Badami Chalukya architecture, Karnataka - a fascinating early temple design style

The Badami Chalukya architecture, flourishing from the 5th to the 8th centuries CE, represents a significant phase in Hindu temple architecture. Originating in the Malaprabha river basin, in present-day Bagalkot district of Karnataka, India, this architectural style emerged under the patronage of the Chalukya dynasty. Often referred to as the Vesara style or Chalukya style, it skillfully blends the northern Nagara and southern Dravidian traditions. The term "Early Chalukya architecture" specifically denotes the achievements of the Badami Chalukyas during this formative period.

Origins and Development: The earliest Badami Chalukya temples were constructed around 450 CE in Aihole, during the time when the Chalukyas served as vassals to the Kadambas of Banavasi. These early temples laid the foundation for an architectural style that was later perfected in the towns of Badami and Pattadakal, both located in Karnataka. The architects and artists of this era engaged in extensive experimentation, merging different stylistic elements to create a unique architectural vocabulary.

Types of Monuments:  The architectural legacy of the Badami Chalukyas can be categorized into two main types of monuments: 01.Rock cut halls(caves) and  Structural Temples.

Cave temple of Badami, Karnataka,

Above image:  Cave temple no. 3 at :Badami, KA, Indi. It  is a Vaishnava temple and was built by the Badami Chalukyas in 578 CE during the reign of King :Kirtivarman I...............

Badami cave temple complex No 3.

Above image: The cave temples dating back to 600 and 700 CE. Their architecture follows  a blend of North Indian Nagara Style and South Indian Dravidian style.............

Badami Chaulkya empire- 7th - 8th century

Rock-Cut Halls (Cave Temples): The cave temples of Badami are exemplary instances of rock-cut architecture, comprising three primary components: 01.Pillared Veranda: The entrance area, typically understated in exterior decoration. 02. Columned Hall: Richly adorned interior spaces featuring elaborate sculptures. 03. Sanctum: A deep recess hewn into the rock, housing the deity. 

Ravana Phadi, Aihole, KA

Above image: Badami cave, Aihole. credit:  First three rock-cut cave temples were  made in the sandstone formation.  Source and Author : Manjunath Doddamani, Gajendragad /Hubli...............

Early experiments in rock-cut architecture  were undertaken in Aihole (dating back to around 450CE) resulting in three cave temples dedicated to Vedic, Buddhist, and Jaina traditions. These initial efforts culminated in the creation of four magnificent cave temples at Badami. A distinctive feature of these temples is the continuous frieze of Ganas in playful postures carved in relief on each plinth. While the verandas remain relatively plain, the inner halls are adorned with intricate sculptural symbolism. Art critics such as Dr. M. Sheshadri and Zimmer have praised the Chalukya cave temples for their balance of robust craftsmanship and delicate detailing.

Structural Temples :The structural temples, particularly those in Pattadakal, are among the finest examples of Chalukya architecture. Pattadakal hosts ten temples, six in Dravidian style and four in Rekhanagara style. The Virupaksha temple stands out for its resemblance to the earlier Kailasanatha temple in Kanchipuram. This comprehensive temple complex includes: 01.Central Structure: The main temple building. 02Nandi Pavilion: A pavilion housing the statue of Nandi, the bull 03..Walled Enclosure and Gateway: A surrounding wall with a ain entrance. 04  Pradakshinapatha and Mantapa: The sanctum with a circumambulatory path and a pillared hall featuring perforated windows.

Badami cave temple 4, KA.,

Above image : Cave No. 4, Badami , Jain temple. (Jain Tirthankara Parsvanatha), Karnataka state.. image credit: Sudarshan Bhat Khandige at Pattadakal

The external walls are segmented by pilasters into niches filled with sculptures or perforated windows, creating a seamless blend of sculpture and architecture. Art critic Percy Brown noted the fluidity and continuity of the sculptures within the architectural framework.

Influence and Legacy: The refined art of the Badami Chalukyas significantly influenced subsequent architectural styles, particularly during the Vijayanagar Empire. Their legacy is evident in finely engraved sculptures of deities and motifs, including Harihara, Trivikrama, Mahisa Mardhini, Tandavamurthi, Paravasudeva, Nataraja, Varaha, Gomateshvara, and various animal and foliage designs. Renowned sculptors like Gundan Anivaritachari, Revadi Ovajja, and Narasobba are celebrated for their artistic excellence and technical prowess.

 Pulakesin was the real architect of the empire who built a fort of Badami and ruled from there. During  his son Kirtivarman-I' reign the kingdom further expanded. He defeated the Mauryas of Konkan, Nalas and Kadambas. Rise: So,  the Badami Chalukyas rapidly rose  saw the heyday during the rule  of Pulakeshin

In summary, Badami Chalukya architecture signifies a transformative era in Indian temple architecture, marked by innovative stylistic blending, intricate craftsmanship, and a lasting influence on subsequent architectural developments.