By Stephanie Colaco
Often, Karnataka is synonymous with the metropolitan city of Bangalore. But the beauty of the state lies in the fact that it is such a wonderful blend of the contemporary and the ancient. After all, it is home to some of the country’s most important UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Aihole, Pattadakal, and Hampi are a few famous ones. Here’s a look into these popular heritage sites in Karnataka that warrant a visit by every traveller
Aihole may be small in size, but this village scores high on historic interest owing to its well-known temple complex. Once the capital of the Chalukya dynasty, the place is home to over 125 historic temples that date back to the 5th-8th Centuries. In fact, it has also been named as “the cradle of Hindu rock architecture”. Here are some important heritage sites to visit in Aihole:
- Durga Temple
The best-known among Aihole’s sites, the Durga Temple was built around the late 7th-early 8th Century. It also goes by the name of Fortress Temple since it derives its name from its proximity to a fort, also known as ‘Durg.’ Contrary to popular notion, it is not a temple dedicated to the Goddess Durga. It is known for its spectacular pillared corridor around it and its unique design built similar to a Buddhist chaitya.
- Meguti Temple
What makes this Aihole temple unique is that it is the village’s only dated heritage monument. The Meguti Temple was constructed in 634 AD by Pulakesin II’s Minister and Commander, Ravikeerti. Although there has been renovation work done, the inscription holding the construction date of this early Dravidian-style temple is still present on an exterior wall.
- Lad Khan Temple
This site’s unique, mixed-religion name comes from the fact that a Muslim prince had used the structure as his residence. While the main shrine of this beautiful temple features a Shiva Lingam with his bull (Nandi) alongside, 12 pillars with exquisite carvings add to its glory.
Situated by the banks of the Malaprabha River, Pattadakal often features on the travel bucket list of every history buff. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this Karnataka attraction is known for its group of temples built during Chalukyan times as well as neighbouring archaeological sites such as Bachinagudda. Both Hindu and Jain temples call Pattadakal home, which was built during the 7th and 8th Centuries and featured the Dravidian (South Indian) as well as Nagara (North Indian) styles of architecture. Here are some of the most popular ones:
- Virupaksha Temple
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’s) victory over the Pallavas of Kanchi. Rich in sculptures and carvings, the temple has around 18 pillars, each with exquisite carvings depicting scenes from the Puranas.
- Papanatha Temple
This temple in Pattadakal merits a visit solely for the reason that it is the only one to feature a blend of two different architectural styles — Nagara (which was the initial style of construction) and Dravidian (which was incorporated later). Scenes from the Hindu epics Mahabharata and Ramayana are found in the sculptures at the Papanatha Temple.
- Jain Narayana Temple
Being the only Jain temple in Pattadakal, it holds a special significance among the many heritage monuments at this site. It was built in the 9th Century by the Rashtrakuta Kings featuring the Dravidian style and is marked by its stunning sculptures.
Hampi is home to so many important structures that the town itself was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site – making it a paradise for culture and history enthusiasts. Located close to the town of Hospet, Hampi is sought-after by backpackers, families, and pilgrims alike for its historic 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:
- Vittala Temple
A temple that has naturally musical pillars. This is what makes Vittala so famous. The ‘Saregama Pillars’ is a total of 56 stone-carved pillars. These are known to emit musical sounds when someone taps on them. This temple is also where the stone chariot stands in a massive open courtyard, perhaps the most recognised image of Hampi’s historic monuments.
- Virupaksha Temple
From a striking exterior façade to three entrance towers, the Virupaksha Temple is an architecture lover’s delight. It is built in the 7th Century. The temple is among the oldest in Hampi and also the only functioning one. The magnificent monument is popular among devotees of Lord Shiva. Since it is dedicated to the Hindu God as well as Goddess Pampadevi. The 160-foot tall tower at the entrance is another one of the striking features of this Hampi temple.
- The Queen’s Bath
Although it is a much-faded remnant of its original glory, the Queen’s bath offers a glimpse into what the private lifestyle of the royal ladies used to be like in ancient times. Constructed during the time of the Vijayanagar Empire. It was designed to keep outsiders at bay while the women bathed in the striking open-air pool.