Visit group of monuments at Pattadakal and Aihole, Karnataka
Pattadakal and Aihole in Karnataka, India are historically famous as the cradle of Hindu temple architecture. The architectural skills that the sculptors learnt in Badami were then further polished in the monuments of Pattadakal and Aihole. Pattadakal, Aihole and Badami are not as well-known as its neighbour Hampi, and hence can be counted as offbeat destinations. All these towns can be visited as a weekend trip from nearby metros like Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai.
PATTADAKAL, KARNATAKA – INDIA:
Pattadakal is basically a group of temples located in a huge complex. All the temples in the complex are mostly dedicated to Hindu and Jain deities and date back to the 7th and 8th century CE. The group of monuments at Pattadakal were included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage site in the year 1987. They are of significant importance and are protected and managed by the Archaeological Survey of India.
Location of Pattadakal, Karnataka, India:
Pattadakal town is located in the northern part of the Indian state of Karnataka, approximately 22 kilometres away from Badami, 136 kilometres from Hampi, and 13 kilometres from Aihole. The town lies in the Bagalkot district of Karnataka, on the west bank of the River Malaprabha.
History of Pattadakal, Karnataka, India:
Pattadakal, meaning – a place of coronation, was used to coronate the Kings during the Chalukya dynasty. The town, along with nearby Badami and Aihole, became a place of cultural and religious importance in that era. It was during that time the temple complex was built in Pattadakal where the architectural styles from northern and southern India were fused.
After the fall of Chalukya empire, the town was under the rule of several other kingdoms. In 13th Century, under the reign of Delhi Sultans, the town was raided and plundered, and several temples were destroyed and looted. The reign again changed hands from Sultanate to Vijayanagara empire to Adil Shah dynasty to Mughal empire to Maratha empire to Haider Ali to Tipu Sultan and finally to the British empire in the late 18th century.
Being ruled by such varied kingdoms and empires, Pattadakal temples today are an evidence of architectural art from all sorts of religions (including Islam, Hinduism and Jainism) and parts of India (north, central and south).
The group of monuments at Pattadakal, Karnataka, India OR Places to visit in Pattadakal:
Out of the plenty of temples in Pattadakal temple complex, 10 are of major significance – 9 are Hindu temples dedicated to Shiva and 1 is a Jain temple dedicated to a single Jina. All 10 temples are clustered together in one complex that is surrounded by gardens on all four sides. The ASI staff maintains the cleanliness of the entire complex and they have done a really great job at it.
1. Virupaksha temple – This is the largest of all the temples at Pattadakal. It is built in Dravidian architectural site and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The intricate carvings on the interior and exterior walls of the temple depict images of Hindu deities like Narasimha, Nataraja, Vishnu, Brahma, Durga, Saraswati and Lakshmi. It is said that the design and layout of the popular temple at Ellora Caves in Aurangabad is similar to that of Virupaksha temple of Pattadakal, Karnataka.
2. Mallikarjuna temple – This temple is also dedicated to Lord Shiva and is believed to be built around the same time as Virupaksha temple. Small shrines of Lord Ganesha and Goddess Durga can be found inside the Mallikarjuna temple. Sculptures of Lord Krishna can also be found in the carvings at the walls of this temple.
3. Kashi Vishwanatha temple – This temple is a comparatively smaller amongst the temples at Pattadakal. This temple resembles the other temples except that it sits on a raised platform with carvings of animal and bird designs.
4. Jambulingeshwara temple – This temple highlights a beautiful sculpture of dancing Shiva and Parvati at the entrance. Jambulingeshwara is a small yet a beautiful temple built in north Indian style architecture.
5. Papanatha temple – This temple is noted for its Dravidian and Nagara style architecture. The temple is long with several pillars and lacks consistency in architecture and sculpture details. Papanatha temple has intricate carvings of deities, and decorated mantapas.
6. Sangameshwara temple – This temple has a square layout and is believed to be built between 720 and 733 CE. It is also believed that the Sangameshwara temple has been built over an existing older temple, that possibly dates back to 3rd century CE.
7. Chandrasekhara temple – This is a small temple without a towering ceiling. The walls of Chadrasekhara temple lack ornamentation and extensive carvings.
8. Kadasiddheshwara temple – Much of this temple is in ruins with damaged sculptures and eroded carvings. The Kadasiddheshwara temple is built in Nagara style architecture.
9. Galaganatha temple – This temple is believed to be used for ceremonial functions as it has several mandapas in its architecture. The Galaganatha Temple is however mostly in ruins now.
10. Jain Narayana temple – This is a Jain temple and has a statue of a Jain deity carved in its sanctum sanctorum. Jain Narayana temple is also long and has several mantapas containing seated Jinas.
Apart from these 10 major temples, there are several other monuments in the Pattadakal temple complex that are worth a visit. You need at least 2 hours to visit all the temples and monuments in the Pattadakal complex. And if you are a history or architecture buff and wish to explore each temple properly, you will need more time.
AIHOLE, KARNATAKA – INDIA:
Aihole is another major archaeological site featuring cave temples that date back to the time period between 6th and 12th century CE. It is a small-town set amidst rural villages and farms. The monuments at Aihole are manged by the Archaeological Survey of India and are protected under the laws of Indian government.
