Aihole and Pattadakal located on the banks of Malaprabha River are often considered as the cradle of South Indian architecture. The south Indian Temple architecture was experimented and evolved in these places in the 5th and 6th centuries. Once in Badami, these are a must visit for any travel enthusiast. You can visit both Aihole and Pattadakal in a single day from Badami if you set out in the early morning. It is best to start with the morning bus to Aihole (one hour). Frequent buses run between Aihole and Pattadakal (half an hour) and from Pattadakal to Badami (one hour).
Aihole was earlier known as Ayyavole and Aryapura in in the ancient inscriptions. It was established in the 450 AD as the first capital of Chalukya kings and has about 125 stone temples some of which were constructed as experimental structures by artisans of Chalukayan period. The early Chalukyas inherited architectural styles largely from their neighbours to the north and south of their kingdom. The Chalukyan artisans brought together the prevailing styles in their neighbourhood to create the Chalukyan style. The prominent temple groups at Aihole are the Kontigudi group and the Galgantha group of temples, although historians have divided all the temples into 22 groups.
The most impressive temple in Aihole is Durga Temple which dates to the 7th century. It is notable for its semicircular apse which was copied from Buddhist architecture and for the remains of the curvilinear sikhara. Intricate carvings adorn the colonnaded passageway around the temple sanctuary. To the south of the Durga Temple are several other collections of temples the Gandar, Ladkhan, Kontigudi and Hucchapaya groups with pavilions and slightly sloping roofs.
Lad Khan Temple consists of a shrine with two mantapas in front of it. The shrine bears Shiva Lingam. The mukha mantapa in front of the sanctum has a set of 12 carved pillars. There are also stone grids on the wall carrying floral designs. The temple was built by the Chalukyan kings in the 5th century.
Ravan Phadi cave is one of the oldest rock cut temple in Aihole. The Temple dates back to the 6th century, with rectangular shrine, with two mantapas. There is a Shivlinga in the sanctum sanctorum. The walls and sides of the temple are covered with large figures including dancing Shiva.
About a kilometre from the Durga temple on a hilltop is the Jain Meguti temple. It is the only dated monument built in 634 AD. The temple sits on a raised platform, and flight of stairs leads to another shrine on the roof, directly above the main shrine. From the roof of this temple one can have panoramic view of the surrounding plain with 100 or more temples scattered all around. This temple which was probably never completed gives important evidence of the early development in Dravidian style of architecture. The inscription on the outer wall of the temple records the construction of the temple by Ravikeerthi, a scholar in the court of emperor Pulakeshin II.
En route to Meguti temple on the same hillock there is the 6th century two storied Buddhist cave temple which is partly a rock cut temple.
Pattadakal also spelled as Pattadakallu is located on the left bank of Malaprabha River and about 10 kilometres from Aihole. It is here that the Chalukyan kings were coronated. There are ten temples at Pattadakal including a Jain sanctuary belonging to various architectural styles. The Chalukyan style of temple architecture originated in Aihole and evolved their distinctive style at Pattadakal. There are many Kannada language inscriptions at Pattadakal. The site displays both Nagara and Dravidian style of architecture.
Virupaskha temple is the largest and grandest of all temples in Pattadakal built in 8th century by Queen Lokamhadevi to commemorate her husband’s (Vikramaditya II) victory over the Pallavas of Kanchi.
Sangameshvara Temple is the oldest temple in Pattadakal, built by Chalukya King Vijayaditya Satyashraya. The temple is in Dravidian style.
Mallikarjuna Temple is smaller version of the Virupaksha temple and was built by Vikramaditya’s second queen Trilokymahadevi in 745 AD.
Papanatha Temple is made in the Vesara style in 680 AD. The temple was started in Nagara style but later changed to more balance Dravidian style.
Apart from these major temples, several small Shiva shrines are seen here. The abundance of Shiva temples here clearly indicates that the place was a great Shaiva center in ancient times.