The UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Pattadakal group of monuments is poised along the banks of River Malaprabha that later flows into River Krishna. The temple complex is the legacy of the Early Chalukyas (543-753 CE), who built a series of nine Hindu temples for coronation and royal commemoration purposes. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, all the temples face towards the east. From motifs and sculptures of Lord Shiva to other deities of the Hindu pantheon, the temples are adorned with exquisite artwork. Along with nine Shiva temples, there is a shrine dedicated to Parsvanatha, the 23rd tirthankar.


Most of the temples house a garbha griha (sanctum sanctorum) that leads to an antarala (vestibule), which is joined by a pillared mandapam or hall. The image of the deity is kept on a pitha (pedestal). On top of the sanctum rises a shikhara (spire) with a kalash or a pot with a coconut and mango leaves at its finial.


The best of these is the Virupaksha Temple built by Queen Lokamahadevi in c. 740 to mark her husband's (king Vikramaditya II ) victory over the Pallava kings. This temple boasts a sanctum sanctorum that is surrounded by an ambulatory path and connected to a vestibule. Devotees can pay respects to the shrines of Lord Ganesha and Goddess Mahisasurmardini placed laterally here. Enclosure walls or prakaras make up the boundary of the temple. The most notable feature is a gorgeous Dravida shikhara with a sukanasa or a nose-arched projection.


The next on the stop is the beautiful Mallikarjuna Temple, adjacent to the Virupaksha Temple. It was initially known as the Trailokeswara Temple and has an amalaka in a hemisphere shape. The shrines located in the vestibule do not have images of any deities and the ambulatory walls lie in ruins. However, of note are the niches in the temple that are ornamented beautifully.


Tourists can also head to the Sangameswara Temple that was originally called Vijayeswara Temple. Built by Vijayaditya in 720 CE, it boasts a sanctum sanctorum that has a lingam. There is also an idol of Nandi (bull god) that is kept on a small plinth. The temple is an architectural marvel as it has been built on a plinth that has mouldings adorned with floral and animal motifs. The walls are also praiseworthy and one can see niches decorated with figurines of the avatars of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu.


Another attraction is the modest Kadasiddheswara Temple that was built in the latter half of the 7th century CE. Its shikhara reflects the Nagara style of architecture and its sukhansa bears the image of Lord Shiva dancing with Goddess Parvati. At the Jambulingeswara Temple, one can visit the square sanctum sanctorum that houses a lingam.


The next stopover is the Galaganatha Temple, which is among the last to be built in 750 CE. Well-preserved, it boasts a majestic plinth that has three mouldings decorated with intricate figures. You can also admire the depictions of stories from Panchatantra and the Puranas that are truly mesmerising.


Tourists can also visit the relatively small Chandrashekhara Temple that houses a sanctum sanctorum with a lingam on a plinth. The entrance door of the shrine is ornamented with figures of dwarpalas (gatekeepers).


Another attraction is the Papanatha Temple that is noted for an elaborately carved sukansa and a vimana built in the northern style of architecture. It is believed to be the largest temple built in the Nagara style in the region. Other temples worth a visit are Kasivisweswara Temple, the last temple in the compound, Jain Temple and a monolithic stone pillar. Pattadakal lies about 165 km from Belgaum.

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