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Chalukyan Architecture (Including Examples From the Ballari District, Madras Presidency.)

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Item Code: NAL769
Author: Alexr. Rea
Language: English
Edition: 1995
Pages: 274 (114 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 10.5 inch x 8.0 inch
Weight 1 kg
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Book Description
Introductory Architectural Note

The group of temples, illustrated in this work, is situated within a circuit of twelve miles radius, in the western portion of the Ballari district, wedged in by Haidarabad territory on the north and Maisur on the south. The Tungabhadra river, near which they are, forms the boundary on the west and north.

If a circle of the diameter noted, is drawn on the map, the line passes through Huvinahadgalli and Magala on the north, Kuruvatti and Halavagalu on the south-west, and Bagali on the east. Nilagunda is situated about five miles inside the line of the south circumference, and Hirahadagalli, a similar distance within that of the north-west. Another temple, in the same style, was seen at Sogi, five miles south-south-east from Huvinahadgalli, Harihar is situated within the Maisur boundaries and stands on the Tungabhadra river, fourteen miles south of Halavagalu. From it, a plan and a few details have been taken for comparison with the others. Only an arbitrary frontier divides this portion of Ballari from the adjoining province of Maisur, so that this group may be considered as an offshoot, or the outlying examples of the style which had one of its principal localities in the latter State. But though the principal known examples have their seat in Maisur, it is to the territory on the north that attention must be direct cd for the earliest works: for there, it has been pointed out, was situated the central seat of the Chalukyan power.

'Whether other examples are to be found along the southern boundaries of the Ballari district and in the western portion of Anantapur-both of which are adjacent to Maisur- remains to be seen, It is probable that they do exist, for, at the village of Kambaduru, 31 miles west of Dharmaveram, in the latter district, is a beautiful little temple built in this style; with many Jaina features intermixed with the Chalukyan.

The standard work on the Chalukyan style, is Mr. Fergusson's splendid volume on Architecture in Dharwar and Mysore. Though fully illustrated by photographic plates, it possesses the defect-as has therein been pointed out-of hiving no plans or sections of interiors, so' that, as the descriptions were chiefly written from photographs, they had thus necessarily to be confined to the external architecture of the buildings. In the present volume, no attempt can be made to supply" the deficiency, as the temples are examples of a different phase of the style.

The date to which these temples may be assigned, is fixed not only by the architectural indications of age they exhibit, but likewise by certain known historical facts in connection with the dynasty under whom they were erected.

It has been stated, that in this style, approximate data for fixing -the age may be taken from the fact that every building is better than' the one that succeeded it. This only goes to prove that the buildings. hitherto described must belong to the period of greatest excellence in the style and the decadence that followed it. But such a statement could not be taken as applying to the style as a whole, including its earliest examples; for no style 0 architecture reaches its period of greatest grandeur at a bound and then declines. These earliest examples, exhibiting the gradual progression of the style no doubt existed, or perhaps still exist at the earliest settlements of the Chalukyas, for the race was a powerful one centuries before the known temples were erected ; and, like any people possessing claims tocivilization, no doubt, from the times of their earliest power, practised an architecture of their own. We know that they only wrested the Maisur province-s-with which for purposes of chronological architectural grouping, the district where these examples exist may be included-from the Cholas, about the period of their greatest power in the tenth century" We might thus expect that the buildings they subsequently erected in the district would exhibit advanced features in the style. This they undoubtedly do, as an inspection of the design of any of the temples, the continuity of their architectural details, or the high excellence exhibited in their workmanship will show. No one examining these works could assert that they 'were the earliest examples of a style. The same means of fixing the chronology, applied to the works hitherto described, must also be adopted with regard to those now under note. No Hindu buildings in this sty le have been brought to light of a date before the twelfth century, 3 and it is doubtful if any of the strictly Chalukyan portions of the present examples can be placed much or if anything before that date. This can doubtless be ascribed to a variety of causes, of which the principal are the following After the Chalukyas had acquired the Konga country, it is evident that any building operations would first be carried out in the more central part where the seat of power existed Such work could only gradually extend to the more remoter parts: any buildings too, which they did erect before that date, would be, as their religion was, Jaina. Many of the temples exhibit incompleteness in parts, chiefly in the carving. For this a reason must be sought; it cannot be accounted for by want of means or skill in execution. We see buildings, in which a great profusion of detail has been intended, and has in part been carried out, but not completely so. The cause is doubtless due to the disturbances in the kingdom towards the end of the twelfth century. The final extinction of the dynasty after 1189 A.D fixes the end of the period during which these temples were erected. It is true that on the ascension of the Hoysala Ballalas, a variety of the style was carried on till the Musalman invasion in the beginning of the fourteenth century, but none of these examples can be assigned to that date. One of the latest of them-Kuruvatti-is placed by Fergusson towards the end of the twelfth century. We have a starting point from another- Bagali-which appears to have been begun by the ChoIas and completed by the Chalukyas; and the architectural indications observable in the others complete the sequence. No great space of time can separate any of them; their details when minutely examined are similar in parts, though may be in individual instances, differently applied. The variations in the application or' arrangement of parts in a design maybe ascribed, not to the results of a widely separate period of the art, but to originality on the part of the workman. In this style, as in others Indian, the main arrangement of certain parts is fixed by rule; but great latitude is allowed to the workman who carries out the design. In this, lies the great beauty of these temples, and of every several part composing them. A broad unvarying principle can be traced in every example; however varied the design may be, a principle in no way effaced by the individuality observable in its overlying details. Many considerations doubtless had their share in the fixing of the class of plan adopted, the greatness of the god to whom the temple was to be erected, the sanctity of the site, or the number of shrines required for lesser or attendant deities .

