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Evolution of Temple Architecture – Aihole-Badami- Pattadakal

Date of Submission: 09/02/2015
Criteria: (iii)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Ref.: 5972

The Tentative Lists of States Parties are published by the World Heritage Centre at its website and/or in working documents in order to ensure transparency, access to information and to facilitate harmonization of Tentative Lists at regional and thematic levels.

The sole responsibility for the content of each Tentative List lies with the State Party concerned. The publication of the Tentative Lists does not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever of the World Heritage Committee or of the World Heritage Centre or of the Secretariat of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its boundaries.

Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


Sr. No

Name of the component

State, Province or Region

Latitude and Longitude



Aihole village, Hungund Taluka, Bagalkot District

16°01'11.5"N, 75°53’00"E


Ravanphadi complex


Ravanphadi Main Cave
















16°01′16.4″N 75°53′01″E

2 Temples in Ravanaphadi Cave Premises 

16°01′20.5″N 75°53′03.5″E


Mena Basadi

16°00′48.8″N 75°53′09.3″E



Konti gudi group

Temple on North East

16°01′05.3″N 75°52′56.6″E

Temple on North west

16°01′05.3″N 75°52′56.6″E

Temple on South East (Sarangi matha)

16°01′05.3″N 75°52′56.6″E

Temple on South west

16°01′05.3″N 75°52′56.6″E


Hucchapayya Matha

16°01′03″N 75°52′55″E


Mallikarjuna Temple, Aihole

16°01′12.1″N 75°52′49.4″E



16°00′47.1″N 75°52′52.1″E


Galagnatha Main Temple

16°00′35.5″N 75°52′47.2″E


Temple no 31 (of Veniyar Group)

16°1'3"N 75°52'49"E



16°1'25"N 75°52'59"E


Meguti hill complex


Meguti temple

16°1'2"N 75°53'2"E

Partly excavated / partly built structure

16°1'2"N 75°53'2"E


Durga complex


Durga Temple

16°1'14"N 75°52'54"E

Ladkhan temple

16°01′11.7″N 75°52′54.1″E

Gaudar Gudi

16°01′11.7″N 75°52′54.1″E


Nagnatha Temple

Nagral, Badami Taluqa, Dist. Bagalkot

15°54′03.7″N 75°43′58.8″E



Badami Municipality, Dist. Bagalkot

15°56'55"N, 75°48'30"E


Badami caves complex



Cave no 1

15°55′06.4″N 75°41′04.2″E

Cave no 2

15°55′06.4″N 75°41′04.2″E

Cave no 3

15°55′06.4″N 75°41′04.2″E

Cave no 4

15°55′06.4″N 75°41′04.2″E


Bhutnatha Temple  (Main Temple)

15°55'14"N 75°41'15"E


Malegitti Shivalaya

15°55′24.9″N 75°40′55″E


Upper Shivalaya

15°55'20"N 75°41'2"E


Pattadakal Temple Complex

Pattadkal Village, Badami Taluqa, Dist. Bagalkot

15°56'55"N, 75°48'30"E


Chandrashekhara Temple

15°57′00.1″N 75°48′58.6″E

Kadasiddheshwara Temple


15°57′02″N 75°48′58″E

Jambulingeshwara Temple

15°57′02″N 75°48′58″E

Kashi-Vishweshwara Temple

15°56′57.7″N 75°49′13.8″E

Galaganatha Temple

15°57'0"N 75°48'58"E

Papanatha Temple

15°56'53"N 75°48'54"E

Sangameshwara Temple

15°56′59.3″N 75°48′58.9″E

Mallikarjuna Temple

15°56'58"N 75°48'57"E

Virupaksha Temple

15°56'57"N 75°48'58"E

The property constituting of groups of monuments in Aihole (including Nagral) and Badami as an extension to Pattadakal (WH property, Ref: 239rev) which is the culmination, together represent the experimentation in Hindu cave and temple architecture under the Early Chalukya developing fundamental prototypes for later temples in the peninsula.

The groups of monuments located in the town of Badami and villages of Aihole, Nagaral and Pattadakal, of Bagalkot district, along Malprabha river is the contribution of the eastern Chalukya Dynasty (6th-8th century CE). Ruling a vast culturally diverse expanse bound by Rivers Narmada and Kaveri on the North and South, this Dynasty patronised development of diverse cultural forms. The focus on temple and cave art and architecture by the Badami-Chalukyas led to unprecedented progression of both typologies. The temples at Aihole, Badami and Pattadakal are the largest, earliest group of monuments which comprehensively demonstrates the evolution in Hindu rock-cut and temple architecture in India.

