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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Prototyping Temple Architecture at Pattadakkal, Karnataka, India

After admiring the architecture of the cave temples of Badami, I decided to pay a visit to Pattadakkal, Chalukya’s cradle of temple architecture.


I rode 30 kms from Badami to reach Pattadakkal, the second capital of the Chalukya dynasty. If the temple architecture at Badami and Aihole is mind blowing, then the carvings, sculptures and the temple design at Pattadakkal is out of the world.


Pattadakkal, which is a World Heritage site, is the prototyping playground of temple architecture. The entire heritage site resembles a large drawing sheet with different drawings, each better than the other, while keeping their uniqueness.


As I entered this playground of temple architecture, I was amazed at the number of lingams that were strewn all around. They were of all sizes. Some of them were cut off during war, while others had withstood the assault of time.


To add, each lingam seemed to have been sculpted out of a different type of rock, black granite, sandstone, soapstone, etc. There were a couple of large ones with inscriptions on them from top to bottom.


The temples on this campus include the: Kadasiddeshwara Temple, Galaganath Temple, Virupaksha Temple, Papanath Temple, Mallikarjuna Temple and others.


The 8th century Virupaksha and the Mallikarjuna temples are the most important. It is very heartening to see temple civilizations older than Hampi, still exist in their true shape in spite of the vagaries of nature and time.


Each temple has their own unique style of architecture. Some of them had square roofs,  some have curvilinear spires, while some have receding tiers.


The one thing that amazed me the most was the monolithic statue of Nandi in front of the Virupaksha Temple. One, it was sculpted so fine, that there are absolutely no sharp edges. Second, this Nandi, made out of black granite, in the 8th century and polished in the 8th century, still gleams till date.
 

Everything in and on the Virupaksha and the Mallikarjuna temple is carved in style. If the outsides made for some complex sculpting, then the insides made some some great story telling visually.


There were carvings on the ceilings and each pillar was sculpted in detail. Scenes from Hindu Epics – Ramayana and Mahabharata can be seen here.


For example, there was a scene from the Mahabharata where Lord Krishna is giving sermon to Arjuna. Then, there is a scene from Vaikuntam where all the devas come to Lord Vishnu seeking his help.


Then, there are these additional scenes from various Hindu mythologies that we have heard from our mothers as we grew up. The beauty is that I could correlate these carvings to my childhood bedtime stories. That’s how vivid they are.


The entire place was gleaming in the sun and it was such a revelation to see such detail and thought go into temple architecture.


And as goes with Badami, the ideal time to visit this place is during the winter months from October through February.


Pattadakkal - A definite spot in the bucket list of the temple architecture lover and even for the travel explorer. 
 

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