There are three well defined forms of plan represented. One is a plurality of similar shrines attached and opening on to an enclosed mandapa and necessarily facing in different directions, but with the principal shrine opening towards the east. Another has a single shrine only, in the main building, with an enclosed mandapa on its east. The third is ar advance on the preceding, in that it has an open colonnade in front of the enclosed mandapa.

The plan with three connected shrines is undoubtedly borrowed directly from the Jainas, and is one of the results of Jaina influence observable, though the buildings themselves are clearly Hindu. This is probably due to the Chalukyas having originally been adherents of the Jaina faith. The arrangement, as here carried out, rarely occurs in Hindu temples of later date. A modification of the feature is seen in some of the temples, in which only one main shrine is adopted, but in which it is still necessary to make provision for these minor deities. In these cases, side niches in the shrine are considered sufficient. Again, in a three- celled temple, with a lighted central hall, as at Magala, the three shrines have an equal amount of light. In the transition to a single shrine, placed at the dark end of a badly lighted mandapa, the shrine was placed in almost total darkness. Latterly this came to be considered an advantage, or, at least, nothing was done, to obviate it. At the transition, however, such an attempt was made.] by the use of side lights, as we see at Huvinahadgalli and Kuruvatti. Some of the three-shrined temples have, in addition, a fourth cell detached from the main building, and facing the principal shrine. Such a subsidiary shrine, intended for a Basava, or other attendant on the principal god, is not unusual in other classes of temples, although in them it is usually given lesser prominence.

A matter to be observed in the plans of the shrines is, that their main exterior lines are rectangular, and not star-shaped, as are the principal of those in this style described by Mr. Fergusson.

The form of the plan is important, for its outline is carried up and repeated in the storeys or the tower, giving to it its own particular character. A star-shaped plan is ill- adapted to, and does not, so far as I am aware, ever appear in a storeyed tower built on the lines of those of the Dravidians. Only three of the buildings, Hirahadagalli, Kuruvatti and Nilagunda, retain their towers in original outline. The last would certainly have three, and probably four; but has now only one. The others have it only in part, or entirely away In the latter case, however, we have no difficulty in assuming what the form has been, for it is repeated again and again in miniature over the niches of the walls. That these representations were true copies of the original, as far as could be on such a small scale, is seen by comparison, where the tower yet remains. . Thus at Magala no trace of the three shrine towers exists ; but the form of outline is preserved on the wall niches. A peculiarity is noticed both at the building mentioned, and at Hirabadagalli. Some of the lesser of, these miniature towers, or those placed, not over the main niche, but on pilasters or other projections on the walls, have a curved northern outline. This must be. ascribed to the effects of the more typical Jaina style from which this was derived, and where such a tower was actually used in construction over a star-shaped plan. The carvers evidently had in idea sucha design before them but on a Dravidianized plan could only use it as a decorative and not as a constructive feature The varied designs of the numerous wall niches are strikingly noticeable. Most of the niches are now vacant, but from the characters of their architectural details, the class of image which occupied any particular one can be ascertained. Mr. Fergusson has pointed out that "the great gods-such as Brahms, Vishnu , Siva and Indra-have umbrella canopies. The incarnations of Vishnu, their saktis or wives, and minor deities have symmetrical canopies springing from both sides and forming something like a regular arch. Apsaras or heavenly maidens, mortals, and the lowest class or gods have unsymmetrical canopies springing from one side only." Examples of all these classes occur, with the addition of the architectural canopy, in combination with the floral one in the more ornate buildings. In those less ornate, the architectural canopy alone is employed.

The Dravidian form of the towers has been pointed out. Not only in the towers, but in the treatment of their whole external outline, the temples exhibit a preponderence of Dravidian forms. They might best be described as an embodiment of Chalukyan details engrafter on a Dravidian building. This is probably partly due to their outlying position, and theresulting effects of adjoining styles of architecture, of a: different class, practised outside the sphere of Chalukyan influence.