The prototypes of 16 types of free-standing temples and 4 types of rock-cut shrines were developed in Badami and Aihole, which reached its most matured form in Pattadakal. This transformed the Malaprabha river valley into a ‘cradle of Temple Architecture’, where experimentation defined the components of a typical Hindu Temple.

In Temple architecture, two fundamental types of layout, sandhara and nirandhara (with and without circumambulatory path respectively) were developed in the structural temples of Aihole and Badami which was finalised in Pattadakal. The two types can be further categorized based on the type of Shikhara (tapering superstructure) - mundamala (temple without super-structure), rekha-prasada (prevalent in northern and central India), dravidian vimana (prevalent in southern India) and kadamba-Chalukya shikhara (indigenous form prevalent in Deccan region). In addition to the two types of plan-form is an is the apsidal one, an adoption of what is followed in a Buddhist chaitya combined with a rekha-prasada shikhara. The groups of monuments of Pattadakal show a shift in focus of development from the form to elaboration of scale, as evident in the principle shrine (than those in Aihole and Badami), addition of associated structures (subsidiary shrines, nandimantapa) enclosed in a prakara (wall), entered by a pratoli (gateway).

Group of temples in Aihole (and Nagral):

There are several groups of temples and two cave shrines dotting landscape of the village, Aihole, the first capital of Early Chalukyas. The selected properties in Aihole consist of 2 caves, 1 partly structural-partly excavated and 12 structural temples.

Amongst these caves, Ravanphadi cave which is dedicated to Shiva, consists of a mantapa, garbhagriha and two side galleries flanking mantapa. The planning of Meena Basadi cave, with inclusion of sukhanasi and better defined space of vestibule, shows a major step in achieving plan form for built temples in future. Partly excavated / partly built structure standing on the slopes of Meguti hill has two garbhagrihas placed on two storey. The garbhagrihas are excavated in the rock while front verandah is built supported by square columns.

Two small temples near Ravanphadi cave have only garbhagriha and ardhamantapa with no superstructure. Konti gudi temples, located within the village consist of garbhagriha attached to the rear wall of the pillared mantapa. The temples are roofed by mundamala shikhara. Ladkhan temple follows similar plan and type of shikhara on a larger scale. The garbhagriha of Guadar gudi is centrally located in the pillared mantapa forming a sandhara structure. Guadar gudi also has mundamala shikhara. Located on the just outside the village, Hucchapayya Matha has a garbhagriha which is attached to an enclosed Mantapa as a separate structure. Temples like Huchhimalli gudi and Huchhapayya gudi signify development in Rekha-prasada type of shikhara. Similar to Guadar gudi, Garbhagriha of Huchhimalli gudi is embedded in the gudhamantapa while garbhagriha of Meguti temple is surrounded by the pradakshina patha. Gudhamantapa is attached to the front wall of sandhara plan of the temple. Temples of Mallikarjuna and Galagnatha represent examples of development of Kadamba-Early Chalukya shikhara. Galagnath temple has an added vestibular space between the already separated garbhagriha and mantapa. Huchhimalli gudi and Meguti temple represent examples of sandhara temples. Durga temple is a rare example of apsidal plan in Early Chalukyan temples. It has sandhara plan and added mukhamantapa as an entrance. Nagnath temple at Nagral has a nirandhara plan which comprised of garbhagriha, pillared mantapa and mukhamantapa. The garbhagriha is capped with Dravidian shikhara. A unique example of trikutachala type of temples which became prevalent form in later in Rashtrakuta period can be seen in a temple no 33 in Veniyar group. 

The extensive experimentation in the temples of Aihole carved way to more definite form in the temples of Badami, Nagral and Pattadakal.

Group of temples and caves in Badami:

The town of Badami which served as a second capital for Early Chalukyas is located at the base where two branches of the western edge of the rocky-crop of the Kaladgi range bifurcate. The town is dotted with numerous temples built during Early Chalukya and Rashtrakuta period. 5 sites (1 group of 4 Caves and 4 free-standing temples) in Badami have been identified owing to their significance in the process of evolution of Early Chalukyan temple architecture. These sites are located at various elevations along the rocky-outcrop. The 4 Caves (Cave no.01, 02, 03 and 04) located on the northern face of the southern branch of the hillock. The caves follow typical plan including entrance porch, pillared mantapa and garbhagriha.

