Tuesday, March 5, 2024

The Stone of Coronation

Written By Ojas Koneripura (Grade 10)


Located on the west bank of the Mallaprabha River, in the district of Bagalkot, Northern Karnataka, this architectural and historic site is truly a marvel. A UNESCO World Heritage Site announced in 1987, this site’s mention is found in countless places and in countless works. UNESCO describes it as ‘a harmonious blend of architectural forms from northern and southern India’ and an illustration of ‘eclectic art’ at its height. The reign of the mighty Chalukyas shone bright not only in Badami but here too, at Pattadakallu.

Mentioned by Ptolemy, a renowned geographer, as ‘Petri-gal’, the land of the red soil, Pattadakallu is also known as ‘Raktapura’. In fact, it is known as ‘Pattada-Kisuvolal’ or the land of red soil where coronation ceremonies occur. Pattadakallu was used as the place of coronation of kings during the reign of the Badami Chalukyas in the 5th century C.E., thus the name ‘The Stone of Coronation’.

The vast temple complex of Pattadakallu has around 10 temples present inside, among which there lie temples narrating stories of the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata, stories from the Bhagavata Purana, Shiva Purana, and the Panchatantra. The Kashivishveshvara, Galganatha, Jambulinga, Chandrasekhara, Papanatha, Kadasiddeshwara Sangameswaram, Virupaksha, and Mallikarjuna are the temples present, and the latter three are the most famous ones.

The Virupaksha Temple, built by Rani Lokamahadevi, queen of Raja Vikramaditya II, is also known as the Lokeshvara Temple. This was built to commemorate the victory of Vikramaditya II against the Pallavas of Kanchi.

The hall of the temple is supported by 18 pillars. The four sides of the pillars narrate stories from mythology. The bas-reliefs of Hanuman sitting on his ‘throne of tail’ in the court of Ravana, Hanuman killing the demon guards guarding Sita mata in the Ashokavahana, and the Vanarasena building the Ram-Setu towards Lanka are some scenes from the Ramayana. Bhishmapitamaha lying on the ‘bed of arrows’, the mace fight between Bheema and Duryodhana, and the fight between Karna and Arjuna are some reliefs of the Mahabharata carved on the pillars. The Bhagavata Purana also finds a mention as the bas-relief of the Samudramanthana, or the ‘Churning of the Ocean’, is carved out intricately with much detail on the front face of the pillar. The garbhagriha of the temple houses a 3-foot Shivlinga, which to this day is worshipped by the locals of the place.

The twin of the Virupaksha temple is the Malikarjuna temple, built by the queen of Vikramaditya II, Rani Trailokyamahadevi. This temple is also called Trailokeshwara Temple. Rani Trailokyamahadevi had erected this temple to commemorate the victory of Vikramadtiya II over the Pallavas of Kanchi. In this temple, too, the pillars are decorated with labyrinthine carvings of ancient stories. The pillars also present intricate floral designs of lotuses. The exploits of Krishna, such as the holding of Govardhana parvata and killing the demons Kuvalayananda (a demon in the form of an elephant), Kesi (the form of a horse), Vrishabhasura (the disguise of a bull), and Kharasura (the form of a donkey), are carved on the other faces of the pillar. On one of the pillars on the right side, the Panchatantra story of ‘Monkey and the Crocodile’, popularly known as ‘Simsumara Katha’, is also depicted. In the garbha-griha, or sanctum sanctorum, lies a Shivalinga, which is no longer worshipped. This linga is made of pure granite, and right overhead on the roof, the design of lotus is present.

Sangameshvara temple stands about 50 feet north-east of the Kasivishveshvara temple and also faces east. The temple was originally dedicated to the god Vijayeshvara. This temple was built by Vijayaditya, who installed a Shivalinga in the temple and named it after himself.

Vijayaditya was a Chalukyan ruler who ruled from 696 C.E. to 733 C.E. This temple is surprisingly very simple and has no floral designs, designs of jewellery, or bracket images, as found in the Badami Caves, nor have any stories carved on the pillars dedicating to the Ramayana, Mahabharata, or any Puranic scriptures, as found in the temples of Kasivishveshara, Mallikarjuna, or the Virupaksha. The temple of Sangameshwara is huge, and there are nine windows that are carved out with multiple, varying designs. This shows the execution of the architectural experimentation done by the Chalukyan architects in Aihole. The garbhagriha houses a broken Shivalinga, destroyed by invaders. No sculpture is found on the lintel of the door of the shrine. There are two dvarpalakas at the entrance. The walls of the temple are thick and heavy. There are unfinished sculptures and carvings of Vishnu, Varaha, Shiva, Nandi, and Gajasurantaka. There are six inscriptions in this temple.

The Chalukyan marvels present in Badami and Pattadakallu are the jaw-dropping results of marvellous and unique blends in temple architecture experimented in Aihole. This is just a fraction of what lies in Pattadakallu; apart from these massive structures, Pattadakallu also showcases small shrines, like the Chandrasekhara Temple. The Pattadakallu complex also showcases the heartbreaking condition of some shrines. Broken garbhagrihas of Shivalingas, placed in a line, with a decapitated Nandi in front of it. These Nandis are nothing less than the products of an intolerant Islamic temple run.


Featured Image Courtesy – Wikipedia



Ojas Koneripura
Ojas Koneripura
A history-freak and a passionate researcher of India's untold history!

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