No one who has examined any single specimen of Chalukyan carving can have failed t. note its marvellous intricacy and artistic' finish in even the minutest details. The workmanwas no doubt greatly assisted by the pliability of the material in which he had to work; but his complete mastery of the art is none the less remarkable. On the temple of Guduk, Colonel Meadows Taylor makes some remarks which have quite as appropriate au application here. He states 2 "It is impossible to describe the exquisite finish of the pillars of the interior of this temple, which are of black hornblende, or greenstone, nor to estimate how they were completed in their present condition without they were turned to a lathe, yet .then can be little doubt that these pillars, which support the roof and body of the temple, were ii fact set up originally as rough masses of rock, and afterwards carved into their' present forms." The latter statement is true as regards the carving, not only on the piers, but elsewhere. 'There seems, however, abundant evidence to show that the piers were not set up in a rough unmoulded form, but actually turned in a primitive though effective kind of lathe. Of the carving he writes, "the carving on some of the pillars and of the lintels and architraves of the doors is quite beyond description. No chased work in gold or silver could possibly be finer, and the patterns to this day, are copied by goldsmiths, who take casts and moulds from them, but fail in representing the sharpness and finish of the original. By what tools the very hard, tough stone could have been wrought and polished as it is, is not at all intelligible at the present day; nor indeed from whence the large blocks of greenstone were brought; and in popular estimation nothing short of the miraculous creation of these temples, of which there are many legends, suffices to account for them”.

The ornament is generally completely undercut, and sometimes attached to the solid masonry by the most slender of stalks. It has often the effect of an incrustation of foliage placed on the wall. Its general principle seems to have been based on a broad mass of foliage standing in high relief from a narrow but deeply cut background.

The toning effects of age, which, leaving the details as sharp as when they left the sculptor's hands, have imbued them with their varying shades of brown, and given them added beauty.

Chalukyan carving forms the veriest contrast to the earliest works of this species of Indian art- the Buddhist. Each has its own particular beauties; but the 'one may, be described as an embodiment of conventional forms, for natural treatment is seldom if even adopted. The other consists largely of natural foliage. The latter may be described as a more refined form of art in that the effect is attained, not by a high contrast of light and shade, but by the very delicacy of the bas-relief in which it is cut. Chalukyan sculpture on the other hand-s-whether in the intricate geometrical patterns of the ceilings, or the foliated work which covers every part of the buildings-exhibits the greatest possible exuberance of varied forms, boldly designed and finely executed to the minutest detail. Its effect is greatly enhanced. by the deeply cut background. This, combined with the fineness of the detail, makes it equally effective, whether viewed closely or at a distance.

Except in a few of the lesser structures at Bagali, all the temples are constructed of a species of black hornblende, as porous as marble, and with much of its effects. It is said to be soft on being quarried, and to harden on exposure to the weather. It is thus admirably adapted to sculptural work; for, while it readily lends itself to the carver's skill, centuries of exposure do not diminish its sharpness.

Carved blocks were first dressed to the required outline, fixed in their positions in the building and then carved in situ.

The circular columns have generally a profusion of delicate string-like mouldings, all perfectly worked, and often bearing marks showing that they were actually turned. The process seems to have been to select a block of stone, rough-dress it to the requisite height and diameter, fix it upright, attached to beams in a pit, revolve the stone on its axis by bulloek power, and apply tools to the revolving surface till the desired outline was attained .

As to the quality of the- tools or chisels used by the workmen who executed these carvings, we have no means of information; nor are we likely to have any, beyond the self- evident fact that they were perfectly suited to their purpose. With a deeply cut but extremely narrow background to the foliage, often with the merest eyehole into which the chisel could be inserted, the carving tools must have been of the very slenderest make. A high quality of steel has been in use in India from the earliest 'times, so no difficulty would be experienced in their production. Were the subjects of ancient Indian art on a parallel with those of the Egyptians, we might learn their form their carvings, but the sculptors seem to have been more concerned with the representation of the arms of their warriors and the ornaments of their gods than the sculpturing of homely implements or the tools of handicraftsmen.


IIBAGALI: Kallesvara temple6
IIIMAGALA: Venugopalasvami temple10
IVHIRAHADAGALLI : Kattesvara temple14
VNILAGUNDA : Bhimesvara temple18
VIKURUVATTI : Malikarjuna temple21
VIIHUVINAHADGALU: Kallesvara temple25
VIIIDo. Kesavasvami temple28
IXHALAVAGALU: Kallesvara temple30
XHARIHAR : Hariharesvara temple32
APPENDIXGlossary of Indian terms included in the text37

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