Karnataka’s World Heritage Sites: Aihole, Pattadakal & Hampi
The beauty of Karnataka can be found in its wonderful blend of contemporary and ancient. Although it is best known for the modern metropolis of Bangaluru, it also houses some of India’s most important UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Aihole, Pattadakal, and Hampi.
We explore the state and give you a sneak peek into what to see and do at the popular heritage sites of Karnataka. Trust us, they definitely deserve a visit!
Aihole may be small in size, but this village scores high on its historic interest owing to its well-known temple complex. Once a capital for the Chalukya dynasty, it is home to more than 125 historic temples that date back to the 5th-8th Centuries. In fact, Aihole has also been named “the cradle of Hindu rock architecture”. Here are some important heritage sites to visit on your next visit here.
Most recognised among Aihole’s tourist sites, the Durga Temple (also known as the Fortress Temple) was built sometime in the late 7th-early 8th Centuries. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a temple dedicated to the Goddess Durga. The architecture is predominantly Dravida, which features intricate pillared corridor, similar to a Buddhist Chaitya.
The Meguti Temple was constructed in 634 AD by Pulakesin II’s Minister and Commander Ravikeerti, making it the only heritage site in Aihole that can be dated properly. Although some renovation has been done to maintain this early Dravidian-style temple, you can clearly see the inscription on the exterior wall that highlights the structure’s construction date.
Lad Khan Temple
This unique site gets its mixed-religion name from a Muslim prince, who used the structure as his abode. While the main shrine of this beautiful temple features a Shiva Lingam along with his bull (Nandi), 12 pillars with exquisite carvings add to the overall glory. Don’t forget to add this to your itinerary on your next visit.
Situated by the banks of the Malaprabha River, Pattadakal features on the bucket list of most history buffs. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this South Indian tourist attraction is known for its group of beautiful temples built during the Chalukyan era and neighbouring archaeological sites such as Bachinagudda.
Pattadakal is home to both Hindu and Jain temples, which were built during the 7th and 8th Centuries and feature the Dravidian (South Indian) as well as Nagara (North Indian) styles of architecture. Here are some of the most popular ones.
The largest in the complex, the Virupaksha Temple is also known as Lokeshvara and is famous for the magnificent stone statue of a black bull (Nandi, Lord Shiva’s vahana). Queen Lokamahadevi had this beautiful temple built in 740 CE to celebrate Vikramaditya II’s (her husband) victory over the Pallavas of Kanchi. Decorated with sculptures and carvings, the temple has around 18 exquisitely carved pillars, each depicting scenes from the Puranas.
Jain Narayana Temple
Being the only Jain temple in Pattadakal, this holds a special significance among the many heritage monuments at this site. It was built in the 9th Century by the Rashtrakuta Kings in the Dravidian style and stands apart because of its stunning sculptures.
Hampi is home to so many important structures that the town itself is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, making it a paradise for history and culture enthusiasts. Located close to Hospet, this town is sought-after by backpackers, families, and pilgrims alike for its amazing heritage attractions. Also referred to as ‘The City of Ruins’, Hampi has everything from remnants of palaces to spectacular Hindu temples. Among the many structures, the following few are absolute must-visits.
The naturally musical pillars are part of what makes the Vittala temple so famous. The 56 stone-carved ‘Saregama Pillars’ are known to emit soothing musical sounds when someone taps on them. This is also the temple which holds the life-size stone chariot, set in a massive open courtyard, making it one the most recognised images of Hampi’s rich history and artistic legacy.
This temple in Pattadakal deserves a visit because of its beautiful blend of two different architectural styles – Nagara (the initial style of construction) and Dravidian (which was incorporated later). The sculptures at the Papanatha Temple display scenes from two major Hindu epics, Mahabharata and Ramayana, which makes them worth a second look.
With a striking exterior façade, three entrance towers, and the 160-foot-tall tower at the entrance, the Virupaksha Temple is a treat for history and architecture lovers. Built in the 7th Century, the temple is among the oldest in Hampi and also the only functioning one, with the magnificent monument of Lord Shiva and Goddess Pampa Devi drawing in hundred of devotees.
The Queen’s Bath
Although a much-faded remnant of its original glory, the Queen’s Bath offers a glimpse into the private lifestyle of the royal ladies in ancient times. Constructed in the reign of the Vijayanagar Empire, this structure was designed to keep outsiders at bay, while the women bathed in the open-air pool.