After a day well spent at Badami, followed by a good night’s rest, the following morning we checked out as early as we could . The plan was to complete Pattadkal and Aihole by noon and hit the road back to Hyderabad. But there were a couple a stops along the way we did not expect. One in the form of the large and beautiful pond near the Banashankari temple that we couldn’t quite ignore. It may not seem like it, but on its circumference this step-well has pillared walkway – perhaps to make it accessible from all directions. The original temple was built by the 7th century Kalyani Chalukya kings, who worshipped the goddess Banashankari as their family diety.
As we drove through the rich green pastures along the way, at some places there were never-ending lines of bright golden yellow which looked even brighter against the dull grey skies. Time for another break and the customary round of selfies and groupies!
I couldnt help but notice how the fields of sunflowers seemed like lines of soldiers marching past, all looking in the same direction, even under a thick cloud cover.
Before we knew it, we were at the outskirts of Pattadkal with a couple of temple shikaras standing tall amidst the trees. At a distance of about 22km from Badami, Pattadkal is famous for its temple architecture and also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. As we entered the complex, the sight of so many temples all together had us awestruck, and perhaps a bit confused as to where to start ?
The Pallava king Narasimhavarman attacked Badami in 642 and occupied it, while Pulakesi II, had succumbed in the battle. Following the death of Pulakesi II, the rulers of Badami Chalukya dynasty were busy with internal feuds. Pulakesi II’s son Vikramaditya I succeeded in driving the Pallavas out of Badami in 654 and attacked Kanchipuram, the capital of Pallavas. His son Vijayaditya’s rule(696-733) was a prosperous one that saw prolific temple building. Subsequently, Vikramaditya II (733-744) regained the past glory of the Chalukyas by defeating the Pallava kings. Despite his victories he was magnanimous towards the people and monuments of Kanchipuram. He avenged the earlier humiliation of the Badami Chalukyas at the hands of the Pallava kings and engraved a Kannada inscription on the victory pillar at the Kailasanatha Temple. The last Chalukya king, Kirtivarman II, was overthrown by the Rashtrakuta king Dantidurga in 753.
Pattadakal is the site where Badami Chalukya kings were crowned. A great centre of Chalukya art and architecture, Pattadkal is noted for its temples and inscriptions. The Chalukya style of architecture is said to have originated in Aihole where architects experimented with different styles, and evolved their own distinctive style by blending the Nagara and Dravidian styles. In the middle of the 7th century, temple building activity shifted from Badami to Pattadakal.
Of all the temples within the enclosure, the Virupaksha temple is the largest and grandest. Built in 745, by the queen Lokamahadevi (Trilokyamahadevi)to commemorate Vikramaditya II’s victories over the Pallavas and occupation of Kanchi, this temple is rich in sculptures like those of Nataraja, Ravananugraha and Ugranarasimha. The Virupaksha temple has a sanctum, an inner passage, and triple entrances from the north, east and the south porches. There are detailed inscriptions from Mahabharata and Ramayana and imposing stone carved figures inside the temple. A large stone bull stands in front of the temple in the Nandimandapa.
The Mallikarjuna Temple, a smaller version of the Virupaksha temple, was also built by Vikramadiyta’s second queen Trilokyamahadevi in 745. This temple was constructed to celebrate the victory (by Vikramaditya II) over the Pallavas. The Mallikarjuna temple was built immediately after and close to the Virupaksha temple (with a similar plan) The porch has a beautiful image of Narasimha killing Hiranyakashipu and two female idols.
I am no authority on temple architecture or the history of the South Indian kings of the era. Needless to say, these structures and art work have resiliently withstood the ravages of time and nature. A simple fact that can make many of our present day architectural creations seem humble. I could spend an entire day walking around these temples, admiring the detailed sculptures adorning the outer walls as well as the pillars inside.
Just as we were about to set off to our last stop in this architectural trip, a lady stops us with a basket on her head (from whatever little Kannada I understood)selling meals comprising of jowar rotis, sabzi and rice. There was sometime to go for lunch, so we decided to have the tender coconut water instead.