CHALUKYA ARCHITECTURE AND SCULPTURE
Architectural and sculptural achievements of the Chalukya dynasty based in Badami and Kalyani are delineated in the entries on the individual dynasties. Entries on important places like Ihole, Badami and Pattadakallu have provided a wealth of detail and supplemented them with appropriate reference works. Consequently this note confines itself to the salient and unique features of the school.
a. Badami Chalukya Period:
1. The Chalukyas of Badami who ruled for two centuries during the period spnning 500A.D. and 750.A.D. developed their own style of architecture known as the ‘Vesara Style’. This style is a synthesis of the Dravida and Naagara styles. Actually some of temples constructed in this period are built in the Dravidian styles and a few others exhibit the characters of the Naagara style. Occasionally they are combined in a single structure.
2. The architectural structures of this school are broadly categorised in to two groups namely the rock cut cave temples and properly structured buildings.
3. Most of the temples built by the Chalukyas are concentrated in Badami, Ihole, Pattadakallu and Nagaralu. However, some classic examples are found also in Alampurapalli, Satyavolu and Mahanandi in Andhrapradesh. In all, there about 150 temples belonging to this period. About one hundred of them are found in Ihole alone. All of them are religious structures with the exception of the fort at Ihole.
4. These temples are usually built with light red and light yellow sand stones found abundantly in Bijapur district. Stone masonry which replaced brick made or wooden structures is the hall mark of this period. Naturally there was a huge scope for experimentation, of the trial and error variety. It is not for nothing that Ihole is called the cradle of Chalukyan architecture and sculpture.
5. A majority of these temples are dedicated to Hindu Gods and Goddesses. There some Jaina and Bauddha caves and temples scattered around the kingdom.
6. The cave temples of this period are not celebrated because of their architectural grandeur. They are admired for their bas reliefs, intricate carvings, attention to details, thematic variety and murals. It is essentially because of their sculptural beauty that they have attracted connoisseurs.
7. The temple architecture of Badami Chalukyas has shown evolutionary tendencies. Stone masonry was gradually superseding the rock-cut methods of cave temples during their regime. It seems that the sculptors indulged in lots of experimentation in Ihole. Many temples found there are not finished products. The style finds its climax in Badami and more particularly in Pattadakallu.
To look at some of these evolutionary features, it may be noted that the the temples had flat or slightly sloping roofs and they were surmounted by small ‘shikhara’s. A pillared hall (manTapa) was a later addition. Features such as ‘sukanaasi’, ‘garbhagriha’, ‘mukha mantapa’ and ‘pradakshina patha’ (Circumambulatory path) which became default features at a later date are conspicuous by their absence in some of these early Chalukyan temples. Durga temple at Ihole is an exception.
On the contrary, the temples at Pattadakallu are fully evolved and they show many advanced features.
8. It is possible to notice this evolution in sculptures also. The early period in the history of Badami Chalukyas has icons and sculptures that are simple and evocative of emotions. They are not given to excessive decoration. However, the traditional texts of iconography seem to have gained the upper hand in later days. The statues are technically perfect and aesthetically pleasing. But scholars have opined that they are bound by religious restrictions.
b. Kalyani Chalukya Period:
1. Kalyani Chalukyas or the Western Chalukyas came to power after the
decline of the Rashtrakuta empire. They reigned in the interval between
975 A.D. and 1190 A.D. The architectural and sculptural advents of this
dynasty was not confined to its capital and its neighbouring towns. It was
well spread in different parts of Karnataka and beyond. Actually hardly
any evidence has survived in Kalyana their capital even though the
temples at the near by villages of Narayanapura and Shivapura are
2. The temples have used soap stone. (Chloritic Schist) (Greenish or
blueish black stone) instead of the sand stone. The nature of this stone has resulted in temples that are not tall in stature, but are full of
3. It is interesting to note that the Kalyani Chalukya architecture has not
borrowed any thing from the Hoysala style. It has not followed the
Badami Chalukya model in toto either. The foundations of these temples
are rectangular and they have eschewed the star shaped models of the
Hoysala architects. (with the possible exception of the temple at
4. They do not have a circumambulatory path (pradakshina patha) around
the garbhagriha as is customary with the Hoysala temples. Many a time,
the main entrance to the temple is at its side rather than the front.
5. The doors of the Kalyani Chalukya temples are very artistic and they
are built according to some sound architectural principles. However,
they are not given to excessive decoration in carving. The outline of the
temples are determined by projections and recesses and
representations that can produce a number of patterns. They can be
stepped, stellate (star shaped) or square.
6. Vimana, (Sancta) mantapa, pillars and door panels are some the important and evolving features of this style. “The artisans used northern style spires and expressed it in a modified dravida outline. Miniature towers of both dravida and nagara types are used as ornamentation on the walls.” (Wikipedia) The ceilings were either domical or square sheped and in either case they were supported by pillars. Pillars with plain square-block base and alternating square blocks and cylindrical sculpted sections were usual. Bell shaped lathe-turned pillars also were used frequently.
7. The Mahadeva temple at Itagi, Siddeshvara temple at Haveri, Kashi Vishveshvara temple at Lakkundi, taradevi temple at DambaLa, Mahamayaa temple at Kuknuur, Durga temple at Hirekeruur, Mukteshvara temple at ChauDadanapura, Mallikarjuna temple at Kuravatti and Amriteshvara temple at Annigeri are some of the more illustrious examples of Kalyani architecture.
It is a matter of regret that temples built in and arround Kalyana the Capital of this dyansty are either extinct or in ruins. Whatever remains point to the fact that they stuck to the Naagara style more than their counter parts elsewhre in the empire.
Further Readings and Links:
3. Foekema, Gerard (2003) . Architecture decorated with architecture: Later medieval temples of Karnataka, 1000–1300 AD. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
4. Hardy, Adam (1995) . Indian Temple Architecture: Form and Transformation-The Karnata Dravida Tradition 7th to 13th Centuries. Abhinav Publications.
5. ‘The architecture of the early western Chalukyas’ by Gary Tarr, 1969, University of California.
6. ‘The Chalukyan Architecture of the Kanarese Districts’ by Henry Cousens, 1926, 1996. New Delhi.