Galaganatha temple, Pattadakkal - prototypes of structural indian temples.

Galaganatha temple, Pattadakkal, Karnataka:

Karnataka boasts of some really interesting temples that are lesser known but more important in the path to maturity of architectural styles that later governed the imperial Cholas and Vijayanagara kingdoms in the south, as well as the Orissa and Khajuraho. Aihole, Badami and Pattadakkal were the seat of architectural experiments that took place in the post Gupta era, during the rule of the Chalukyas of Badami.

Galaganatha temple is one such temple, hardly known to us but would be considered a complete learning experience to anyone who sees it. What remains of this temple is the cross section of a once complete temple now in ruins.

At first look, it paves the way to Orissa school of architecture (a combination of Nagara and Bhumija styles), the elements seen in later Orissa temples like the Lingaraja, Mukteshwara and also the Vittal Deol temples. What is more interesting is the pronounced approach to the various parts of the temple roof.

For one, the most striking feature is the deep dark passage of circum-ambulation that surrounds the main shrine. The central door leads to the shrine proper within which the deity resides. Interestingly the sloping roof was experimented upon, in this temple as well as at the Hucchimalli Gudi temple also found at Pattadakkal.

In fact even more interesting is the point that the interior of the temple within the shrine chamber and the roof (vimana) above it was one hollow room, which displays itself is greater extravaganza in later temples like Brihadeshwara at Tanjore and Gangaikondacholapuram. It also shows a process of multiple floors in the making, which can be seen in Varadaraja Perumal temple Kanchipuram (Pallava style).

What appears here as a gaping hole in the tower (top most window) is called the Gavaksha window (chandrasala in the north and kudu in Tamil), which used to host a form of the deity within. In fact that was the only way to find out to whome these temples were attributed, given most of the shrines are now missing. The lintels above the door still show signs of possible iconographic carvings of the deity within.

This is one example of a temple in early stages of development, where we can quite clearly understand how to identify the deity to which it has been attributed, should all the idols inside and on the niches outside go missing.

Original photos ©2002 Michael D. Gunther.


abhilash warrier said...


This is really really a well written post from the historical and architectural point-of-view.

Maybe, you should write for the unintiated likes of us, the hierarchy or chronological order (i know they overlap sometimes) of the dynasties and the architectural styles in the form of a flowchart or a timeline and post that to your blog!

What say?

Sathyamoorthy.U said...

Hi Kavitha: I was surprised to see the photo of Galaganatha temple which is in Karnataka(Pattadakkal).
Is this the only temple with this structure of Gopuram or are there any more with such Gopurams. This shape of tower is so very common in Orissa - in Bhuvaneshwar and surrounding areas. Never ever have I seen such structural share in Karnataka. Thus I am really surprised to see this photo of yours. Possibly what started as a experiment in Pattadakkal got full acceptance in Orissa. Have you got more details as to its architect and the rulers at that time? Was Pattadakkal under Oriyan Kings rule at any time? We need to trace its origin and why only this ? best wishes. sathyamoorthy

kavitha said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
JC Joshi said...

While enjoying the ‘creative works of the ancients’, I would like one to be ever conscious that the ‘Hindu’ mythological stories indicate ‘four faces of the creator’ or ‘Brahma’, i.e., our Sun, the source of direct and indirect energy on our ‘planet earth’ or ‘mrityulok’, i.e., ‘Shiva the destroyer’ as indicated by the statement that ‘He has Moon on His forehead’, or Bhootnath and His other ‘ghostly’ companions, and so on… These indicate cycles of all round development in the four Cardinal directions, North, South, East & West, which are covered by the relative movements of Earth & Sun…

The directions are indicated to be doubled by introduction of ‘Krishna the eighth son of Mother Devaki’ or the centre of our galaxy, or also ‘the eight handed Durga or Gauri’, with India apparently lying in NW-SE direction as I had indicated elsewhere earlier…

Also, Adi Shiva’s abode is indicated at Kashi, the present day Varanasi. The significance of the Hindu belief on ‘spirituality’ is reflected through the importance given to Kashi, the ‘stage’ for all spiritual discussions or 'shashtrartha' in the past, and the region around Kashi that is considered holy, viz., Ayodhya the birth place of Lord Rama, and particularly the confluence of Rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati (that believably dried up at some stage in the past) at Allahabad where Kumbha Mela is held every 12th year, to celebrate the continuity of human life Yuga after Yuga…

With the above background, the three states in Southwest India along the Arabian Sea coastline - in the vicinity of which the ‘churning of the milky ocean’ takes place - Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka, present a region of many and varied splendours. And, as reflected in its varied landscape and architecture, Karnataka is often described as the geographical and cultural meeting point between India’s 'Dravidian south' and its 'Indo-Aryan north'. Its narrow strip of fertile coastland is backed by hills of the Western Ghats - covered with forests of sandalwood and teak - that slope down to a vast plateau watered by the ‘Krishna’ and Kaveri rivers, which is dotted with architectural treasures in an extraordinary variety of styles. These were built by local Hindu and Muslim dynasties, as well as by ambitious rulers from the North, Maratha warriors and medieval Islamic chieftains, all of whom had once established kingdoms here…

Third Eye Closed said...


