Badami, Pattadakal, and Aihole is a wonderful archaeological circuit in Karnataka. Most travelers base themselves in Badami and explore the glorious trinity of early Chalukyan architectural wonders. I too based myself in Badami, explored Aihole, and then enjoyed Pattadakal at a very relaxing pace. Sticking to the age-old adage of “Keeping the best for the last”, I spent the entire last day of my trip exploring Pattadakal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site before heading back to Hyderabad in the late afternoon. Despite its glorious title, Pattadakal seemed like a small remote hamlet. It consisted of a rustic market, a few houses, and was very peaceful. The Malaprabha River enclosed the temple complex from one side and a small village laid on the other side.

Pattadakal temple complex is a UNESCO world heritage site.

A confluence of the north and south Indian arts

Only 22 km from Badami, Pattadakal is famous for a group of temples dating back to the Chalukya empire. The complex has around 10 temples out of which nine are Hindu and one Jain temple. Pattadakal also some important 25 stone inscriptions erected during the times of the early Chalukya Kings. There is also an eighth-century Sanskrit inscription in Pattadakal written in both Nagara and the South Indian scripts. This indicates the confluence of two distinct cultures – the north and south Indian influences. This confluence can also be found in the temple architecture at Patttadakal and this is what makes the site so unique. In fact, it is the timeless beauty and historical relevance of these temples that made them acquire the status of a UNESCO world heritage site in 1987.

The temples of Pattadakal

As mentioned above, Pattadakal temples achieved the peak of eclectic art which thrived in the 7th and 8th centuries under the Chalukya dynasty. This was a very open-minded and secular dynasty that patronized art and this is clearly visible in the monuments seen at Pattadakal. Virupaksha Temple – Although, there are 10 spectacular temples in the complex, one masterpiece stands out from amongst them all and that is the Temple of Virupaksha.

  • Virupaksha Temple – It was built in c. 740 by Queen Lokamahadevi to commemorate her husband’s victory over the kings from the South. Also known as the Lokesvara Temple, it is the largest and the most popular one in the complex. The temple is completely adorned with intricate carvings and inscriptions. Structured around a vast quadrangle surrounded by shrines, the Virupaksha temple carvings depict stories from the Hindu epics, the Mahabharata, and Ramayana. This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva.
  • Mallikarjuna Temple – This temple was built right after the completion of the Virupaksha temple and resembles it closely in style and decoration. In fact, a small passage from the Virupaksha temple leads to the Mallikarjuna temple. It was built by King Vikramaditya’s second queen Trilokyamahadevi was the sister of the chief queen Lokamahadevi. The inner walls of this temple are intricately engraved with episodes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata.
  • Sangameshwara Temple – Believed to be one of the oldest temples in India, the construction of Sangameshwara was completed in 733 AD by the Chalukya king Vijayaditya. It lies between the Virupaksha and Galaganath temples and though slightly simple in design, the outer walls of the sanctum have sculptures of UgraNarasimha and Nataraja.
  • Galaganath Temple – This one stands apart from the rest owing to the fact that it was never completed. Constructed in the north Indian style, this Shiva temple has intricate carvings of its principal deity and a Shivalinga in black basalt.
  • Kashi Visweshwara Temple – This temple too has the curvilinear shikhara/dome of the north Indian school of architecture. Its ceilings are intricately carved with figures of Lord Shiva, his consort, Parvati, and their child.
  • Papanatha Temple – This temple shows a sharp confluence of northern and southern Indian styles of architecture. It is lies near the river Malaprabha, to the south of Virupaksha Temple and its ceiling is adorned with remarkable figures of Shiva-Parvathi with the Gandharvas and Vishnu. Several carvings of scenes from the Ramayana and Mahabharatha can be found all over the temple.
  • Jambulinga Temple and the Kadasiddeshwara Temple – Both these temples are similar in design and their conditions are not so intact. However, beautiful carvings can be seen decorating both temples.
  • Jain Temple – It dates back to the 9th century and has immense religious and historical significance. Though there is some ambiguity regarding its chief patron, this does not diminish the beauty of this extremely beautiful monument. It is decorated with intricate carvings with huge elephants welcoming the visitors at the entrance.

The best time to visit Pattadakal

The cool winter months from October to March are the best time to visit Pattadakal. Summer (April – July) is extremely hot and should be avoided. July to September is the monsoon time. Since the area is prone to flood, monsoons should be avoided as well.

How to reach Pattadakal

Since most travelers visiting Pattadakal, base themselves in Badami, it makes sense to reach that place first. Pattadakal is only 22 km from there and the nearest train station is also at Badami. Direct buses and private and shared autorickshaws/tuk-tuks are available at Badami station for Pattadakal. However, the public bus services are very infrequent and it makes sense to hire a tuk-tuk for this 45 minutes journey.

Other Pattadakal Travel Tips

  • Base yourself in Badami. Read about the Badami guide here.
  • Club your Pattadakal with either Aihole (14 km) or Mahakuta (27 km).
  • Shared auto-rickshaws/tuk-tuks and public buses are not very frequent in this area. It makes sense to hire a tuk-tuk or a taxi for a day from Badami.
  • Pack enough snacks and box lunches or you may have to wait until you return to Badami for a square meal.
  • Dress modestly and wear sunhats and sunglasses.
  • There is an entry fee of Rs 30 for entering Pattadakal monuments and temples. Camera charges are extra.
  • Pattadakal complex facilities include bathrooms, grassy lawns, and benches. There are several shops outside the main entrance that sell snacks and beverages. There is no parking facility.

Follow the rest of the Badami series