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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Pattadakal: Cradle of Temple Architecture in India

The gorgeous temple architecture school of Pattadakkal, Karnataka

There was a place in South India where kings and rulers from all across the country would come to be crowned. It was believed that one who got crowned here stayed a king till his death. This place called ‘Pattadakisuvolal’ was a rage with rulers between the 6th and the 8th century and a lot of them turned up at this holy place for their Pattabhishkeham.

Intricate work on the temples of Pattadakkal, Karnataka

Located by the banks of the Malaprabha river and surrounded by lush vegetation, we know this place today as Pattadakkal, a small town in North Western Karnataka. This quiet town was the capital of the Chalukya kingdom between the 6th and the 8th centuries and was a place where the base template of Indian temple architecture was defined.

Local and the stones of the Pattadakkal temple complex

This UNESCO world heritage site is where you will see a myriad of temples in a fairly small area, something akin to a prototyping playground. The temples on the campus of Pattadakal depict various Indian architectural styles from North India, South India and some that are an interesting fusion too. To be specific, the styles seen are Rekha, Nagara, Prasada and Dravida Vimana.

School of temple architecture at Pattadakkal, Karnataka

Just to give you an idea of what I mean by different temple architecture styles…you will see at Pattadakal, a bit of the temples of Odisha, a bit of Khajuraho’s erotica temples, a but of Thanjavur’s Brihadeeswara, a bit of the temples in Rajasthan and Gujarat and a bit of temples of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The way I see it, the artisans and architects of Pattadakal laid the founding design for these famous temples across the country. In simple words, this 6th century heritage site became the cradle of temple architecture in India.

Different styles of temple architecture seen at Pattadakkal temple complex, Karnataka

Both the Nagara and Dravidian styles were refined here and they are designs here where both have been seamlessly integrated into one (as seen in the Papanatha temple). Learnings from Pattadakal traveled far and wide to artisans across the country and they then put in a little bit of creative inputs to take this Pattadakal style temple architecture to the next level.

The stunning Pattadakkal temple complex, Karnataka

In the entire temple complex of Pattadakal, the temples of note are the Dravidian style Sangameshwara temple, the grand Virupaksha temple, the Nagara style Kashi Vishwanatha temple and the Jain Narayana temple. It is best to go to Pattadakal with a knowledgeable guide to understand all the sculptures, inscriptions, carvings and the overall stories.

Closeup of a smallish carving on Pattadakkal temple walls

With each passing of time, the temple architecture at Pattadakal got better. It is as if this school of architecture or temple R&D lab kept trying to improve its designs. I absolutely love the Virupaksha temple that was built to commemorate the victory over the Pallava kingdom of Kanchipuram. The stone Nandi and the imposing stone carved figures are eye catching. Built along the lines of the Kailasa temple of Kanchipuram, the Virupaksha laid the founding stone for the Kailasa temple at Ellora.

Pattadakkal temple with north indian type temple architecture

One can absolutely love themselves in the art, architecture, sanctity and overall nature surrounding this place for a long while. One of my favorite temple complexes in Karnataka, I heavily recommend a visit to Pattadakal if you have not already paid a visit. It is one of the true cultural gems of Karnataka and India. And the icing on the cake is the delicious cuisine of this North Karnataka region, which is something that I absolutely adore.

How to get here

Devotee walks out of Virupaksha temple at Pattadakkal, Karnataka

Badami is well connected by road with the rest of Karnataka. Train lovers will be happy to know that Badami has a train station that is well connected by many trains. Belgaum and Panaji should be the closest airports. 

Other Attractions Nearby

A Pattadakkal temple

The Chalukya era cave temples of Badami, the water tanks and temples of Aihole and the Pre-Chalukya era archaeological site of Bachinagudda are the places  one can visit around Pattadakal. If exploring by road, do make some time to explore the sunflower fields where you can go photo crazy.

Best Season to Visit

Local woman selling traditional lunch in front of Pattadakkal temple, Karnataka

Winters and the monsoons are a great time to visit this region. Summers can be oppressively hot and is best avoided.



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