The Chalukya Dynasty was a dominant power in northern Karnataka during the 6th century. This dynasty is attributed with having introduced its own style of temple architecture called Chalukyan Architecture. This architecture blends the finer aspects of the Dravidian and Nagara temple architecture. Hence it is also referred as Vesara architecture. ‘Vesara’ is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘mule’, which is a hybrid animal.
Some of the finest specimens of this architecture can be seen at Aihole, Badami and Pattadakkal. Most of the temples were dedicated to the Hindu pantheon, while some catered to the Jain religion.
Chalukyan temples can be classified into rock-cut halls and structural temples. Some exquisite sculpted monuments have been excavated at Badami and Aihole. Aihole, often termed as the ‘cradle of Indian architecture’, boasts about 70 temples of the exquisite architecture. The Aihole temples feature flat or slightly sloping roofs, topped by a small ‘shikhara’ (tower). Temples built at a later period contain the pillared assembly halls, which is a common feature in most of the south Indian temples. The Lad Khan and Durga temple are the noted Chalukyan temples in Aihole. The Durga temple contains elements of a Buddhist prayer hall, which can be noted by the usage of an intermediate chamber between the cell and the main hall.
The cave temples at Badami feature a pillared verandah, a columned hall and a small square cellar structure called Garbhagriha. Pattadakkal, which has been declared a World Heritage Center, features 10 major temples of the Chalukyan architecture. The biggest of these is the Virupaksha Temple.