Temple architecture

Pattadakal, Karnataka: there is an unsolved mystery behind this magnificent group of temples

The Story Behind is a CNT series that shines a light on lesser-known landmarks across Incredible India

Three hours from Hampi, the Malaprabha River flows between the sandstone cliffs and sunflower fields of northern Karnataka. En route is Pattadakal, a group of 10 riverside temples, built in the 7th and 8th centuries, with their stones quarried from the surrounding lands. A few kilometers from the complex is another megalithic temple, with what are possibly Chalukyan family tombs.

The Pattadakal temple site is one of the four major Chalukyan sites in the Malaprabha Valley which includes Badami, Aihole, Mahakuta and Pattadakal. Built during the last phase of their reign, the temples are said to display the dynasty’s grandest and most accomplished work. The coexisting elements of North Indian Nagara and South Indian Dravidian architectural styles confirm that superstructures are superlatives of Indian temple architecture. No wonder the site was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. But that’s just one of the reasons why you should visit it.

Pattadakal, Karnataka

Pattadakal was commissioned at the peak of Chalukyan rule, but no palace stands on its 220+ acre expanse. There are only Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and a Jain temple slightly isolated from the rest. At the time, the site was sacred. This is where kings were crowned and queens commissioned temples in thanks for the glorious return of their husbands after battle. The name of the site itself translates to “coronation stone”. The best known temple here, the Virupaksha Temple, is a grand spectacle supposedly built by Queen Loka Mahadevi. Friezes depicting stories from the mahabharata and Ramayana decorate the walls of the temple, and if you look closely enough at the inscriptions, you can decipher the names of the architects who created them. Another magnificent structure is Mallikarjuna Temple, also known as Trailokeswara Temple in honor of Queen Trailokya Mahadevi. Anecdotal claims suggest that it was she who had the temple built to celebrate Chalukyan’s victory over the Pallavas.

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