Badami, Aihole, Pattadakal - Part 1

A visit to the temple towns of Badami, Aihole and Pattadakal is literally like traveling back to the 7th or 8th century. The moment you leave the dusty roads, sugarcane fields, interesting people and move into the confines of the cliffs and temple walls, you feel like getting transported to a surreal space. This is a world where decapitated statues of gods and goddesses tell you stories of enterprising kings and their conquests; where huge blocks of stones tastefully huddled to form structures of awesome beauty tell much about the skill and commitment of the artisans of the time. Badami, named after the evil demon Vatapi, who according to the legends was killed by sage Agastya at this very place, is in Bagalkot district of Karnataka.

Kannan, Tanmoy and me reached Badami railway station quite early in the morning and in another 10 minutes found a rickshaw guy who agreed to take us around to Aihole, Pattadakal and Mahakuta. We only had 2 days with us and our plan was to dedicate the second day exclusively for Badami and cover the rest of the places on the first day itself. You actually need a day each at Aihole & Pattadakkal to get a decent look at the 50 odd temples there, but time wasn't on our side. So without wasting much time we started for Aihole and by the time we reached there crowd had already started trickling into the temple compound. It is better to visit these places on weekdays when you get to roam around without negotiating around the crowd.

Our first stop was at Aihole, the first capital of the Chalukyas, some 20 kilometers from Badami. The story is that the Chalukya kings experimented with temple architecture, fusing the North Indian and South Indian styles, and built over 100 temples here. Some 50 odd temples are still standing within a 10 kilometer radius, though most of them are in various states of destruction. It was with the experience gained with the Aihole temples that the Chalukyas later built the magnificent structures at Pattadakal. There are temples built for all the prominent gods in Hindu Mythology from lord Shiva to the Sun god. Some of these temples have beautifully built tanks associated with them. Around the main temple complex you can also see Buddhist and Jain temples.

The two storied Buddhist temple on the nearby hilltop provides an aerial view of the many structures scattered all over the landscape. Though human settlements are not allowed in the vicinity of monuments of archeological importance, you see a lot of houses sharing a wall with some of these temples. People and cattle treat some of these temples their own and share the space with the gods for their day to day activities. One cow even asked me with much frustration 'what monument?, what the heck?' as I pushed it aside to get a better camera angle. We bumped into the Aihole under-12 cricket team practicing on the roof of the Buddhist temple. They agreed to let us play with them and also provided guide service to the hilltop in return for a photo session. After lunch we started for Pattadakal, another 10 kilometers from Aihole.

Pattadakal, a world heritage site, also known as the cradle of Indian architecture showcases some of the best works of the Chalukya period. There are magnificent temples in the traditional North & South Indian styles and those that feature the fusion 'Vesara' style (also known as the Chalukya style) as well. The main temple complex is by the banks of the Malaprabha river. If you like architecture or history or if you are interested in Hindu mythology, this is a place where you can spend a few days, lost in the many treasures hidden within those walls. We met an amazing painter Mounesh, who sits inside these temples and make beautiful sketches of the gods and goddesses all day. You can buy his pencil,pen or acrylic sketches at a nominal price.

By the time we reasonably satiated our sense of wonder and awe, it was already late to visit Mahakuta. But our rickshaw guy agreed for a quick stop on the way back to Badami. While the Aihole and Pattadakal temple complexes are devoid of any vegetation, temples at Mahakuta are built amidst huge trees, many of which have grown over and into them. The evening sun gave a quite charming look to the big banyan trees, giving the place an Angkor Wat look. There were langurs running all over the place and many snakes enjoying an evening swim in the ablution tanks. One interesting temple here is dedicated to lord Ganesha, which is built in the middle of a tank, and you have to walk in waist deep waters to reach the sanctum sanctorum. We left for Badami before nightfall, booked into a hotel and decided to sleep early considering the long day that lay ahead.

Badami, Aihole, Pattadakal - Part 2

See more photos here

1 comment:

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