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.
In fact the construction of this temple is attributed to Queen Lokamahadevi , queen of the then ruling king Vikramaditya II. An inscription on the eastern wall of the Virupaksha Temple narrates the circumstances that led to the commissioning of this temple complex. Though the exact date is not known from the inscriptions, it is estimated that the construction was executed around the year 745 AD.
As mentioned earlier , this temple marks a major milestone in the history and architecture of the era. Vipupaksha Temple is probably the largest and most sophisticated temple the Early Chalykyas ever attempted. This is one of the earliest ,complete and - even today - the best preserved specimen of Chalykya art.
From an architectural point, the Chalykyas took inspiration from the Kailasanatha temple of Kanchipuram. The resemblance between the two is striking. So is the similarity of Virupaksha Temple's tower with that of the much famous shore temple at Mahabalipuram in Tamilnadu. Later the Virupaksha Temple inspired the design of the Kailasanatha temple built by the Rashtrakootas in the present day Ellora.
While the temples of Kanchipuram, Mahabalipuram and Pattadakal were executed on sandstone, the Kailasanatha Temple of Ellora is fine example of rock cut architecture out of volcanic outcrop. Incidently Mahabalipuram and Ellora are UNESCO world heritage sites like Pattadakal.
The victorious Vikramadithya II is believed to have astonished at the beauty of the temples at Kancheepuram. It is likely that he brought along with him some of the famous architects of the Pallava country to make similar style temples in the Chalykya capital.
The inscriptions near the eastern gateway reads about its architect named Gunda as "the most eminent sutradhari (architect) of the southern country( the Tamil country)".
While the Virupaksha temple was built by Lokamahadevi the adjutant Mallikarjuna Temple was built by her sister. Both were queens of Vikaramaditya II, and built for the same purpose - to commemorate the victory of the Chalukyas over the Pallavas. The Virupaksha Temple has many distinctions. For example this temple complex together with its massive entrance towers (Gopuras) and the compound walls were conceived and completed together. This is a deviation from the typical practice of many patrons enhancing a popular temple over a long period with architectural additions. Also Virupaksha temple is the earliest and the most ambitious of the temple building ventures by Early Chalyukyas.
Description of Virupaksha Temple:
The first thing you notice of the Virupaksha Temple is its many fluted towers projecting over the boldly executed outer walls. The whole temple complex is oriented in a east-west axis with two massive towers at the east and west end of the partially damaged compound wall. The eastern tower in fact faces Malaprabha river front. The outer compound wall traces the general plan of the Virupaksha Temple. Thanks to its innovative design, when you view from a distance the compound wall looks as if it is the lower story of the temple (with the towers protruding over it) , and the temple looks much larger.
As you cross the eastern gateway, the first structure is the Nandi Mantapa (Bull Pavilion). Further ahead on the same east-west axis is the open hall (Mukha Mandapa) with three porches and a connecting corridor at its east to access the sanctuary through an antechamber.