Badami, Aihole and Pattadakal Temples are Chalukyan Masterpieces

  • Visited Badami Caves, Aihole and Pattadakal Temples to know about these jewels of Chalukyan architecture in Karnataka.

To read earlier travelogues, all travels done during Covid19. Click Bandipur National Park, Nagerhole National Park and Hoysala Temples Beyond Belur and Halebidu.  

Badami, Aihole and Pattadakal represent the glory of the Chalukya dynasty, a period stretching from about the 6th century to the 12th century CE with some period of Rashtrakuta rule in between. These towns in the Bagalkot district of Karnataka, in a region stretching across 40 kms, were the centres of the Chalukya rule at different times.

Consequently, each of these places hosts several gems of Chalukyan architecture in the form of temples with exquisite carvings. Among these, Badami is more known for its cave temples. While Aihole also boasts of a few cave temples, both Pattadakal and Aihole are known more for standalone temple structures that dot their landscapes. One of the highlights of the temples in this region is the assimilation of different styles of architecture.

Pattadakal is the only UNESCO World Heritage site among these, as Badami waits for its inclusion in that list. Most of the temples in Aihole and the ones in Pattadakal had to be excavated from under human settlement and hence involved relocation. A look around some of the temple complexes scattered around Aihole, will tell you how human settlement has grown around these temples with some village houses sharing walls with these structures.

The temples are largely made of sandstone i.e. is available in abundance in the area. Weathered sandstone rocks stand exposed all around in the hills that run across this region. Being among the softer of rocks, sandstone offered ample opportunities to the ancient builders to carve out some of the most amazing sculptures on the walls and pillars of the temples. No binding material holds the blocks that make up the walls, roofs, pillars and beams of the temples. All blocks were cut with precision to interlock into each other to be able to support these heavy structures.

This post is intended to kindle an interest in you about this region that is the seat of Chalukyan splendour, without getting into too much of details. No amount of writing, images or videos can substitute the contentment of learning and discovering things for yourself.


Aihole is known as the Cradle of Indian Temple Architecture. The complex has three stages of temple construction. One is a flat-roofed temple with a small mantapa in front, two is a Kalyana Chalukya monument of the 11th century with a stepped Shikhara and three is the Huchchimalligui Temple. It indicates a phase of experimentation in temple making.  

Galaganatha temples group

A dolmen, seen in the fore, in the Galaganatha temple complex. 

Full caption - The builders of the temples did not disturb this megalithic structure, possibly recognizing that it is in memory of the dead. That is an example of tolerance we all could learn from.

The Mallikarjuna temple complex.

Note the tower of the main temple. It resembles a north Indian shikhara with an amalaka (round serrated crown) and a kalasa on top.

Front view Durga temple.

Full caption - Made in 742 A.D. The shape reminds one of Parliament House New Delhi. The Durg Temple was built by Aatada Ale Komarasingha during the days of Vikramaditya 2.

Durga temple with its amalaka or crown lying next to it.

Temple design uncommon in South India. 

Sculptures in various Aihole temples. Note interesting forms of Hindu deities.

If you thought this region was all about Chalukyan temple architecture, you are in for a surprise. There have been discoveries of pre-historic dolmens in and around the region. There is one isolated dolmen on the way to Pattadakal on the right of the highway and many on the top of the Meguti hill (the southern face of which has a Jain cave temple).

Dolmens are megalithic structures that were built for the departed, generally as a tomb. Modern India keeps discovering various locations with such structures. Dolmens are commonly seen in Europe, particularly in the United Kingdom and France. They are also found in Bastar.


Temples here mark the blending of the Rekha-Nagara-Prasada and the South India Vimana styles of temple building. There are 10 temples of North and South Indian styles. Rest have been ruined by nature or because of ignorance.

Pattadakal was a religious centre during the days of early Western Chalukyas from 500-757 A.D. Name of Vikramaditya II is closely associated with the beautifying of Pattadakal. Jnana Shivacharya, a scholar from a kingdom north of the Ganga settled down in Pattadakhal indicates the cultural contact between North and South India then. Some temples have scenes from the Ramayana for e.g. Ashokvati where Sita was kept captive in Lanka or Ravana lifting Kailash (also seen in Kailasa Temple Ellora) and army of people building Ram Sethu to Lanka. Scenes from the Mahabharata too for e.g. birth of Sri Krishna in jail and Bheesha Pitama sleeping on arrows. Also see Samundra Manthan (also seen in Bangkok Airport). There is a Kashi Vishveshwara Temple also.

North Indian (Nagara) style, on the left and at the centre, and the south Indian style of the shikharas co-exist. 

Window “jaali” designs

Carvings and panels 


Badami was the capital of the Chalukyan Empire (6th to 8th century A.D.). The town is known for its rock cut temples. Of the 5 caves, 1st is Shiva, 2nd is Vishnu, 3rd is Buddha, 4th is Maha Vishnu, 5th is Jaina. Like Pattadakal and Bangkok Airport, Samudra Manthan (churning of the ocean) is found here too.

Cave 1 dedicated to Shiva is the oldest, carved from solid rock app 550.A.D.

Iconic view of Bhoothanatha temple, Agastya Teertha Lake & sandstone cliff of the northern hills in Badami. 

Rock carvings near Bhoothanatha temple.

A sandstone cliff and a temple atop make for a delightful visual.

Granaries built during the Mysore Wodeyar or Tipu era.

One of the spectacular cave temples

Views from around the Badami temple complex.

Sculpture rich interiors of cave temples. Some adorned with fresco paintings on ceiling.

Details of pic below. Left to right top is temple corridor. At the end is Maha Vishnu sitting on Adisesha (Serpant). Note pillar design on both left and right. Next pic is of 18 hands Shiva dancing on a lotus. Upper two hands hold a snake and the remaining holding Damaru.  The dancing style Shiva exhibits different dancing styles with a display of 18 hands. On left is Nandi nodding performance. Level 3 extreme left is Narasimha's laughing scene after slaying Hiranyakashapu, a demon. The Kamal Pusha (Lotus Flower) is erected on his head decorated with a necklace, tied ornaments in the arms and waist belt. Extreme right pic is Harihara (composite form of Shiva and Vishnu) flanked by consorts Parvati and Lakshmi. 

Sculpture rich interiors of the Badami cave temples.

We missed visiting Badami Fort.


Badami, the town that serves as the base for travel to this region, does not have too many options for stay. We stayed in the Heritage Resort, which was a reasonably spacious property with decent facilities, at least in the cottage category accommodation that we had chosen to put up in. There are a few other hotels of fame but this Heritage Resort had the best reviews when we checked. Karnataka Tourism have a hotel though we did not check it out. It had intrigued me that the region has such limited accommodations options for tourists.


Once there, I realized that many people visit Badami, Pattadakal, Aihole in a day trip from Hampi, which is a good three and a half hours drive each way. I would strongly discourage visitors to attempt that, as that would do no justice to the wonders that this region can treat you to. I would recommend that you reserve one and half to two days for covering these three Chalukyan cultural bases, if you intend to have a fulfilling trip.

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Author is a Bengaluru based professional. To visit author’s travel blog  

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To see albums of above on esamskriti

1. Aihole Temples

2. Durg Temple, Aihole

3. Pattadakal Temples

4. Badami Caves

5. Badami Fort

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