Chalukya Temple Trail – Pattadakal 4

Photos by Suhas Mehra, text by Beloo and Suhas Mehra

Continued from Part 3

“To use the terms of Indian philosophy, most art expresses the play of Prakriti; Buddhistic art in its most characteristic creations expresses the absolute repose of the Purusha; Hindu art tends to combine the Purusha and Prakriti in one image.” (Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, 1: 584)

We now proceed to the second largest temple in the Pattadakal group of temples. Mallikarjuna temple, located farthest from the entrance gate, is also known as Trailokesvara temple, named so after Queen Trailokamahadevi who had commissioned its construction. She was the younger queen of King Vikramaditya II (733–744 CE), and also the sister of queen Lokamahadevi who had commissioned the Virupaksha Temple. Like the Virupaksha temple, this Dravida style Shiva temple was also built to commemorate the victory of King Vikramaditya II over the Pallavas. But after the king’s death, some areas of this temple had to be left incomplete.

Nagara style Kasivisvanath temple (foreground) and Dravidian style Mallikarjuna temple in background

A half-broken monolith pillar stands in the courtyard outside this east-facing temple. This pillar bears inscriptions which speak of the reigns of Chalukya kings Vijayaditya and Vikramaditya, the wars they fought, and the temples they constructed.

The hemispherical vimana of this Dravida style temple has graduated facets or offset projections (rathas), a feature typically seen in Nagara style temples.

Why the name Mallikarjuna?

“The Gods are Personalities or Powers put forth by the Divine—they are therefore in front limited Emanations, although the full Divine is behind each of them.” (Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, 28: 456)

Like all legends and stories concerning the Gods of the Indian religio-spiritual tradition, the story behind the name and form of ‘Mallikarjuna’ of Lord Shiva speaks of many significant truths.

It so happened that once Lord Shiva and Ma Parvati decided that it was time for their sons, Ganesha and Kartikeya to get married. This led to an argument between the two brothers as to who should get married first. Shiva declared that the winner should be decided through a contest. Both brothers would have to do a pradikshna around the world, and the first one to return to Mount Kailash would be wedded first.

“Ganesh is the Power that removes obstacles by the force of Knowledge—Kartikeya represents victory over the hostile Powers. Of course the names given are human, but the Gods exist.” (Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, 28: 460)

Kartikeya swiftly left for his bhupradakshinam around the world on his vahana. But the wiser Ganesha simply circumambulated around his parents seven times and declared himself as the winner of the contest. His argument was simple — pradakshina around my parents is equivalent to going around the world because to me, my parents are my whole world. Pleased with this, Shiva and Parvati arranged for Ganesha’s marriage. His brides were Siddhi (spiritual attainments) and Riddhi (prosperity).

Ganesha (among other things) is the devata of spiritual knowledge.” (CWSA, 28: 460)

“Shiva is the Lord of Tapas.”
(Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, 28: 460)

When Kartikeya returned after completing his strenuous pradikshna around the world and learned of what had happened, he was enraged. And in that moment of passion declared that he would remain a brahmachari and never marry. Not only that, he also left his parents’ abode at Mount Kailash and went away to live alone on Krauncha Giri and took the name Kumarabrahmachari.

Shiva and Parvati went after him with a hope to pacify their angry son, but Kartikeya would not budge and decided to move elsewhere to get away from them. Only after much persuasion by other devatas, Kartikeya was pacified and decided to stay put at Mount Krauncha itself. (The Badami Chalukya kings also built temples dedicated to Lord Kartikeya and Ma Parvati at Krauncha Giri, in present-day Bellary district of Karnataka).

As per a legend, in order to stay close to their son, Shiva and Parvati took the form of a jyotirlingam. It is believed that this place later came to be known as Srisailam, the abode of Shiva as Mallikarjuna and Parvati as Mahashakti. Here the jyotirlingam is worshipped with jasmine flowers, mallika pushpam being the word for jasmine flowers. (According to another legend, Shiva is known by the name Mallikarjuna because he had once helped Pandava prince Arjuna kill a demon named Malla.)

“Our Shiva is the supreme among gods, yet he is but a beggar, out of his senses, uncaring and forgetful…Our Shiva is a beggar, but to the spiritual seeker he easily gives away all the wealth and wisdom of the three worlds; he is generous to a fault, but the wisdom beyond the reach of the wise is his inborn possession.” (Sri Aurobindo, Bengali Writings, CWSA, 9: January 1910)

In addition to the Mallikarjuna form of Lord Shiva, the temple also has some magnificent murtis of a few other forms of the Lord.

Shiva Tandeshesvara

“…the Dancing Shiva, …the motionless peace and joy are within, outside is the whole mad bliss of the cosmic movement.” (Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, 1: 584)

Shiva and Parvati at Mallikarjuna temple, Pattadkal

“…the marriage of Siva and Parvati, typified in its original idea the union of Purusha and Prakriti, the supreme Soul and dynamic Nature by which the world is created…” (Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, 1: 166)

More About the Temple

The Mallikarjuna temple has three mukhamandapas on three sides. A partially collapsed Nandi sits in front of the temple. The pillared sabha-mandapam leads to the garbhagriha which houses the Lord in his Shivalingam form. The two smaller shrines just outside the garbhagriha — one for Goddess Durga as Mahishasuramardini and the other for Lord Ganesha are presently empty. There is also a pradakshina-patha.

View of garbhagriha from sabhamandapam

The rich Indian cultural tradition of storytelling is prevalent on the walls and pillars of mukhamandapas where stories from the Puranas, Ramayana, Mahabharata and Panchatantra are carved in stone. Also seen here are scenes from daily life of people including men and women doing their daily chores, and couples expressing love. The ceiling of the temple is also adorned with beautiful figures.

“Only those parts of India which are a little too anglicised have lost the sense of beauty…. From the point of view of art what you have most within your reach are the old creations, the old temples, old pictures. All that was very good. And that had been made to express a faith. And it was done precisely with a sense of the whole, not in disorder.” (The Mother, CWM, 15: 340-341)

Scenes from the Mahabharata on a pillar
Samudra manthan on a pillar

“…there are not only aesthetic values but life-values, mind-values, soul-values, that enter into Art. The artist puts out into form not only the powers of his own consciousness but the powers of the Consciousness that has made the worlds and their objects.” (Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, 27: 122)

To be continued…

Coming up in Part 5…Papanatha temple, Pattadakal

Have you seen Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of our feature on Pattadakal?

For more of Chalukya Temple Trail, see our three-part feature on Aihole.

Also, visit our three-part feature on Badami.

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