At a distance of 700 meters from Pattadakal Bus Stand & Temple Complex entrance, Papanatha Temple is a large structure built on the banks of Malaprabha River outside the main temple complex. This temple can be reached by walking down along the river bed from Virupaksha Temple gateway. This temple is dedicated to Muktewara, a form of Lord Shiva.
Built in a mix of Nagara and Dravidian architecture, this temple dates back to 680 AD. The vimana on top of the sanctum in built in nagara style, while the mukhamandapa facing east, rangamandapa and antarala are acquired from Dravidian style. The sanctum has a narrow circumambulatory path for pradakshinas. On three sides of the outer walls of sanctum, there are pillared porticos with sculptures of dancing Shiva.
This temple is famous for the carvings of scenes from Ramayana and Mahabharata. The sabhamandapa has 16 pillars with medium size sculptures of men & women. There is also a sculpture of Mahishasura Mardhini with 8 hands.
The pillars in mukhamandapa have wonderful carving of couples and mythical animals on three sides. The sides of mandapa have several lattice windows with miniature temple towers engraved inside with different sculptures like Rama Killing Vali, Vanaras building bridge to Lanka, Srirama's Coronation, Arjuna's penance, Ravana lifting mount Kailash, Narasimha & Hiranyakasipa fighting, Indra riding Airavata, Dasaratha performing Putrakamesthti yaga, Indrajit & Kumbhakarna attacking vanara army, etc.