Pattadakal and Aihole – Cradle of Indian temple architecture

By Somali K Chakrabarti

Pattadakal, a small village in Bagalkot district of Karnataka, is a name that I had not heard of till recently, but after seeing the place enroute to Hampi from Badami caves, I was so enthralled by its beauty and richness of art that if I have to describe the place in one word it would be ‘mesmerizing’.

This small village, situated on the bank of Malaprabha river, is a UNESCO World heritage site with a cultural legacy dating back to the 6th century BC.

Starting out from Badami, in the morning at around 8 AM, we reached Pattadakal in less than an hour. On entering the heritage complex, I found a picturesque site of ancient stone temples in sprawling green lawns with palm trees lined on the sides, and with light red sandstone hills in the backdrop.



Pattadakal Heritage site

The magnificent stone temples are constructed in various forms and styles. Some temples are profusely adorned with sculptures and intricate designs, while others are moderately or sparsely carved.

The site also known as the ‘Cradle of Indian temple architecture’, marks the blending of Northern ( Indo Aryan) and Southern (Dravidian) styles of temple building. This is something that I became consciously aware of after seeing the temples and perusing through the literature.

Northern Temple Style, Pattadakal
Galaganatha Temple in Northern Style

The Northern model, has a tall, curvilinear superstructure. In this model there is a conspicuous verticality in the overall profile from the bottom to the top, whereas in the Dravidian model , the emphasis is on horizontality from the bottom to the top.

Southern Temple Style, Pattadakal
Sangameswara Temple, Dravida Vimana Model

Most of the temples in the complex are relics and archaeological sites, with the exception of two temples where we found the priests performing a Puja. One of the temples is Virupaksha temple, dedicated to Shiva. Just opposite the temple is a pillared pavilion enshrining the sculpture of Nandi, where some people had gathered for worship.

Virupaksha Temple, Pattadakal
Virupaksha Temple, Pattadakal

Virupaksha temple, is the largest of all temples in the complex and it represents the zenith of Chalukyan art.

Though many of the structures are in a dilapidated state owing to the centuries elapsed and also due to vandalism, yet the remnants speak volumes of the engineering skills and dexterity with which the construction was planned.


Not very far off from Pattadakal is another site known as Aihole. Here around 125 ancient temple structures, both big and small are spread out across the town, with some temples enclosed within a boundary complex. Most of the structures are in old and ruined condition.

Just as we entered the complex, a local teenage girl, who was picnicking there, requested me to click her photograph with my cell. I agreed and clicked. When I showed her the picture, she liked it. Quickly jotting down her address on a piece of paper, she handed it to me, and asked me to post the picture on the given address. The address, written mostly in Kannada, had the name of the girl, followed by the name of the village, district and state. Nowhere in the address was a house number mentioned. Maybe I will take a chance and post her the picture. Whether it will reach her, I have my doubts.

DurgaTemple, Aihole
DurgaTemple, Aihole

The first temple near the entrance of the complex is the Durga temple. It has some beautiful carvings on the walls and pillars that transform the mundane rocks into graceful art forms.

Carvings Aihole
Temple Carvings, Aihole

Here’s a stepped well right inside the complex.

Stepped well

Aihole,was the earliest capital of Chalukyan Dynasty before they shifted the capital to Badami. It was once a thriving commercial centre. A museum inside the complex has a model with the layout of all historical structures in Aihole.

The inscriptions in the structures are supposed to give a glimpse into the lifestyle of people during the Chalukya period. Besides the names of the Chalukya kings, and the wars they fought, the names of poets Kalidasa and Bharavi also find mention in the Badami Chalukya inscriptions. Interestingly , the inscriptions are written in Telegu Kannada script, which was common in the 6th – 7th century, and became increasingly separate after 12th – 13th century.

Aihole Complex

Together known to form the laboratory of Indian temples, Pattadakal and Aihole are places worth visiting for anybody with an interest in exploring Indian art and architecture.

After seeing the two sites, we reached Hampi by the late afternoon, where more wonders awaited us.


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50 thoughts on “Pattadakal and Aihole – Cradle of Indian temple architecture

  1. Certainly one of the most ornate sculptures and beautiful temples and both sites. Pattadakal is definitely a wonderful site to explore. Aihole is a much larger site. It’s the city from where the Chalukya kings ruled. Driving is tricky even with a skilled navigator on Google maps and it’s all internal village roads. Watch out for the bumps and fields of sunflowers and marigolds. No monkey business though.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Really disheartening to see that these magnificent structures are in a state of neglect.

    With the count of structures around 125, i am sure it must be a hot spot back in those days! Glad to have visited the sites here – God knows how long would these be around!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Very informative article on the part of history that we’re not much familiar with, at least I didn’t know about these two though I knew about Hampi and Vijayanagar kingdom. I lived in Bangalore for a few years and during our visits to Mysore and surrounding small towns, I was very charmed, rather impressed by their well-maintained traditions. These remote areas down south are steeped in national history, for these places were not as invaded and wiped out as most of north India was.
    Whenever I get a chance, I’ll visit these places. Till then you have inspired me to google these names 🙂 .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Alka. The way we were taught history, I didn’t have much interest in the subject. My interest grew only after seeing the places, the art forms, and architecture. Now I see that blogs provide a good means to chronicle and share our travels and experiences, and know our country and the world better.
      My interest in Badami and Hampi grew after I read a couple of blog posts, so its good if this post got you interested in Pattadakal and Aihole. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree. The way it’s taught and add to it the fact that we have a very long history with too many layers, details and dates.
        Blog posts make it interesting. I have a huge longing to see every part of India and I definitely got interested in all these places after reading your post 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Balroop. These temples too are mostly relics, but the very thought that these were constructed centuries ago these with locally available material, matching the backdrop in such an artistic and well planned manner is intriguing. I haven’t yet been to Khajuraho, but yes from the pictures it seems similar.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you so much for this informative post and beautiful pictures. I was not at all aware of this village and that it’s a UNESCO heritage site!
    I’ve a penchant for such temples and architecture, (perhaps, you know) and I’ve placed it in my list. Will visit it at the earliest. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nor was I aware of it Maniparna. Your liking for temples and architecture is apparent from the way you had described the unearthed jewels in your post on the Diamond Triangle of Odisha. I am sure you will like these places as well and must plan out a trip whenever possible.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Superb photos and indeed a wonderful place to visit. I read it on last sunday but could not say anything then. Interestingly , the inscriptions are written in Telegu Kannada script, which was common in the 6th – 7th century, and became increasingly separate after 12th – 13th century. This is very new to learn that these scripts were common at a time . Thnx Somali ji

    Liked by 2 people

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