Virupaksha Temple Pattadakal: An architectural gem!

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Last Updated on January 10, 2022 by asoulwindow

Virupaksha Temple of Pattadakal

Virupaksha Temple of Pattadakal is the culmination of early Chalukyan Dravidian style of temple. Virupaksha Temple Pattadakal is the largest temple in Pattadakal. Built within a huge prakara aka compound, there are many small temples dedicated to the family of Shiv ji. 

There are two gates which open to the prakara. While the larger entrance to the temple is situated on the eastern face of the temple, the smaller gate is located on the western side of the temple. Of all the group of monuments at Pattadakal, this is the top place to see.

Virupaksha Temple Nomenclature

First things first! Virupaksha Temple of Pattadakal is not to be confused with the Virupaksha Temple of Hampi. The Hampi temple is a much larger one and spread across a huge area. Both are Dravidian style temples.

It was originally named as Lokeshvara as the presiding deity was named after Lokamahadevi.

Why is Virupaksha Temple Pattadakal world famous?

Virupaksha Temple of Pattadakal is the most famous of all the temples of Pattadakal. Virupaksha Temple Pattadakal is famous due to its sheer grandeur and exquisite carvings on the walls, pillar etc. The UNSECO world heritage tag has also further added to the fame of Virupaksha Temple.

Where is Virupaksha Temple Pattadakal located?

Virupaksha temple of Pattadakal is located in the South Indian state of Karnataka near historical sites of Aihole and Badami. Pattadakal Virupaksha Temple is a top place to see in this region.

Who built Virupaksha Temple Pattadakal?

Queen Lokamahadevi aka Lokadevi had commissioned the construction of Virupaksha Temple of Pattadakal

When was Virupaksha Mandir constructed in Pattadakal?

We know from the evidences of past that the Virupaksha temple of Pattadakal was built in the early 8th century C.E.

Why was Virupaksha Temple of Pattadakal built?

History of Virupaksha Temple of Pattadakal is interesting!The temple was built to celebrate and commemorate the 3 defeats of southern kingdom of Pallavas by husband of Queen Lokamahadevi, King Vikramaditya II (733-744 C.E.). His conquests of the Pallava capital of Kanchipuram are widely known.

Architecture of Virupaksha Temple Pattadakal

What looks effortless now undoubtedly was a herculean task, especially in those days when there were no modern equipment and modes of transport. Sarvasiddhiachari and Gunda Anivaritachari have been credited as the chief architects. Impressed by their work the then King had conferred state honours on them.

What looks effortless now undoubtedly was a herculean task, especially in those days when there were no modern equipment and modes of transport. Sarvasiddhiachari and Gunda Anivaritachari have been credited as the chief architects. Impressed by their work the then King had conferred state honours on them.

Nandi Mandapam of Virupaksha Temple Pattadakal

It is also the largest and the most elaborate temple structure in Pattadakal India. It is devoted to Shiv Bhagwan. And where there is Shiv ji, there is Nandi as well.

Apart from the statue of Nandi Bull in Lepakshi, Brihadeswarar Temple in Thanjavur and Nandi Hills near Bangalore, the Nandi Bull at Virupaksha Temple Pattadakal is the biggest one I have ever seen. The Nandi sits in a roofed pillared chamber bereft of any wall. It is an unusual Nandi idol. Nandi ji’s statue is huge, black, shiny and looks modern.

It is a functional temple which means its buzzing with spiritual activity. A priest sits at the feet of Nandi ji and performs pooja. Hindu devotees do parikrama around Nandi ji and offer prayers and prasad. There are carvings all around the Nandi Mandapam.

Vimana of Virupaksha Temple

I admire the Kalash sitting atop Vimana of the temple. The Vimana exterior has a high basement, walls with Kudya Stambhas (thin pillar reliefs), niches and kapota aka cornice topped by hara aka parapet.

The Vimana of the Pattadakal Virupaksha Temple is 3 storeyed, defined by hara or the parapet and succeeded by a square griva or neck, a square shaped Shikhara or dome and stupi or pot finial. Birds chirped around as kids giggled sotto voce. It was an ethereal morning!

Garbhagriha of Virupaksha Temple

The main Shiv temple here is located on the East West axis. It has a spacious porch and steps leading up to it. The beautiful Shukanasa or Sukanasa caught my attention. This protruding component over the vestibule is an external ornamented feature that went on to become a regular feature of the ancient Dravidian temples of Karnataka.

Next, I climbed up the stairs that lead to the main temple. Huge dwarpalas, carrying a mace (gada) welcome devotes outside the main gate of the temple. I admired its beauty. It is also a good vantage point to view other temples in the vicinity as it is located on a higher platform. Anandi Mandapam is located right before the temple.