Upper-Shivalaya and Malegitti Shivalaya temples are located on the northern branch of the hillock, where the former is on a higher elevated plane than the latter. Shikhara of these temples are Dravidian type. The garbhagriha of Upper Shivalaya is embedded in the mantapa forming a sandhara plan. The plan of Upper Shivalaya is followed in Galagnatha temple in Pattadakal which dates later. The main part of the mantapa of this temple is now fallen. Circular windows on the rear wall of pradakshina path as well as additional storey above the garbhagriha provide uncommon features to the temple. Malegitti Shivalaya has garbhagriha, pillared gudhamantapa which is accessed through mukhamantapa. The temple is roofed with Dravidian shikhara. The Bhutnatha temple (main) is located on the banks of Agastya Tank at the base of the hillock.  Bhutanatha temple has a garbhagriha attached to pillared gudhamantapa. Mukhamantapa of this temple is a later addition. The temple has Dravidian shikhara. All the Early Chalukyan caves and temples in Badami except Upper Shivalaya are nirandhara structures where pradakshina path or circumambulatory path is absent.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The Early Chalukyan ruled in the area comprising the present Indian states of southern Maharashtra and northern Karnataka and over two centuries had unified a vast culturally diverse area between the rivers Narmada and Krishna in Peninsular India. The political victories paved the way for the amalgamation of distinct cultural practices and its manifestation in the evolution of art and architecture remain unparallel in the history temple construction in the Indian subcontinent. Pattadakal, inscribed as World Heritage site (Ref: 239rev) demonstrates the finale in the evolution of cave and temple art and architecture, whereas the monuments of Badami and Aihole show its crucial formative stages. Together the groups of temples comprehensively show experimentation and thereon culmination of cave and temple art and architecture witnessed only in the Malaprabha River valley.

The concentration of artistic activities in their power (Aihole and Badami) and spiritual Pattadakal (Pattadakal) centers transformed the Malaprabha river valley into ‘cradle of Temple Architecture’. Its hilly outcrops witnessed the simultaneous excavation of rock-cut temples and constructions of free standing temples in sandstone by applying the skills developed for free standing wooden constructions.  These temples are the largest, earliest group of monuments which comprehensively demonstrates the evolution in Hindu rock-cut and temple architecture in India. The experimentation in temple art and architecture in Pattadakal, already inscribed demonstrates the culmination in temple construction system fostered by the Early Chalukyas which had a profound influence on Hindu temples construction to follow.

Criterion (iii): The ensembles of Aihole, Badami and Pattadakal bear testimony to the Early Chalukya dynasty (6th – 8th century CE) whose rule is characterised by prosperity, political stability and religious tolerance facilitated assimilation of diverse cultural forms, best reflected in the field of art and architecture Unifying a large geo-culturally diverse area, the kingdom of Early Chalukyas saw the convergence of myriad knowledge and techniques in the field of temple construction best reflected in the field of art and architecture transforming the Malaprabha River Valley into the cradle of Indian Temple architecture.

The skills and forms of rock architecture developed at existing art centres like Ajanta was applied and elaborated in the excavation of rock-cut cave temples at Aihole and Badami. While the earlier Hindu caves are rudimentary in design, those under the Early Chalukyas show adaptation of temple plan on a much larger scale, implying development of cave-architecture. Instead of an ante-chamber attached to a cella (garbagriha), the spatial layout of the rock-cut caves at Badami had sanctum attached to mantapas with or without lateral shrines and, while that at Aihole showed a trikutachala (three sanctums) temple layout.

Experimentation in arriving at functionally viable prototypes at Aihole and Badami enabled conceptualization of complex temple structures at Pattadakal. The elaboration of scale and ornamentation as well as addition of ancillary structures to accommodate growing need of religion at Pattadakal led to the development of aesthetically appealing temple models. A number of indigenous elements were harmoniously blended with the architectural and sculptural practices of contemporary northern and southern styles.

The greatest contribution of the Early Chalukya civilization is illustrated in evolution of two principle temple shikhara types - the southern Dravida-vimana and the northern Rekha-nagara-prasada temples along with the type of Kadamba-Chalukya shikhara, through a series of consistent experimentations that commenced at Aihole, continued at Badami and culminated at Pattadakal. The rock-cut caves and temple architecture at Aihole, Badami and Pattadakal individually and collectively testifies the process through which the architectonics of a Hindu temple was developed, standardised and became fundamental to the knowledge-system of master-craftsmen that enabled construction of large-scale Hindu temples in the peninsular region during medieval times. Furthermore, the crystallisation of canonical texts which governed all facets of temple construction and religious practices was enriched from this experience of the Early Chalukyas of Badami. 

Criterion (iv): The era between the 6th and the 8th century of the Early Chalukyas of Badami is a critical phase in the history for Hindu revivalism and development in Hindu temple architecture. The architectural ensembles of Aihole-Badami-Pattadakal are a testimony to the evolution in religious architecture at a point in time when the belief system and its built-form, both rock-cut caves and free-standing stone temples, were undergoing simultaneous transformation. These two hundred years of the Early Chalukyas of Badami in the western Deccan, specifically in their power and spiritual centres at Aihole-Badami-Pattadakal, exhibits two significant movements in the cultural life that defined early medieval India, first, the acceptance of stone as a medium of construction and second, the concretisation of temple forms which are characteristic of early medieval India. Patronage from all quarters of society and religious fervour synergised the combination of skills and regional architectural practices which lead to innovations in religious architecture. 

