Art made great progress under the patronage of Chalukya Kings. In the field of architecture, the temples constructed during the rule of the Chalukyas helped in the progress of art. A new style of architecture known as the Chalukya style (Vesar style) which was different from the Gupta style was developed during this period. Many temples were built under the patronage of the Chalukyas, one important feature of this temple architecture was that practically all temples were carved out of mountains.
A brisk building activity was being pursued in a part of the Deccan with principal centres at the early Chalukyan sites of Aihole , Badami , Pattadakal in district Bijapur of Karnataka State and Alampur . This movement started about the 5th century and lasted till the 8th and initiated several significant temple forms which later developed into the highly ornate temples of Belur and Halebid .
At Aihole alone, there are 70 temples. In addition to Aihole, there were temples at Badami and Pattadakal. Aihole has rightly been called the cradle of Indian temple architecture. It represents the best of Chalukyan architecture.
The earliest temple of this region is the Ladh Khan at Aihole, a distance of 13 km from Pattadakal. Here we notice that a Gupta form had already been conceived . The Ladh Khan Temple has certain characteristics of rock-cut halls. As a matter of fact, it has a low flat-roofed Mandapa, 50 feet wide and enclosed by walls on three sides, with a porch on the east side, the pillars of which are carved with Ganga-Yamuna motif.
Of the scores of temples that adorn Aihole 3 are of outstanding importance for the development of northern temple style, viz . , the Durga, Huchchimalligudi, and Huchchappayyagudi all dating from the 6th-7th centuries. The shikhara appearing over these temples is of the early experimental variety, representing a prototype of the characteristic north Indian type.
Architecturally, the temple is significant for two main reasons. The pilasters at the exterior angles of the structure the beginnings of the later Dravidian order with the tapering upper end of the shaft and capital with the expanded abacus supporting the bracket.
Another feature that stayed on and influenced later Chalukyan temples is the flat roof which consists of stone slabs grooved at the joints and held together by long narrow stones which fit into the groves.
The Durga Temple contains a new feature, namely, a vestibule or antarala which is an intermediate chamber between the cella and the main hall. It has a Sikhara over the Garbhagriha which has fallen. The Huchimalligudi temple seems to be the earliest of the Aihole group and it contains a Sikhara of the Nagara type.
Many buildings of stone finely joined without mortar belonging to the Chalukya period. The stone temple of Siva at Meguti shows the art of stone building in its perfection. This was erected in about 634 AD. It has the Prasasti on Pulakesin II written by Ravi Kirti.
The Vishnu temple at Aihole is in very good condition. It has an inscription of Vikramaditya II. The temple is built in stone on a rock in the Buddhist Chaitya hall style. There are wonderful sculptures on it. The two high-flying Diyas are excellent in design and execution. The Chaitya-cell is placed in a pillared hall with a Pradakshinapatha around the shrine. There are as many as 10 temples at pattadakal belonging to this period. Six of them follow the Dravidian style. The temple of Virupaksha is the most important one.
Virupaksha Temple was built by Lokamahadevi, the queen of Vikramaditya II. It has many features similar to those of the Kailashnath temple at Kanchi. There is a bold beauty in the appearance of the Virupaksha temple as a whole which is best seen in the exterior. It is a comprehensive scheme as consists not only of the central structure but of a detached Nandi pavilion in front and it is contained within a walled enclosure entered by an appropriate gateway. The main building is 120 feet. The moldings, the pilasters, brackets and cornices, and the perforated windows are important. The exterior body of the temple consists of niches in which are kept life-size statues. The temple has a spare Sikhara. It is one of those buildings of the past in which the spirit still lingers of the men who conceived it and brought it with their hands.
Vijaditya built the great temple of Siva under the name of Vijayesvara now called Sangamesvara at Pattadakal in Bijapur District. His sister built a Jain temple called Anesejjeya-basadi at Lakshmeswar.
Another queen of Vikramaditya II constructed another great temple of Siva Trailokesvara in the vicinity of the Lokesvara or Virupaksha temple.
One of the achievements of Chalukya art was the building of excavated cave temples of Hindu gods. Mangalesa, the early Chalukya king of Badami, got excavated at Badami a beautiful cave temple of Siva.