I had not even entered the temple and I was already amazed with the architecture and art of those times. As I stepped inside the dark and dimly lit garbhagriha of the temple, thousands of carvings on the pillars vied for my attention. This Pattadakal temple is the grandest of them all.

Shivlinga of Virupaksha Temple

Since it is a live temple, I closed my eyes and prayed to Shiv Linga. “Wow, this is how magical it must have been in old times too!”, I told myself. The main prayer hall had a large Shivlinga. It was adorned with a sacred Rudraksha mala and fresh marigold flowers. Fresh white and pink flowers were placed across the peedam of the Shivlinga.

A fresh coconut sat atop a metal kalash or pot. 3 lamps illuminated the dark hall and another one hung from the ceiling. I narrow my eyes to study the carvings on the walls here. After soaking in the positive air, I rang a bell and took permission from the divine to leave.

Carvings inside Virupaksha Temple Pattadakal

I was amazed to see lavish sculptures and carvings on both exterior as well as interior walls of the Virupaksha Mandir. A scene from Ramayana here and an episode from Mahabharat there!

Images of Andhakasamhara, Ardhnari, Chandrashekhara, Gajasamhara, Gajendramoksha, Harihara, Lakulisha, Lingodbhavamurti, Natesha and Vamana Trivikrama are carved beautifully on the porch pillars and exterior walls.

Stories from Hindu Epics

There are 18 colossal pillars inside the Pattadakal Virupaksha Temple, each one of which is richly decorated with stories from Ramayan and Mahabharat and Panchtantra. Some of the famous scenes from Ramayana include Shri Ram killing Bali, Ravan lifting Kailash Parbat, Jatayu fighting with demon king Ravan and so on.

Devotees walk around the ambulatory accessed via a vestibule. Temples devoted to Ganesh ji (South) and Mahishamardini (North) flank the either side of the ambulatory. The Mahishamardini mandir is still well preserved.

Another carving from Krishnacharita depicted the life and leela of Shri Krishna, the 8th Avatar of Vishnu ji. Other prominent features of Virupaksha Temple of Pattadakal include court scenes, a relief showing Surya Bhagwan or Sun God, an ornate Toran at the main entrance, sculptures of amorous couple, voluptuous women, larger than life sculptures and several filigreed windows.

Avatar of Vishnu ji

What is interesting is that none of the windows are same in design. Images of various avatars of Vishnu ji such as boar headed Varaha and lion headed Narsimha adorn the walls of the temple. I slowed down my pace so that I could study each sculpture in detail in this open-air museum!

Excursions from Virupaksha temple

After I had darshan in Virupaksha temple of Pattadakal, I took public bus to Aihole, followed by the historical monuments of Badami. These heritage destinations are located close to each other and makes for a nice weekend getaway from Bengaluru and Mysuru.

Festival at Virupaksha temple

You must visit Virupaksha temple of Pattadakal during the annual Pattadakal dance festival. It is a 3 days long festival where you can see live performances by reputed artists in the jaw dropping backdrop of medieval Hindu monuments.

Is it safe to visit Virupaksha Temple of Pattadakal?

Yes, despite being located in a remote village, it is very safe to visit Virupaksha Temple of Pattadakal. Just bear in mind that you should leave Pattadakal by afternoon or else you can get stuck due to non-availability of public transport.

How to reach Virupaksha Temple of Pattadakal

I arrived at Virupaksha Temple of Pattadakal via a cheap and quick public mini-van, which was available right outside the Badami railways station.

Where to stay in Virupaksha Temple

There are no stay options near Virupaksha Temple of Pattadakal. You can stay in Badami which has more accommodation options available.

Best Time to visit Virupaksha Temple

Winter is the best time to visit Virupaksha Temple. I visited Virupaksha Temple in the last week on September and it was very pleasant.

Group of monuments at Pattadakal 

There are many more medieval temples in the Pattadakal temple complex. It merited a detailed article; which is why, I have written about other temples of Pattadakal in detail in an exhaustive blog on Pattadakal monuments which are also UNESCO world heritage site.

You must read all related blogs at A Soul Window, the numero uno travel blog of India.  

Conclusion: Why visit Virupaksha Temple Pattadakal?

Is Virupaksha Temple Pattadakal worth visiting? Yes, of course, Virupaksha Temple of Pattadakal is one of the best specimens of medieval Hindu architecture. Built in traditional Dravidian style, the carvings, statue of Nandi ji and other architectural details of Virupaksha Temple is jaw dropping.

Undoubtedly, one of the best places to see in Karnataka, Virupaksha Temple of Pattadakal stands out, thanks to its sheer grandeur and attention to detail. You must see this place with family and kids.

The view from my Soul Window is worth coming back to!

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