The architecture of these three places prefigures the typical Hindu temple and dates between 600 and 750 A.D. The earliest is the group at Aihole consisting of about 70 temples, almost 30 of which are inside a walled and bastioned enclosure.
The oldest is the one called Ladh-khan, where on the portico we find the beginnings of the asana (seat), an ornamental feature of later, especially medieval, Hindu temples. The Durga temple is an apsidal temple and over the apse is a short pyramidal tower, or sikhara, a feature of the subsequent Hindu temples. The Durga Temple has some remarakable sculpture.
One of the last temples to be built at Aihole is the Jain temple of Meguti constructed about 634 A.D. Smaller blocks of stone are used, indicating an advance in building technique. Temple No. 53 (Brahmanical) and 39 (Jain), together with the Meguti temple, show influences of the Dravidian style which is characterized by square pyramids in several storeys and the ornamentation is less than that which is characteristic of typical Chalukyan architecture.
The temples at Pattadakal, too, are both Hindu and Jain and belong to the Chalukyan as well as the Dravidian styles. Most of them were built between the 7th and the 8th century A.D. The general characteristic of the Chalukyan temples is the spacing out of the surface by means of pilasters, an idea which was elaborated by later architects. The temple of Papanath is in the Chalukyan style. The Dravidian style temples, of which the Virupaksha is the best, are different, being recognized by their square pyramidal sikharas that culminate in domes. Though not as graceful as their Chalukyan counterparts, they have a certain power all their own.
An ancient stronghold of the Chalukyans in the early 6th century. Vatapi (Badami) was the capital of their great ruler Pulakeshin II. Conquered by the Pallavas in 640, it again rose in 653 A.D but the Rashtrakutas occupied it in 753 A.D.
Three of the temples are Brahmanical (550 to 580 A.D.) and there is a Jain temple which dates back to 650 A.D. and they all indicate considerable architectural progress since the days of Aihole. Certain features are shared by all – a pillared verandah, a columned hall and a small square cell (shrine for an image) cut deep into the rock. The exterior is comparatively plain, except for a running border of grotesque ganas (dwarfs). The interior, in contrast, is carved with a wealth of beautiful sculpture. The decoration is excellent but the general plan is somewhat uncertain, as Hindu temples were still at an early stage of development.
The temple dedicated to Vishnu has an inscription that gives the date of its construction as A.D. 573, and is the largest of all. Two temples penetrate unusually deep into the rock and the façade of each consists of a colonnade of four pillars forming the verandah, with two pillars forming an entrance to the central hall.
The Jain temple, (probably excavated in the middle of the next century), imitates the Brahmanical temples, but is smaller in size and has distinguishing elements designed to suit Jain ritual. This phase of rock-cut architecture was of a temporary nature and the art was soon to die out completely.