Mallikarjuna temple (at rear), a dravida style temple at Mahakuta
The Karnataka artisans of the 7th century achieved a certain eclectism in their architecture by building south Indian dravida style temples adjacent to north Indian nagara style temples. Further, their dravida and nagara styles were local, indigenous variants and unrelated to the architectural styles that prevailed in modern Tamil Nadu to the south, and Central India ("Madhyadesha") to the north. They achieved this by combining the basic plan of one style with characteristics of the other. The dravida style temples here have a tiered tower over the shrine which is capped with a dome like structure. The nagara style temples use a curvilinear tower over a shrine which has a square plan, and is capped by a ribbed stone. The development of this hybrid style, achieved by combining the typological features of the two basic architectural styles, is considered a peculiarity of the Karnataka region and defines the beginnings of the Vesara style of architecture.
Sangamesvara temple with nagara superstructure at Mahakuta
A natural mountain spring flows within the temple complex and feeds fresh water into a large tank called the Vishnu Pushkarni ("Lotus pool of god Vishnu") and an ablution tank called Papavinasha Tirtha ("Tank of Ablution"). Among the several shrines in the complex, the Mahakutesvara temple, built in the dravida style, and the Mallikarjuna temple are the largest. There is a small shrine in the centre of the Vishnu Pushkarni tank and in it is a Shivalinga (universal symbol of god Shiva) called Panchamukha linga ("five faced linga"), one face for each direction and one on top.
Vishnu temple with nagara superstructure (left) and a shrine with Kadamba superstructure (right) at Mahakuta
The Mahakuta complex has provided historians with two important 7th century inscriptions. The Mahakuta Pillar inscription, dated variously between 595–602 CE records a grant made by Durlabhadevi, a queen of Pulakesi I (the father of king Mangalesa). The queen supplemented an earlier grant with an endowment of ten villages, including Pattadakal and Aihole to god Mahkutesvara Natha. In addition, the inscription provides important information about the Chalukyan lineage, their military expeditions, their conquests and early monuments. The pillar goes by the name Dharma-jayastambha ("Pillar of victory of religion") and is on exhibition at a Bijapur archaeological museum. The other inscription, ascribed to Vinapoti, king Vijayaditya's concubine, is inscribed in the porch of the Mahakutesvara temple. It describes a grant of rubies and a silver umbrella to the deity Mahakutesvara in addition to a piece of land.
7th century Kannada inscription of Vinapoti, concubine of Badami Chalukya King Vijayaditya
Sculpture of Ardhanareeshvara (form of the Hindu god Shiva) at the Mahakuta temples