This is the first of a series of article on the temples of Karnataka. Since there are a vast number of temples, we have decided to take them up as per the dynasties that ruled over Karnataka.
The first part commences with the Chalukyas.
The Chalukyas ruled over large parts of Karnataka and
Maharashtra and they were a powerful kingdom in the Indian sub-continent in the ancient ages. One Chalukya king, Pulakeshi defeated Harsha or Harshavardhana on the banks of the Narmada. Pulakeshi is one of the greatest kings of Karnataka. He died in a war with the Pallavas. One of his descendents, Vikramaditya, is equally revered as an outstanding Emperor of his times. Both Pulakeshi and Vikramaditya have left behind a wealth of temples.
The Chalukyas and Pallavas were bitter rivals ands each sacked the capital of the other.
Badami was the capital of the Chalukyas. Apart from this town, Chalukyan temples can mainly be found in Aihole, Pattadakal, Banashankari, Mahakuta, Geresoppa and Alampur.
Though they ruled over a vast land, it is still a mystery why they concentrated on building temples in just these areas.
It is under the Chalukyas that temple architecture as is today came into being. The earliest temples in
were built by them. The Aihole-Pattadakal site is called cradle of temple art. India
Therefore, we have started the series on temples with the Chalukyas.
So here goes…….
Karnataka has nearly 36,000 temples and these structures are in all the districts and almost every place in the State that is inhabited. The Department of Religious and Charitable Endowment of the State says 35,000 temples are associated with the Muzrai Department.
The Muzrai Department keeps a record of all temples that it either runs directly or gives grants. A list of almost all the ancient temples is also available with the Archaeological Department.
Karnataka is fortunate that it has temples ranging from all the centuries and they cover the periods of the Chalukyas, Hoysalas, Vijayangars, Wodeyars, Rashtrakuras, Gangas, Nolambas, Kadambas, Kalachuris, Nomabas and of course the Palegars or local chieftains.
The earliest temple, as is built now, can be seen at Badami and the structure belongs to the Chalukyas. The group of Chalukya temples at Badami, Banashankari, Aihole, Pattadakal and Mahakuta goes back to the 7th century AD.
The Chalukyas have built temples dedicated to Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The
in Badami was built by Mangalesa. Vishnu Temple
The cave temples especially those at Badami contain fine sculptures of Vishnu reclining on Shesha Naga, Varaha the Boar, Narasimha or the half-lion and half-man and Vamana the dwarf. The Chalukya kings also built the rock cut caves at Badami.
The Chalukya Temples are important as it is here that temple architecture took birth. The Dravadian styles of the temples of Pattadakal came to be widely adopted by kingdoms of east and
Central India. Aihole has more than 100 temples and the style of temple building in South India originated from here. Therefore, Aihole is also called the cradle of temple architecture.
There are ten main temples in Pattadakal and of them six are in Dravadian style and four in Rekhanagar style.The Virupaksha temple here was built on the lines of the magnificent Kailasanath temple in Kanchi near Chennai.
Badami was part of Bijapur district. Now it is in Bagalkot district.
Badami earlier was called Vatapi and it was the ancient capital of the Chalukyas. The Bhutanatha hill has four temples, with several beautiful bas reliefs. The
Dattatreya Temple goes back to the 12th century, the with a star shaped construction to the 11th century. Mallikarjuna Temple
The cave temples of Badami can be called as the earliest structures of its times. It is cut from sandstone on the cliff of a hill. The caves are dedicated to Hindu and Jain gods. The biggest cave is dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
Beneath the caves is a beautiful lake called Agasthya reservoir. There are temples all around the lake.
There are more than 100 temples here. Archaeologists and historians say temple architecture in the
Deccan originated here. The Durga temple is known for its apsidal plan, exquisite carvings and its pillared corridors. The temple appears to have been built over several periods. Much of the temples here dates back to the 6th and 7th centuries.
The earliest of the temples here date back to the 450 AD.
The second phase of temples here were built from the 12th and 13th centuries.
The Banashankari temple is one of the largest of its kind. Located in Cholachagudda, 5 kms from Badami, it is called Shakambari, Banashankari or Vanashankari since it is within the Tilakaaranya forest.
An incarnation of Parvathi, the original temple was built in the 7th century Kalyani Chalukyas- the period of Jagadekamalla, the first, in 639 AD. The present structure dates back to 1750 and it was built by a Maratha chieftain Parushuram Agale.
The deity is carved out of black stone and it was consecrated by the Chalukyas. She is seated on a lion with the demon at her feet. According to legend, Parvathi killed a demon-Durgamasara- at this place.
There is a beautiful enclosed pond in front of the temple called Harindra Theertha.
Another group of temples belonging to the Chalukyas is at Alampur in Andhra Pradesh.
The Alampur temples are nine structures dedicate to Brahma and, hence, the name the Nava Brahma temples. Some of the temples have been built by Pulakeshi.
The Badami Chalukya architecture evolved between the 5th and 8th centuries and this style is called Vesare. This style was arrived at after blending the Indo-Aryan, Dravadian and Nagara styles. This style reappeared several centuries later during the Vijayanagar period.
One of the main features of the Chalukyan temples and caves arethat they have the names and sometime even the signature of sculptors who built them. In some temples, we have more than one name and they testify to the principle of unity in diversity. If one temple wall ahs the name of one sculpture, another has a different name.
No wonder, Aihole is considered a school of architecture, Badami a degree college, and Pattadakal, a university of architecture. In 1987, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) included Pattadakal in its list of World Heritage sites.
Badami, Aihole, Pattadakal and Banashankari are in Bagalkot district. The nearest city is Bagalkot or even Bijapur, which was the capital of the Adilshahis. Badami is connected by road and rail networks as is Bagalkot and Bijapur.