Photos by Suhas Mehra, text by Beloo and Suhas Mehra
Continued from Part 5
After visiting the Pāpanātha temple we headed back to the main temple complex. The sun was setting now, it was the golden hour, the banyan tree on the bank of river Malaprabha seemed to glow with a natural golden hue. A few monkeys were playing and having fun. A short climb brought us back to the gate of the temple complex. From this point we got a terrific view of the Nandi Mandapa of the Virupaksha temple.
“Indian sculpture and architecture embody the quintessential spirit and gracefulness of intuition.”– Nolini Kanta Gupta, Collected Works, Vol. 7
Like the Tungabhadra river at Hampi, which flows northwards, the bank of Malaprabha river near Pattadakal is considered auspicious for royal coronation. While in its origin Malaprabha river flows eastward, it changes its course and begins to flow in northeast direction. At the bank of Tungabhadra river in Hampi stands Kodandarama temple at the same spot where it is believed Sri Rama had crowned Sugreeva as the king of Kishkindha. In the same manner, at the location where Sangameshvara temple stands today in Pattadakal near Malaprabha river bank several kings mentioned in the Mahabharata such as Nrga, Nala, Nahusa, Sagara were coronated. Some inscriptions discovered there also allude to this. In more recent history, several Chalukya kings were also coronated at the Sangameshvara temple.
Located north of Virupaksha temple, Sangameshvara temple is possibly the earliest stone carved temple built by Chalukyas at Pattadakal. Like all other temples in this complex this Shiva temple also faces east. The principal deity came to be known as Vijayesvara, named after the Chalukya king Vijayaditya (696-733 CE). Some parts of this temple were left unfinished probably after the death of the king. Built in typical Dravidian architecture style, this temple served as the prologue to the forthcoming temples at Pattadakal which include Nagara style as well as combination of both Dravidian and Nagara styles.
“The Dravidians of the South, though they no longer show that magnificent culture and originality which made them the preservers & renovators of the higher Hindu thought & religion in its worst days, are yet, as we all know, far more genuinely learned & philosophic in their cast of thought & character than any other Indian race.”~ Sri Aurobindo (CWSA 1: 153)
“…a work of art is not great unless the artist is able to express the infinite through the limitations, — unless the lines and forms are not overpassed, so to say. There must be beauty of line and form but that is only the primary basis, — the earth on which you stand, — but it must go beyond and express something from within.”– Sri Aurobindo, Evening Talks, 27 August 1926
The garbhagriha houses a Shivalingam but sadly it seems to be have been badly mutilated. Pradakshinapatha around the garbhagriha is well-lit because of the three windows carved into all sides of the outer walls. A small antarala leading out from the garbhagriha is flanked by two small shrines on either side; these were at one time probably the homes of Ganesha (southern side) and Mahishasumardini (northern side). Walking down the ardhamandapa with huge pillars we get back to the entrance porches (mukhamandapa) which is open on three sides — north, south and east. Presently only the southern wall of this entrance mandapa is intact. To the east is a small area housing the Nandi.
The exterior of the temple is built on a higher plinth with five-layered mouldings. The walls have four symmetrical projections with devakoshthas (niches for the gods) which house Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. In between these niches are three sculptured windows that provide light and ventilation around the garbhagriha. The Dravidian style vimana atop the garbhagriha is perfect example of its kind — repeating certain elements of the parapet and wall below and crowned with a four-sided kuta shikhara and a top finial (kalasha).
A short walk takes us to the Nagara style Kashivishwanatha temple.
“The architectural language of the north is of a different kind, there is another basic style; but here too the same spiritual, meditative, intuitive method has to be used and we get at the same result, an aesthetic interpretation or suggestion of the one spiritual experience, one in all its complexity and diversity, which founds the unity of the infinite variations of Indian spirituality and religious feeling and the realised union of the human self with the Divine. This is the unity too of all the creations of this hieratic art. The different styles and motives arrive at or express that unity in different ways.”~ Sri Aurobindo (CWSA 20:278)
This is the smallest of all the Nagara style temples in the Pattadakal complex. The Archeological Survey of India dates this temple to mid-seventh century. Kaḍasiddhesvara is believed to be a modern name and in the absence of any documents or inscriptions the original name of this temple has not been ascertained.
The garbhagriha of this east-facing temple is square and the Shivalinga rests on a raised platform. The Nagara style shikhara has a sukanasa projection on the east which features Nataraja accompanied by Parvati, but unfortunately this carving is badly damaged like rest of the temple. On the northern exterior wall Shiva and Parvati are present in their Ardhanarishvara form. The western side is protected by both Shiva and Vishnu in their Harihara form, while on the southern side is present Lakulisha.
“…as pleasure suppressed gives rise to pain, so beauty suppressed leads to ugliness.”~ Sri Aurobindo, Anilbaran Roy’s Interviews and Conversations, 11 July 1926
Jambulingeshvara temple, also known as Jumulinga temple, is another small east-facing Nagara style temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Like in the case of Kaḍasiddhesvara temple, here also Jambulingeshvara seems a more recent name and in absence of any relevant documents it is difficult to ascertain the original name of this temple.
The doorway to the garbhagriha is much simpler as compared to other temples in the complex. It opens to a wider but longer mandapa.
Standing to the east of Jambulingeshwara temple is Galaganatha temple, one of the last temples to be built in this complex, around 750 CE. This temple has an exquisitely designed shikhara in Nagara style, probably the most beautiful and elegant among the other Nagara style temples in this complex. This is also one of the few temples to have a well-preserved amalaka and kalash on the top, though the sukanasa in the front is damaged.
“…there is no gulf between art and spirituality, provided that by the word spirituality we mean genuine spirituality and not merely moral conduct or religious ceremonies. If the aim of spirituality is to know the Self, then the aim of art too is the same. If the seer of the spiritual truth can see the Spirit everywhere without excluding the body or any part of it, then why should the artist not be able to manifest the glory of the Spirit through colour, sound, word and stone and thus play the role of a truly spiritual man?”~ Nolini Kanta Gupta, Collected Works, Vol. 7
Unfortunately, the exterior structure of the Galaganatha temple is mostly in ruins, except for the southern part which features a carved slab showing an eight-armed Lord Shiva killing the demon Andhaka, while wearing a garland of skulls as a yajnopavita.
“How many of us have realised that beauty is at least half the sense of life and serves to double its value? And even if we do sometimes realise, how many are impelled to shape our lives accordingly?”~ Nolini Kanta Gupta, Collected Works, Vol. 7
Like seen in most of the temples in Pattadakal complex, the garbhagriha of Galaganatha temple is also square with an antechamber. While there is a large Shivalinga inside the garbhagriha, the yoni is missing. The pradakshinapatha is broad and well-lit by windows on the exterior walls.
Many scholars believe that Galaganatha temple is almost an exact copy of the Svarga Brahma temple of Alampur in Andhra Pradesh, a temple that is dated to 689 CE. Given that both Alampur and Pattadakal were parts of the Badami Chalukya kingdom, this seems highly likely. Also there is a Galaganatha temple group in the nearby Aihole.
As we come close to our temple trail, it is time to take in some panoramic views of some of the recent temples we explored.
Before saying au revoir to the magnificent Pattadakal temple complex which to this day reminds all Indians of the great innovative and experimenting spirit that constantly enriched and renewed the temple architectural traditions, let us turn back once and absorb the grandeur of it all – a grandeur which shines despite the ravages of time, history and neglect.
“Judging from what is left to us, it seems our people once had a keen sense of beauty.”~ Sri Aurobindo, Evening Talks, 24 January 1939