early Chalukya king Vikramaditya II.
The Virupaksha Temple of Pattadakal signifies the high watermark of the Early Chalykyan architecture. This temple was built in commemoration to the victory of the Chalykyas over the Pallavas of the Kanchipuram.
Dedicated after Shiva, Kadasiddheswara Temple is the first temple you will be visiting as you enter the Pattadakal site. In size this temple is much smaller than say the Virupaksha Temple or the Mallikarjuna Temple , located further deep in the site. Possibly this temple was constructed during the regime of the Chalukya king Vijayaditya (696 - 733 CE). And this temple remains as an example of one of the earliest experiments the Chalukya clans did in the temple architecture. Otherwise this is built in what is called the Nagara style of architecture.