Tuesday 18 December 2012

Masters of stone and rock

Jakanacharya and his son Dankanacharya are well known figures in Indian history. Everybody who has visited the Hoysala temples in Belur and Halebidu are given a lecture on these two famous architects by guides.
The temples at Belur and Halebidu inspire awe and visitors and tourists come back agog with the mindboggling achievements of Jakanacharya and his son Dankanacharya. Unfortunately, the recognition that is given to this father son duo is sadly missing when one goes to Badami, Aihole and Pattadakal.
The cities of Badami, Aihole, Pattadakal, Mahakuta, Banashankari, Gadag, Geresoppa and Alampur are rich with Chalukya temples. Infact the temples, as it is in the present, took shape under the Chalukyas.
Though thousands of people come and admire the beauty of the Chalukyan temples, they do not seem to bother about the architects and sculptors who chiseled these beautiful temples.
Fortunately for us, the names of the architects who either designed or built these temple are carved in the monument itself. Thus, these architects left their signature in stone.
The Chalukyas flourished from the 5th century AD and they made Badami or Vatapi their capital. One of Karnataka’s greatest kings, Pulekeshi, was a Chalukyan emperor between 603 and 642 BS. He defeated Harshavardhana and expanded the kingdom. He is believed to have died in a battle with the Pallavas.
The Chalukyas were great patrons of art and architecture. They were fortunate in having a large number of skilled architects, artisans and builders.
The names of  Gunda Anivaritacharya, Revadi Ovajja and Narasobba are frequently mentioned in history books as architects of some of the most Chalukyan temples.
Gunda Anivaritachaya was the chief architect of the Virupaksha temple, the most famous and most magnificent temples in Pattadakal. This temple forms the centerpiece of the world heritage complex.
An inscription in the temple says Gunda was showered with titles such as “Anikapuravastu Pitamaha and “Tenkanadesiya Sutradhari.
This temple was commissioned by Lokamahadevi, the senior queen of  Vikramaditya, the second, to commemorate her husband’s  victory over the Pallavas and his subsequent march into the Pallava capital of Kanchi.
The temple is supposedly built on the lines of the Kailasanatha temple of Kanchi.
Apart from these architects, there are a host of others who not only deserve a mention but also recognition as master builders.
The first name of  an architect that comes to mind is Aryamanchi Updadyaya. He is an important sculptor and he is credited with having built the beautiful Malegatti Shivalaya which stands on a boulder in Badami.
It was built in the early seventh century. It has a beautiful Vimana in Dravadian style.
An inscription on the eastern wall of the temple mentions the name of  the architect as Sri Aryamanchi upadhyaya prasad nirmmitam.
The temple is so beautifully planned that it completely blends with the boulder, giving the impression that the boulder and the temple are one.
He was conferred the title Tribhuvanacharya. An inscription in the Aihole temple testifies to this.
“Swasti Vikramaditya Sri
prithivi vallabha Mahadevi
yara degulaman madida sutradhari
Sri Gundan Anivaritacari
ge mume perjjerepu pattamu Tribhuvanachari
y endu pesarittu”.
Another architect is Narasobba, who is revered as the creator of  temples and sculptures in Aihole. He is the master builder of the  Huccappayya temple of Aihole.
This temple is built in the Rekhanagara style.
There is an inscription on the temple detailing his achievements, saying “Swasti Jambudvipantare kaschit
vastu prasada tadgatah
Narasobba samo vidwan
na bhuto na bhavishyati.”
His name also figures in another inscription on a boulder near a Jain cave in Aihole. We know that Narasobba was the disciple of 
Binjadi, a master of temple construction.
The name of  Bijanadi too is mentioned in Chalukyan temples. He is one of the first sculptors in India to chisel figures with mathematical accuracy. was well versed in the science of construction. Thus, there was a sense of proportion in his carvings and sculptures.