Well, there are a few hidden temples right here in Tamilnadu.
It surely might pique your interest if I add an interesting feature about one of them.

The ancients of our architecture have segregated stones into Moon and Sun based on thier Alchemical properties, well not exactly is that it means to make gold out of nothing. It has other uses.

Here, one such arrangement where alternating moon and sun based stones are placed in a perfect spherical positioning. This is basically a Shivan Temple, as you know Shiva is one of the Gods who love constant "Abishaegam", so to cater to him they have this formation.

The temple has such an arrangement that the steeple absorbs the moisture from even dry winds and forms water drops right at the apex. When enough for a drop is collected. This pure water drops right above the Ligam.

The best part is no other part of the temple is ever wet. And this is a contsant function that happens with no man's help. Thus providing Shiva continous "Abishaegam".

Hence this temple is regarded to be extremely powerful. The location only a very few sages know of.

~fEelix (Leave your inhibitions behind)
PS: Though unbelievable it sounds, such is the marvel of our ancient's technological advancement. And here we are trying to figure out how to obtain pure water - Naive, Totally.

kavitha said...

hi mr.sathyamoorty,

What started as an experiment in temple architecture in the early Chalukyan era later found its way towards Orissa.

Konark temple, mukteshwara, and Lingaraja temples take their roots from the original architectural plans foudned at Pattadakkal and badami. this place sees the birth of both south and north indian architecture. Hence Karnataka is pretty central to the flow of architectural tradition around the country.

there are many more such temples, which i will be posting soon. It will be a very interesting read!!

JC Joshi said...

Fera and Karna here have cited an interesting example in Tamil Nadu itself - though enveloping it in mystery - on how the ancient ‘Hindus’ realized life to be the believable drama of the ‘Panchabhootas’ or ‘Panchatatvas’, the five elements, i.e., ‘earth’ or stones, ‘air’, ‘water’ and ‘sky’ and ‘fire’ (within the temple in the form of concentrated solar energy that is absorbed by the lingam, and outside also as heat & light) that go into the formation of the material part of all physical forms in ‘Nature’ in the entire universe…

Naturally available stones also follow the same pattern of variety that is found in other aspects of nature. These also find use in many purposes other than in stone structures. Coloured stones even today find use as semi-precious stones and exhibit different properties for use in decoration of buildings, in necklaces, or use as gemstones for improving the efficiency of human structure by wearing these in rings, and so on…

To indicate how all round development took place in the past also. I give below an extract from Takeo Kamia’s book, Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent, while he describes the small main shrines and high gopuras on the outer walls in the 13th century Vijayanagar empire temples at Madurai or Srirangam:

“This typical Dravidian architecture can be seen across the sea in ancient Egyptian architecture too. The Egyptian Karnak and Edof temples too have small shrines while the pylon built on the outside is as big as the gopuras that crown these Dravidian style temples.”

After all the Homo Sapiens, found all over the world in the present era or yuga, appear to have originally started from Africa!

Arun Shanbhag said...

Nice to see a temple that I have actually visited. This summer we toured the early Chalukyan temple sites of Badami, Aihole and Pattadakal. It was here that the evolution of Hindu temple architecture can be best appreciated - from the cave temples at badami to the exquisite artwork at Pattadakal. All these three sites are also part of UNESCOs World heritage sites.

Pattadakal itself was a superb laboratory of temple architecture. here, you will see the synthesis of the North Indian Nagara Style as well as the early versions of the South Indian Dravidian style.

This is the entire temple complex at Pattadakal. notice the curious mix of Nagara and Dravidian syle Shikaras. The Galganatha Temple is second from left.

[Could not post pics here; click on my name link above to see the two pics on a backdated LJ entry :-)]

At the Galganatha temple, only the outer Mandapa has collapsed, and the raised floor of the mandapa is clearly visible. The main garbha griha and the parakrama corridor are visible. The granite Shiva Linga is still inside (!). Right next to it is the early version of the Dravidian Shikara on the Sangameshwara temple. Beautiful!

I have only started to post pics of my travels on my blog. Will get to the temples some time soon. If you need more pics of these areas, just let me know

kavitha said...

Hi arun,

am sure you must have had a very fulfilling experience at pattadakkal. its an amazing place to visit if people know what to look for.

am yet to visit the place. i will be making more posts on these three areas of architecture. With your permission i would like to showcase some of the pictures on my blog. Due credits will be given.

thanks again for visiting.


Arun Shanbhag said...

Sorry, the link did not work.

Posted here temporarily.

Sorry, still learning how to use this site.

Let me know what specific temple pics you want. I have several 100 from each site and I am still processing.
send me a message at