Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Journey into the Chalukyan epoch - Pattadakal

Leaving Aihole, we were traveling into an advanced chapter of Chalukyan temple building that culminates in the structural temples at Pattadakal, 13 km from Badami. Saturated with copious information from the boards erected by the Archaeological Survey of India at Aihole temples, we took a breather looking at the fields flanking the road leading from Aihole to Pattadakal. While in auto, we did a recee of the photos captured at Aihole and revised details of all we had seen before preparing ourselves for more history lessons at Pattadakal.

We crossed a small bridge over the Malaprabha river and arrived at Pattadakal which was designated a UNESCO world heritage site in the year 1987. The complex with green lawns invited us to a composite layout of temples in both North Indian nagara style (curvilinear shikaras) and South Indian dravidian style (towers made of receding tiers).

The Kadasiddheshwara temple and Jambulinga temple appear first in the complex. These twin temples, built in the nagara style have curvilinear shikaras over the sanctum. Closely resembling one another with curved and short shikaras, they can be distinguished on the basis of the sculptures on the facade of the shikara. Galaganatha temple also has a nagara styled shikara, taller than that of Jambulinga temple with sloping roofs coming down from it.

Right next to Galaganatha temple, lies the Sangameshwara temple with a mantapa of the Satavahana period in front of the temple. The Sangameshwara temple has a tower in dravidian style and arthamanatapa adorned with lattice windows.

At Pattadakal, one alternates between temples of nagara and dravidian styles. After Sangameshwara temple, comes Kashi Vishweshwara temple built in nagara style. A row of small enclosures next to this temple houses multiple shiva lingas. Proceeding further, we arrive at the most important monuments in this complex – the Mallikarjuna temple and the Virupaksha temple that have abundant historical significance associated with it.

The indomitable spirit of the Chalukyan empire crumbled due to various internal conflicts during the reign of Pulakesin II (610-642AD) under whose rule, the Chalukyan empire also saw unprecedented conquests and expansion uptil Narmada river in the North and Cauvery in the South. The Pallavas in rebuttal crushed Chalukyas and suppressed them for a period of 13 years. Regain of power came with the kings Vikramaditya I, Vijayaditya who is believed to have built the Sangameshwara temple and more appropriately, to a bigger extent with Vikaramaditya II. Vikramaditya II ‘s repeated victories over the Pallavas of Kanchi and advancement into the Pallava territory after crushing Nandivarman II marked the completion of a vengeful act for the fate Chalukyas met at the hands of Pallava king Narasimhavarman in 642 AD.

Mallikarjuna temple constructed by Queen Trilokamahadevi, wife of Vikramaditya II (740 AD) is a downsized version of the Virupaksha temple.Virupaksha temple with a main entrance opposite a big and separate, Nandi Mantapa, two side porches leading to a pillared arthamantapa has a huge tower made of receding tiers and closely resembles the Kailashanath temple of Kanchi. This was built in 740 AD by Queen Lokamahadevi, wife of Vikramaditya II. Both these temples were built to commemorate Vikramaditya II’s victory over the Pallavas. The fine elements of sculptural beauty and workmanship of an inexplicable degree can be seen in the many symmetrical pillars that depict Puranic tales , elephant head brackets that support these pillars and the heavily sculpted walls on the exterior in these two temples.

A walkway, along side the Malaprabha river leads one to the Papanatha temple that stands on an elevated platform attracting one and all with its grand and heavily crafted external walls carrying scenes from the epic Ramayana. Every sculpture on the wall here glowed in the evening sunlight. Papanatha temple is unique in that it has a mix of nagara and dravidian styles in it.

We walked back to the entrance of the temple complex rallying through the multiple frames captured of many temples we visited since morning. The patronage, Chalukyas of Badami provided to Hindu temple architecture is of an unimaginable magnitude and to understand this, a visit to Badami, Aihole and Pattadakal is a necessity. This supreme empire ended with the ruler Kirthivarman II, Chalukyas of Badami were subjugated completely by the Rashtrakutas for over two centuries only to reappear as the Chalukyas of Kalyani adding more tales of valor, war and conquests to Indian history and much more finesse to the Hindu temple architecture. And our journey into the Chalukyan epoch continues.

Quick Tips:
How to reach: Hire an auto from Badami. Complete a round trip from Badami to Aihole and Pattadakal for Rs.500. Hotels in Badami arrange for this upon request.

Some important information: Pattadakal is a small village. There are no hotels/restaurants here. Shops selling cool drinks, fruits and snacks exist close to the temple complex.

Places to see: All temples at the Pattadakal complex. One will require roughly 3 hours time here.

Guide: All temples have boards with clear details erected by the ASI. Grab a picture of these boards, read the contents on the digital camera screen and explore the monuments on your own based on these details. Guides are very costly.

Best time to visit: Winter months – overhead sun may not be as big a problem as at Aihole for there are some trees and green lawns to cool our heads.

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