After crossing the quiet Malaprabha river, the auto rolled by sunflower fields and bullock carts I asked the auto driver if we were indeed headed to Pattadakal or if he lost his way. It appeared that we were far away from civilization when suddenly this beautiful group of temples appeared in manicured lawns. An UNESCO World Heritage site; this is the place where the Chalukya Kings were coronated between 6th and 8th century when they returned victorious from war, where queens built temples for their triumphant consorts demonstrating the master pieces of Chalukyan Art which started taking shape in Aihole. There are 10 temples in this place of which 8 are very closely located in one complex, the Papanatha Temple is on the outer fringes of the complex and the Jain Temple built later by the Rashtrakutas is about 10 mins walk away. While Pattadakal was established by the early Chalukyas, it continued to be an important centre for the Rashtrakutas and the later Kalyani Chalukyas
The 9 temples are a combination of Dravidan and Nagara Styles as well as the fusion style evolved by the Chalukyas. The entrance ticket is Rs 20/- for Indians and no literature is available at the counter. It may be better to purchase a book or download stuff on your phone from the net before visiting this vast complex. Few guides are available and they are forever busy with large groups so if you are a solo traveler; you fend for yourself.
The first temple as you enter to the right is Kada Siddheshwara. This dwarapalaks of this small temple are nearly destroyed. Walk around to the side and if you look closely the latticed window on the side is actually a slanted Swastika in the centre.
The next one is Jambulinga which is small and has seen better days. Observe the dancing Shiva on the Shikhara. The platform next to the temple is strewn with ruined shivalayas, some stone statues and stone slabs.
The third one in the line is Galaganath. This temple has a unique look with the amalaka (gooseberry) adorning the top typical of Rekha Nagara style. The slanting roofs on the side; give it an unfinished look.
Right next is the Sangameshwar Temple which has a distinct Dravidian style and perhaps the Ist one to have been built in the complex.
Just around you can find some ruined lying around and some exquisite ones on the wall. Walk a little backward and all the temples can be seen in one frame with the partially broken victory pillar in front of the most beautiful and exquisite Virupaksha Temple. The inscriptions on the Victory Pillar narrate details on grants received for temples.
Virupaksha Temple and Mallikarjuna Temple are located next to each other and built by the queens Lokamahadevi and Trailokyamahadevi to celebrate the victory of Chalukyan monarch Vikramaditya over the Pallavas. This is the earliest instance of a queen building temples / monuments for her consort. The other one, I have seen is Rani ki Vav in Patan, Gujarat built in 11th Century AD.
Virupaksha Temple is the largest and most exquisite, The external and internal work on the walls and pillars is commendable. The elaborately carved entrances on 3 sides add to its grandeur. This temple inspired the Rashtrakutas to build the Kailashnath Temple in Ellora which is also a World Heritage Site.Observe the detailing on the walls for each piece be it Nataraja, Shiva Parvati, Ardha Narishwara. The internal pillars have stories from Ramayana, Mahabharata, Panchatantra and life at large.
It is better to carry a head torch so that you can see the detailing on the inner pillars. The mythological stories are represented on the pillars flowing from one pillar to another. The one with Bhishma on a bed of arrows was particularly interesting. The black stone Nandi in the Nandi Mandapa was intently looking at Shiva in the temple, perhaps the only functional one in the entire complex.
Mallikarjuna Temple next to it is a miniature version of the Virupaksha Temple with exquisite carvings.
Just behind is the Kashi Vishveshvaraya Temple is small built in Nagara style. It seems to have been built much later and probably by the Rashtrakutas in 8th Century.
Walk ahead of Virupaksha Temple and there will be a flat roofed structure leading to beautiful view of the green field outside. This structure is presumably Chandrashekara Temple which is nearly ruined except for a statue of a dwara palak and a new age guard sitting around.
Step out and walk right through a small gate and you will reach the Papanatha Temple. I was actually missing it and no one I spoke to seemed to have any clue. A very kind security guard pointed the way and asked me to definitely see it and check out the Ramayana carvings on the outer wall. He was true to his word, this Nagara style temple with the carvings on the wall is a true masterpiece, I was rooted to the spot; taken in by its sheer beauty of interspersing lattice and filligree work with scenes of Ramayana. When in Pattadakal, make sure to visit this one.
Pattadakal is best visited as a part of the Badami Circuity in the months of October-March when the weather is pleasant. Though, after my January trip, I have a feeling, the rocks will be charming in the months of July-August when the rain water drenches them to hues of brown and red and it is not too hot in the afternoon.
Pattadakal is about 22 -24 kms away from Badami. Base yourself in Badami where there are hotels to suit every budget located in and around the Badami Bus Stand and visit Aihole-Pattadakal-Mahakuta-Banashankari within a day or two.
Badami is connected by rail and there are trains from Bangalore, Hubli, Bijapur, Pune every day. It is about a 12-13 hour journey from Bangalore/ Hyderabad/ Pune. You can plan a day trip to Badami if you are planning to visit Hampi and station yourself there for a few days.