Temple in Pattadakal

Pattadakal: Why You Need to Visit this Historical Site

Today, Pattadakal is a run-of-the-mill village in northern Karnataka, much akin to its neighbor, Aihole. But, if you travel back in time to the 7th century, you will discover Pattadakal as a splendid town, glistening with magnificent temples. Not only this, it was here that the coronation of the Early Chalukyan rulers used to take place. In fact, the word Pattadakal literally means “place of coronation”.

The trendsetting architectural innovations, which were conceived and honed at Badami and Aihole, reached their pinnacle at the group of temples in Pattadakal. In fact, they are regarded as the greatest achievement of Early Chalukyan art and architecture. No wonder, Pattadakal is a UNESCO World Heritage site, thanks to its eclectic art and harmonious blend of the Northern and Southern architectural styles.

Temples of Pattadakal
The Galganatha Temple, Pattadakal.

About Pattadakal:

In earlier times, Pattadakal was considered a holy place, as the river Malprabha took a northern turn here towards the Himalayas. It was one of the main reasons that the Chalukyas of Badami selected Pattadakal as the place for their coronation.

Pattadakal was also known as “Raktapura” or red city, “Kisuvolal” or valley of red soil, and “Pattada-kisuvolal” or valley of red soil for the coronation. All these names indicate the reddish soil of the Malprabha valley.

Under the patronage of the Early Chalukyas, Pattadakal, along with Badami and Aihole, became a major center of art and architecture.

Group of Temples
A panorama of Pattadakal’s Group of Temples.

Where is Pattadakal located:

Pattadakal is located on the western bank of the Malprabha river, in the Bagalkot district of northern Karnataka. Distance of Pattadakal from some important nearby places are:

  • From Badami: 23 km
  • From Aihole: 10 km
  • From Hampi: 135 km
  • From Bengaluru: 443 km
The Nandi Complex
A temple dedicated to Nandi, Shiva’s ride.

How to reach there:

Pattadakal neither has a rail station nor an airport.

  • By railway: Badami is the nearest rail station. Regular train services are available from Bengaluru and Mysuru to Badami.
  • By air: The nearest airport is Hubli. It is 106 km away.

As for us, we visited Pattadakal from Hampi via Aihole.

Window motifs
Motifs carved on the windows of Virupaksha Temple.
Decorated pillars
Decorated pillars inside Mallikarjuna Temple.

What is the best time to visit:

October to February is the perfect time for exploring Pattadakal. The weather remains hot and harsh for the rest of the year.

Lady with Bird
Lady with bird, carving found inside the Virupaksha Temple.

Where to stay in Pattadakal:

Pattadakal does not have any hotels or homestays. You need to make Badami your center for exploring both Aihole and Pattadakal. Badami has a few good places to stay in.

Amorous couple
A royal couple, sculpted inside the Mallikarjuna Temple.

How long does it take to visit Pattadakal:

Unlike Aihole, the temples in Pattadakal are all congregated in a single compound. This helps to easily explore them. We think, half a day will be sufficient for visiting all the temples here.

Playful Shiva
A playful Shiva with Parvati and Nandi.

What to see in Pattadakal:

The main attraction of Pattadakal is obviously the group of temples, which has bagged the UNESCO tag. There is a total of seven temples. Sprawling across a manicured lawn, all of them were dedicated to Shiva. Out of these temples, three have been built in the Dravida style, while four followed the Nagara style. Further, it is interesting to note that, the names by which the temples are known today are not original.

The temples are as follows:

1.Kadasiddhesvara Temple:

This is the first temple that you will see on entering the complex. It is built following the Nagara tradition and dates back to the early 8th century.

The icons of Lakulisha, Harihara and Ardhanarishvara are present on the sanctuary walls.

2. Jambulinga Temple:

You will find this temple is quite identical to Kadasiddhesvara.

The tower has a lively carving of Nataraja. There are statues of Surya and Vishnu carved on the exterior walls.

Temple in Pattadakal
The ‘shikhara’ of Jambulinga Temple.

3. Galganatha Temple:

This is an incomplete temple. However, it is grander in scale as compared to the previous two.

It is also built in the Nagara style and belongs to the late 7th century. The tower is ornately sculpted, surmounted by an ‘amlaka’.