One of the inscription praises him as,
“ Binjadi  rdhara cattan vimana ranjitan
satra Maheshwaran gunaravi. rupa sanghatan
pramana bharan Narasobban”
I have in earlier paragraphs written about the Pattadakal temples. Here are some more details.
The Virupaksha Temple was planned and built by two architects-Gunda and Sarvasiddhiacharya.
Both were master craftsmen and both belonged to a guild of architects. They worked in unison to create this beautiful temple.
However, to avoid any hazzles or ego clashes during its construction, Gunda was in charge of the temple construction and Sarvasiddhiacharya took over the construction of the southern portion of the temple.
The name of Sarvasiddhiacharya can be found in two places in the temple. One of the inscription says
When the temple was completed both were rewarded with the title
“Perjerepu”, the  highest honour of the Chakukyas. The other master builder, Gunda Anivaritacharya, too was conferred a title-
Tribhuvanachari-the master of three worlds.
One of the inscription on the temple says, King Vikramaditya showered this Shilpi (architect) with many gifts. Another calls him the Pitama of Vastu Shilpa. An inscription on the Nandi Mantapa of the temple makes no doubt that Sarvasiddhiacharya is the architect of the southern portion. It says
Sri Sarvasiddhi aca
ryya tenkana diseya
This inscription also talks about exemption given to sculptors for payment of certain taxes. This shows the high esteem and regard that the Chalukya Emperors had for architects.
Revaddi Ovajja is another architect of the Chalukyan period. He is credited with having built the Papanatha temple.
Ovajja was a disciple of  Sarvasiddhiacharya. He was also the grandson of Silemuddar, a sculptor. The southern portion of the Papanatha temple was constructed by Revadi Ovajja.
An inscription on the eastern wall of the temple says.
Swasti Sri Silemuddara
marman Sarvasiddhi a
carjjyara cattar Reva
di ovajjar ten
kana dise madidor.”
It is not only in the temples but also in the caves that we come across the names of the architects who have sculpted them.
There are several dozen names and it is quite probable that all of them were either worked in unison to carve the magnificent caves-with each being given a task.
The names of sculptors are also mentioned. The prominent among them is Baladeva, who has sculpted the Dwarapalakas on the south side of the Virupaksha temple.
He is also credited with having sculpted carvings from the  Ramayana on the southern wall of the temple.
An inscription says he is the son of Duggi Acharya. He worked as a sculptor in both the Papanath and Virupaksha Temple.
The figure of Shiva or Virupaksha on the southern wall of the  Virupaksha temple was sculpted by Chenagamma. An  inscription below the carving says “Chenagamma pratime kuttidon.”
He also sculpted the Mithuna couple in the Papanatha temple. 
Another sculptor is Devaputra, who was a disciple of Sakaresivadi.
Sri Pullapan worked on the carvings on the northern wall of the Virupaksha Temple, while Damodara carved the Eastern wall.
An architect Paka, worked in the Sangameshwara Temple in Pattadakal. A pillar in Pattadakal, popularly known as the Pattadakal inscription belonging to the Chalukyan emperor, Kirtiverma, the second, says Jnanasivacharya built the stone pillar
The name of  Srikanthacharya is etched in the Alampur temples.
These architects and sutradharis experimented in stone and left their rich legacy behind. Each temple differs from the other and each architect has his own signature in style.  
No wonder, architects have a special name for these Chalulyan towns. They say if Aihole is a school of architecture, Badami is the degree college, and Pattadakal, the university of architecture.


  1. What a wealth of information in this blog!

    Keep up the great work.

    Hari Sarvottama Vayu jeevottama

    1. Thank you for your kind words. We need such encouragement to keep going.

    2. Daya madi shri Prof Anantha avaru contacts pass on madi (ani_ana@hotmail.com)

  2. Mr. Anon
    Kindly post your tel no to sudharam89@yahoo.co.in. Prof. Anantha will talk to you. I have already spoken to him.