The strategic location of the Early Chalukya power in Deccan centres enabled the infusion of features and skills from contemporary artistic centres and simultaneous development in rock-cut and free-standing architecture. The existing skill of Buddhist cave-architectures applied to excavation of Hindu cave-temples of Badami demonstrates development in spatial-layout and features essential to accommodate Hindu rituals. The five different prototypes of caves in Badami and Aihole testify the growth of rock-cut architecture into an elaborate social space.

Considered the cradle of Indian temple architecture, the power and spiritual capitals of Early Early Chalukyas of Badami witnessed the two centuries of experiments which manifested in the evolution of the architectonics and aesthetics of free-standing Hindu temple architecture. The six rock-cut caves and twenty-five temples individually and collectively represent the continuous development of Hindu Temple architecture which became a fulcrum for later large-scale temple construction in peninsular India.  Also, Hindu Temple architecture being unique to South Asia, the era of evolution in Temple architecture is integral to the history of this large geo-political expanse.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity


The groups of monuments retain its physical integrity having withstood the ravages of time and nature.The rock-cut caves are integral to the understanding of how rock-cut architecture evolved and influenced architecture in the region while the structural temples show the experimentation with spatial-layout and roof-typology that created stabilized architectural and structural forms. Individually and collectively, these properties essay the evolution of free-standing stone temple architecture and development of cave-architecture and are integral to the crystallisation of polytheistic worship.

The buffer to each property further show additional components like pushkarani (water-tank), shrines, prakara (enclosure), gopura (gateway) etc. added over time in consonance with the growing need of religion. These elements in the buffer are integral to comprehend the mutual development in religion and architecture characteristic to Malaprabha River Valley. The area which buffers the property also ensures the provision of easy access for maintenance, management and enabling visitors experience the property.

The conservation measures adopted focuses on safeguarding the original alignment and details of the architectural and construction systems which form the critical value-system of the property. To ensure protection of its construction system, reconstruction of any-form has been averted while replacement of broken structural members was done only to maintain structural stability.


Set in the Kaladgi ranges the groups of sculpted caves, partly rock-cult and partly structural and structural temples of Aihole, Badami and Pattadakal collectively testify bygone civilization of the Early Chalukya Dynasty and their contribution to the field of Hindu Temple Architecture. Transforming the Malaprabha River Valley into the cradle of temple architecture its creations are considered the progenitor of medieval Indian temple architecture and planning.

These groups of structures show the evolution of Hindu temple architecture and planning in peninsular India. These properties testify the evolution of crafts-skill of the master-craftsmen by transposing and applying skills originally developed to construct wooden structures and rock-cut caves to create new structural forms purely on stone. The spirit of experimentation patronized by the Early Chalukya dynasty created perfected modules, which shaped canonical texts and in-turn later temple architecture in peninsular region of the Indian sub-continent.

Comparison with other similar properties

The proposed property through the combination of rock-cut caves, partly freestanding– partly rock-cut and free-standing temples together and individually demonstrate a stage in architectural history where the thrust shifted from cave architecture to free-standing architecture necessitated by the changing socio-religious practice of the time. Executing in locally available stone the known construction system employed in free-standing wooden structures, the craftsmen in Malaprabha river Valley under Early Chalukya patronage transformed the landscape into a cradle of Temple architecture.

The assimilation of diverse skills, knowledge of different built-craft forms lead to the development of component parts and the complete form of a fundamental unit of a Hindu Temple. This experiment saw combination of distinct roof typology (Dravida of the south, Nagara of north and central and Phamsana or kadamba-Early Chalukya of local origin) with spatial-layouts that were structurally stable and could be further elaborated through modification in scale, surface ornamentation and addition of ancillary spaces. As opposed to representation of only matured example achieved in regional temple architecture, the proposed property of Aihole-Badami-Pattadakal is a unique narration of the critical processes that led to the evolution of architectural and construction systems necessary for building a freestanding structural Hindu Temple.

The temple complex of Angkorvat as well as group of monuments in Mahabalipuram represents comparative examples for the evolution of religious architecture that reflects spectrum of change in socio-religious practices. They are also considered the progenitors of later construction, the process evident through the group of structures reflect changes in socio-religious practices during the Hindu revival movement of early medieval times which is much more elaborated and defined in Early Chalukyan architecture.

On international level, World Heritage Sites of Megalithic temples at Malta and Wooden Churches of Slovak part of Carpanthian Mountains, Slovakia represent comparable example which influenced further architectural development in the region.