Location of Aihole, Karnataka, India:
Aihole, again is located along the Malaprabha River valley in the Bagalkot district in the Indian state of Karnataka. It is approximately 10 kilometres away from Pattadakal, 35 kilometres away from Badami and 138 kilometres away from Hampi. All of these towns are major centres of historically important Chalukya monuments.
History of Aihole, Karnataka, India:
Aihole was ruled by the Early Chalukya dynasty during the period between 6th to 8th century CE and by the Late Chalukya dynasty till 12th century CE. During this period, Aihole served as a hub of Hindu temple architecture. In the 13th century, the region was plundered by the Delhi Sultanates. The ruins were then protected by the Vijayanagara empire ill 15th century. After the collapse of Vijayanagara reign, Aihole came under the reins of Adil Shahi rule, post which it changed hands to the Mughal empire in the late 17th century. Haider Ali and Tipu Sultan conquered the town in the late 18th century, followed by the Britishers.
For much of the 20th century, Aihole was neglected. The Indian government slowly started excavations and formations of archaeological parks. The artifacts were then preserved in ASI museum and the town became a centre of studies of Indian religion and art history.
The group of temples in Aihole, Karnataka OR Places to visit in Aihole:
The temple architecture in Aihole is an experimentation with stone artwork, design styles, materials and construction techniques. These experimentations yielded the hundreds of temples that stand in Aihole today. There is about a hundred Hindu temples, a few Jain temples and one Buddhist temple in Aihole. The Hindu temples are dedicated to Lord Shiva, Vishnu, Durga and other Hindu deities, and the Jain temples are dedicated to Lord Parshvanath, Mahavira, Neminath and other Jain Tirthankaras.
Most of the temples in Aihole are spread across a radius of 1 kilometre in a main complex at the centre of the town. The major monuments at the site are:
1. Durga temple – Durga temple is the most exquisitely decorated monument in Aihole. The name of the temple is derived not from Goddess Durga but because of its proximity to a fort (Durg in Hindi language). Durga temple, standing on a high platform, is dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
2. Lad Khan temple – Lad Khan temple is named after a Muslim commander under Adil Shahi Sultan who stayed there for a brief period. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva with a seated Nandi in its front.
3. Meguti temple – Meguti temple is a Jain temple built atop a small hill. Now in ruins, the temple sits on a high platform and has a carving of a Jain Tirthankara. The temple site provides a incredible view of the Aihole town.
4. Ravanphadi cave – Ravanphadi cave temple is also located atop a small hill about a kilometre away from the Durga temple. The 6th century carvings in the temple depicts dancing Shiva, Parvati, Ganesha and Kartikeya.
5. Hucchimalli temple – Hucchimalli temple has shrines dedicated to Shaivism tradition. The sanctum is adorned with a sculpture of Vishnu standing atop a large cobra.
6. Suryanarayana temple – Suryanarayana temple has a pyramidal shaped ‘shikara’ on the top. It has a Surya statue in a chariot in its sanctum sanctorum with each hand holding a lotus flower.
7. Konti group of temples – These group of temples is located in the middle of the Aihole market street amidst the houses. The artwork in the temples are of unique perspectives with deities found in unusual postures.
Beyond these temples, there are several hundreds of others, most of them in ruins. More temples are believed to be excavated every day that witness to the vigorous experimentation on temple architecture.
How to reach Pattadakal and Aihole, Karnataka, India:
Air: Belgaum, 150 kilometres away from Pattadakal and 164 kilometres from Aihole, is the nearest airport to the town of temples. From Belgaum airport, you can either hire a prepaid taxi or take a bus to Pattadakal and Aihole. Flights from major airports in India including Hyderabad, Chennai and Bengaluru, operate to Belgaum.
Rail: Pattadakal and Aihole do not have a railway station. You can reach Badami railway station and then take a bus or hired taxi to Pattadakal and Aihole. The Badami rail line is well connected with daily trains operating from Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad railway stations. The train journey is almost 12 hours long from both Bengaluru and Hyderabad.
Road: Pattadakal and Aihole towns are well connected by road to nearby metros like Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad. From Badami, Hampi, Hospet or Hubli, you can either hire a taxi or hop into a government bus to reach Pattadakal and Aihole, Karnataka.
We rented a motorbike from Hampi and rode to Badami, Karnataka through the NH50 highway. We spent a night in Badami and after exploring the Badami caves and the surrounding temples, we rode to Pattadakal and finally to Aihole. The route from Hampi – Hospet – Badami – Pattadakal – Aihole is extremely scenic with several sunflowers’ fields on the way (if you travel in the month of August/ September). We stopped by at least 3-4 fields in between that were blooming with bright yellow sunflowers.
Being a small town, there are hardly any options to stay in Pattadakal and Aihole. It is best that you book your stay in Badami, Karnataka. Both Pattadakal and Aihole can be visited as a day-trip from Badami. However, if you are a history buff and would like to explore minute details of each monument, you better visit both the towns on separate days.
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Hope you got a better idea of the towns of Pattadakal and Aihole through this guide. Do let us know if you have any questions or if you feel we missed out on some crucial information.