Mahakuteshwara, situated near Badami has a group of temples of which one known as Sangameshwara, comprising a sanctum and a portico, is of some importance. The sanctum displays a sculptured niche in each cardinal offset and carries a stumpy and massive shikhara, partially resembling the early temples of Aihole.
The temple art blossomed further at the last and latest, Chalukyan center of Pattadakal, 29 km from Badami, which shows temples of both northern and southern styles. As temples of northern style incorporate some features of the southern and vice versa, it appears that the architectural conventions had not yet crystallized. Among the temples of the northern style, those of the Kadasiddheshwar and Jambulinga are the simplest, comprising only a sanctum and a mandapa.
The Kashi Vishwanath Temple is similar on the plan to the foregoing, with the difference that its shikhara shows an advance and is of the Pancha-Ratha variety, divided into 5 storeys and its mandapa carries a flat roof of 2 tiers, the higher one raised over the nave-pillars. The Galaganath is a temple with a conspicuous projection on the 3 sides of the sanctum ambulatory. The vestibule has survived, but the mandapa has disappeared. This is the only temple at Pattadakal that stands on a molded platform.
The temple of Papanath at the same site is a long low structure with porch, hall, vestibule, and sanctum the last surmounted by a stunted northern type of shikhara, too small in proportion to the total dimensions of the building, while the vestibule is proportionately larger almost assuming the dimensions of a court.
More significant than the above is the group of temples at Alampur in District Mahabubanagar, adjoining Hyderabad and situated on the bank of the river Tungabhadra. This place has 9 temples, popularly known as the Nava-Brahma temples of which 8 belong to the northern style and one (of Tarka-Brahma) to the southern style.
The temples of the northern style locally called the Vishva-Brahma, Vira-Brahma, Arka-Brahma, Kumara-Brahma, Bala-Brahma, Padma-Brahma, Garuda-Brahma, and Svarga-Brahma, mark the culmination of the Chalukyan architecture and are comparable to the early Pratihara temples of north India in essential features of plan, composition, and embellishment. Their layout is more logical and organic than that of the Papanath Temple at Pattadakal over which they mark a distinct improvement
One such site is Badami in the State of Karnataka. Badami was the capital of the western Chalukyan dynasty which ruled the region from 543 to 598 CE. With the decline of the Vakataka rule, the Chalukyas established their power in the Deccan. The Chalukya king, Mangalesha, patronized the excavation of the Badami caves. He was the younger son of the Chalukya king, Pulakesi I, and the brother of Kirtivarman I. The inscription in Cave No.4 mentions the date 578–579 CE, describes the beauty of the cave, and includes the dedication of the image of Vishnu. Thus it may be presumed that the cave was excavated in the same era and the patron records his Vaishnava affiliation. Therefore, the cave is popularly known as the Vishnu Cave. Only a fragment of the painting has survived on the vaulted roof of the front mandapa.
Paintings in this cave depict palace scenes. One shows Kirtivarmana, the son of Pulakesin I and the elder brother of Mangalesha, seated inside the palace with his wife and feudatories watching a dance scene. Towards the corner of the panel are figures of Indra and his retinue. Stylistically speaking, the painting represents an extension of the tradition of mural painting from Ajanta to Badami in South India. The sinuously drawn lines, fluid forms, and compact composition exemplify the proficiency and maturity the artists had achieved in the sixth century CE. The gracefully drawn faces of the king and the queen remind us of the style of modeling in Ajanta. Their eye sockets are large, eyes are half-closed, and lips are protruding. It is noteworthy to observe that the contours of different parts of the face create protruding structures of the face itself. Thus, with simple line treatment artists could create volume.
Both Ajanta and Ellora were situated in the dominions of the Chalukya. A record of Pulakesin II is to be found in a fragmentary painting in the first monastic hall at Ajanta representing the reception of a Persian embassy. In addition to the painted hall, the Ajanta caves have a number of Chaitya halls. Some of them were probably executed in the time of the early Western Chalukyas.
Among fine arts, primarily, it was painting that flourished under the patronage of the Chalukyas. Some of the frescoes of the caves of Ajanta were built during the reign of the Chalukyas. One of these fresco paintings exhibits the scene of welcome to the ambassador of Persia at the court of Pulakesin II.