Galganatha Temple
The Galganatha Temple.

Don’t forget to check out the only notable sculpture here, that of Shiva slaying demon Andhaka.

4. Chandrasekhara Temple:

It is the simplest and smallest of all the shrines inside the complex.

5. Sangameshvara Temple:

This stellar temple has followed Dravidian style of architecture. It will surely remind you of the Shore Temples of Mahabalipuram.

A pillar inscription inside the temple mentions that it was erected by Chalukya Vijayaditya and dedicated to Shiva under the name Vijayeshvara. However, the temple was not finished due to the death of its royal patron in 734 CE.

Sangameshwara Temple
The Sangameshvara Temple will remind you of the Shore Temples of Mahabalipuram.

Although unfinished, this temple will amaze you with its proportions and clarity of designs.

Don’t forget to see the Inscribed Pillar near this temple. It has an edict of Kirtivarmana to commemorate his victory over the Pallava capital of Kanchipuram.

Inscription of Kirtivarmana
Inscription of Kirtivarmana.

6. Virupaksha Temple:

It is undoubtedly the grandest of all the temples in this complex. It was commissioned by Lokmahadevi, the queen consort of Kirtivarmana, to celebrate her husband’s victory.

Virupaksha Temple
The Virupaksha Temple is arguably the most beautiful among the Group of Temples in Pattadakal.

It is also the only living temple in this complex. You can start with the Nandi complex, located right in front of the main shrine. Then, continue admiring the well-crafted sculptures of courtly couples, ‘dwarapala’, Kubera etc. when entering this remarkable temple.

The Nandi complex of Virupaksha Temple.

The interior is equally endowed with extraordinary carvings, depicting various scenes from Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Puranas. Remember to take it slow while exploring inside and marvel at the genius of the Chalukyan sculptors.

Inside Virupaksha Temple
The Shiva Lingam inside the Virupaksha Temple.

As for us, we were overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of Virupaksha Temple.

Mahabharata carvings
Depiction of events of Mahabharata.

8. Mallikarjuna Temple:

It was built under the patronage of Trailokamahadevi, sister of Lokamahadevi. The Mallikarjuna Temple can well be considered a twin of the Virupaksha Temple. Both temples were built at the same time to serve the same purpose. If you look closely, you will find that the style of architecture is equally alike. Although, the Mallikarjuna Temple is smaller in scale and lower in height.

Carvings inside Mallikarjuna Temple
Lady under a tree, carving found inside the Mallikarjuna Temple.

The walls and columns of this temple are also filled with stunning carvings of courtly couples, scenes from the epics, Puranas and Panchatantra.

Inside Mallikarjuna Temple
Inside the ornately carved Mallikarjuna Temple.

9. Kashi Vishwanatha Temple:

It is the most advanced example of Nagara architecture in Pattadakal. Its interior is decorated with sculptures depicting Shiva’s life.

Kahi Vishwanath Temple, Pattadakal
The Kashi Vishwanath Temple is a fascinating specimen of a fusion of Nagara and Dravida styles.

Know before you go:

1. The Pattadakal Group of Temples has an entry fee.

2. As we discussed in our blog post on Aihole, we suggest taking a guided tour of Pattadakal for a better understanding of its heritage and architecture.

3. The Group of Temples remains open from 9 AM to 6 PM. If possible, visit early to avoid crowds. It remains quite crowded at the weekends and holidays.

4. We also suggest tasting local food in Pattadakal. We visited one of the shacks just across the temples. The hospitality with which they welcomed us and served food impressed us beyond words. We were served typical North Karnataka foods such as jowar chapatis, shenga chutney, brinjal curry or engai palya, vegetable and horse gram curry, and papad. Since it was the auspicious Kojagari Purnima, they also served Puran Poli. Needless to say, the food was absolutely lip-smacking.

Food at Pattadakal
The humble yet delicious platter of food at Pattadakal.
Busy shop
The busy shop.

5. Washroom is available in the Group of Temple complex.

6. Beware of monkeys and langurs in the complex. They especially run amok near the ticket counter.

7. Try dressing modestly as the places of interest are all religious in nature.

The Floating Pebbles