The Chalukyas of Badami, a set on Flickr.
There were three main strands of the Chalukyan Empire. The Chalukyas of Badami were the first, established by Pulakesin I in 543 CE. Since then, for about 200 years, they held sway over most parts of the peninsula from the banks of the Narmada right down to present day Tamil Nadu.There was a brief period of 13 years when the Pallava king Narasimhavarman defeated Pulakesin II and captured Badami. The kingdom was later retaken by the son and successor of Pulakesin II, Vikramaditya I. In 753, they were overthrown by the Rashtrakutas forcing the dynasty to flee. Descendents would later form the next generation of the Chalukya empire about 200 years later.
In terms of legacy, the Chalukyas were the most influential empire in peninsular India in the first Millennium. As the Gupta empire faded out by the 2nd century, there was a period of chaos before the empire was established.
Badami, the capital of the empire, today bares a pitiable look of a semi-urban area. That it was once a rich city of successful kings who ruled an area almost half of present day India cannot be perceived from the hamlet-like ambiance that is prevalent today.
The temple complex of Pattadakal is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was here that victory inscriptions, coronations of kings and important state functions were held. Aihole was a trading centre where the Chalukyans were originally based. They were feudatories to the Kadambas. A temple dating back to 450 CE is considered to be the oldest of all the structures in the area.
The three sites of Badami, Pattadakal and Aihole are within a 1 hour 3-wheeler ride of each other and can be covered in one day. Of course, there are numerous structures relating to the period scattered all over the area (present day northern Karnataka).
The architecture of the period has its own style – the Chalukyan style. It was a fusion of Indo-Aryan and Dravidian styles which later took on its own identity. From the cave temples in Badami to the huge complex temple structures in Pattadakal, there is a gradual improvement in the competence and imagination of the sculptors and their patrons. This can be clearly seen even today.
Coronation Street – Pattadakal (UNESCO World Heritage Site)