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World Heritage Sites – Pattadakal – Monuments Mallikarjuna Temple

Mallikarjuna Temple

This temple, called Sri Trailokeswara Maha Saila Prasada in an inscription was built around 740 A.D. by one of the Queens, Trailokyamahadevi of Vikramaditya II (733-45 A.D.) to commemorate her husband’s victory over the Pallavas of Kanchipuram. In general appearance and style it resembles the Virupaksha temple built for the same purpose, at the same time, and most probably by the same guild of architects. These two temples stand side by side, closely resemble each other in their plan elevation, decoration and even the arrangements of sculptural art. Presenting the fully developed southern vimana style, this temple consists on plan a sanctum (garbhagriha) with circumambulatory path (pradakshinapatha) an antechamber (antarala) with a sub-shrine each on either side in front, a sabha-mandapa with entrance porches on the east, north and south and a separate Nandi-mandapa in front. The sub-shrines, originally dedicated to Ganesa and Mahisasuramardhini, are now empty. Only a portion of the enclosure walls (prakara) is intact on the southern side and two upright pillars and a few huge stone blocks mark the once existence of the western gateway (pratoli).

The temple is built on a high plinth comprising five fully evolved mouldings and its wall surfaces are divided in to projection and recesses accommodating sculptures and windows as in the case of the Virupaksha temple. These sculptures are mainly Saivite and unfinished in some cases. Even though the parapet and the superstructure of this temple are similar to those of the Virupaksha temple, there are one or two noticeable differences. Thus, the topmost storey of the superstructure of the Mallikarjuna temple is completely bereft of hara elements like kuta, sala etc., which is considered a transitory stage in the development of southern temple style. Likewise, this temple has a hemi-spherical roof (sikhara) as against the square roof of the Virupaksha temple. Further, Nataraja is depicted in the shallow arch of the sukanasa of this temple.

The epic and puranic episodes carved on the pillars of the sabha-mandapa include goddesses fighting Mahisasura, churning of the ocean (samudra-manthana), Narasimha fighting Hiranyakasipu exploits of Krishna slaying of Maricha etc., . The amorous couples relieved on the engaged columns here are slightly bigger in size and better preserved than those in the Virupaksha temple.

Even in its ruined state, the well conceived and skillfully executed Nandi-mandapa presents an elegant piece of architecture. Its basement (adhistana) has beautifully carved figures of elephants and other animals. Its prominently projecting balconies show nicely shaped sixteen-sided pillars with scroll belts. Graceful female figures are carved in the ornate niches on the walls.

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