Located on the banks of Lake Agastya, Bhutanatha group of temples were built from local sandstone that is seen in South Indian style of architecture. These temples are dedicated to Bhoothnatha, an incarnation of Lord Shiva. In the backside of the temples, there are huge boulders that have sculptures of different incarnations of Lord Vishnu and Jain figures.
Another popular site near the Bhutanatha group is the popular Badami cave temples. Along with the cave temples of Badami that are built on a hilltop, the Bhutanatha group of temples are the prime attractions of the historical town of Badami.
Bhutanatha group of temples have 2 major temples, where one is on the east bank and the second one is on the north-east banks of the Agasthya Lake. Bhutanatha temple, lying on the eastern side of the Lake is one of the earliest examples of structural temples seen in South India. It was erected during the rule of the Chalukya kings of Vatapi, now known as Badami. Additions were later on made by the Kalyani Chalukyas of the western region.
For a small duration, the temple came under Jain influence but thereafter, it went under the Lingayats who mounted a Shiva Linga in the temple and a statue of Nandi Bull in the front. The other temple, Mallikarjuna Temple, is placed on the north-east side of the Lake. The temple is younger than the Bhutnath temple and was erected during the rule of the Western Chalukyas.
Erected under the early Eastern Chalukyas reign, the Bhutnatha temple is a mix of north Indian and early south Indian styles of temple architecture. It is believed that the temple was built in 2 stages. While the main shrine and the inner halls reflects the architecture sensibilities of the Eastern Badami Chalukyas, the outer hall imbibes the architecture sensibilities of the Western Kalyani Chalukyas.
The bay of the temple are festooned with beautiful designs of lotus and the inner hall stands on colossal pillars. On one side the temple’s doorway has the temple of Goddess Ganga on her vehicle the Makara, the other side has River Yamuna, riding the tortoise.
The Mallikarjuna Temple is on the northeast of the Lake and belongs to the times of the Chalukyas of Kalyani. The temple has a tiered pyramid structure, a prime feature of Western Chalukya Architecture.