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World Heritage Sites – Pattadakal – Monuments Virupaksha Temple

Virupaksha Temple

This temple, in worship, known as Shri Lokeswara-Maha-Sila-prasada from the epigraphs, was built by Lokamahadevi, the Queen of Vikaramaditya II (A.D.733-745) in about A.D.740 to commemorate her husband’s victory over the Pallavas of Kanchipuram. It closely resembles the Kailasanatha temple at Kanchipuram on plan and elevation and represents a fully developed and perfected stage of the Dravidian architecture.

Facing east, this temple has on plan a square sanctum (garbhagriha) with a circumambulatory path (pradakshinapatha), an antarala with two small shrines for Ganesa and Mahishamardini facing each other infront, a sabha-mandapa with entrance porches on the east, north and south and a separate Nandi-mandapa in front. The complex is enclosed by high prakara walls. Against the inner faces of these walls there were small shrines (originally 32) dedicated to the subsidiary deities (parivaradevatas) of which only a few are extant now. The enclosure has been provided with ornate entrance gates ((pratolis) on both east and west.

The temple is built on a high plinth of five fully evolved mouldings. The outer faces of the walls of the sanctum are divided into a central projection, two intermediate projections and two corner projections with four recesses in between. Likewise, the mandapa walls on either side of the northern, eastern and southern proches are divided into two projections and two recesses. All these projections of the sanctum walls carry niches housing images of Saiva and Vaishnava deities like Bhairava, Narasimha, Hari-Hara, Lakulisa etc., while there are perforated windows of various design in the rest of the recesses. The parapet consists of architectural elements called kutas (square), panjaras (miniature apsidal shrines) and salas (oblong) corresponding to the projections below and the linking courses (harantaras) above the recesses. The superstructure over the sanctum is a Dravida-vimana in three storeys with a sukasana projection over the antarala. It is square in plan and repeats in its elevation many elements of the parapet and walls beneath. It has a beautifully shaped square roof (shikhara) with a round finial kalasa above.

The whole of the interior of this temple is embellished with elegant carvings and aesthetically modeled sculptures. Episodes from the Ramayana (e.g. abduction of Sita) Mahabharata (e.g. Bhishma lying in a bed of arrows), Bhagavata (e.g. Krishna lifting the Govardhan mountain) and Kiratarjuniya (e.g. Arjuna receiving the Pasupatastra from Siva) are depicted on the pillars of the sabha- mandapa and the pilasters here have the sculptures of amorous couples and Rati and Manmatha. Flora, fauna and geometrical patterns adorn various parts of the temple. Doorjambs (dwara-shakhas) with their delicate carvings, pillars and pilasters with various types of capitals and carvings on their faces, lintels relieved with animals, birds and architectural motifs, ceilings depicting divine beings and the majestically standing dwarapalas all unfold a ricj world of plastic art before the connoisseurs and attest to the heights reached by the Chalukyan sculptures.

The Nandi-mandapa situated to the east of the temple, is a square pavilion open on all the four sides. It houses a large image of Nandi on a raised floor. Its flat roof is supported by four pillars and short lengths of walls whose outer surfaces are carved with attendant figutes and Kinnara-mithunas (couples)

There are a number of inscriptions big and small, engraved in different parts of this temple. Inscriptions in the porch of the eastern gateway record the victory of Vikramaditya II over Kanchipuram and the royal honour and the title of Tribhuvanachari conferred on Anivaritachari Gunda, the architect of the temple and the extol the virtues of Sarvasiddhi Achari, the architect of the southern portion of the temple.

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