Wednesday, July 30, 2008

History beckons - Badami-Aihole-Pattadkal-Hampi

Travel into the history and back with us........ From the memories comes alive the ruins of the Chalukya – Vijayanagar empire. the chalukyans.. the great vijayanagar kingdom........ we are proud to be a part of this... The hot bed of Karnataka – Badami, Aihole and Pattadkal.. topped up with Hampi! When I was browsing through the collection of pictures which have almost occupied my entire hard disk, I realized there were quite a few sojourns which we had undertaken, some still afresh in our memories and some of which I remember vaguely, which can be shared with the world. So of the list, here comes out the ruins of the Chalukyas and the Vijayanagar Empire. Barely a month after being laid low by the appendix scare, the adrenaline inside me was pumping for some action and also while recuperating my mind was scouting for some place for our next sojourn. As it was still January 2007, we short-listed on the Badami, Aihole and the Pattadkal coupled with Hampi, as it would be the best probable season to be there. The Aihole-Badami-Pattadkal has some glorious temples, some of the India’s finest sculptural work. This is a group of fifty odd beautiful shrines spread across, each with its own individual style of architecture. Badami was the capital of the Chalukyan empire in the 6th century; 8kms north of Badami is Pattadkal and downwards 13kms is Aihole. Badami – the first thing anybody visiting this place notices is the mammoth sandstone cliff, which is like a horseshoe, shape which encloses a lake in between. The views here at the sunrise and sunset are amazing. There are the temples and rock cut caves of which the loveliest is the Bhutanatha temple. <--- the sandstone cliff, badami ---> In the southern part of the cliff is a stairway that leads to four exquisite rocks cut shrines carved into the hillside. The first cave is the Shiva, next two are for Vishnu and the last is a Jain shrine. The Shiva sculpture is a rare image of an eighteen armed dancing Shiva. I can’t describe the entire sculpture because one should visit to see and feel the beauty. Aihole – Here temples are in clusters scattered over. Most notable are the Ravana Phadi cave, Durga temple, Lad khan temple and the list goes on… Pattadkal – This is one huge complex of temples located next to the river Malaprabha. The temples are built in the south Indian Dravidian as well as the north Indian nagara style of architecture with the papanatha temple, which is a mix of both. Here notable temples are the Jambulinga temple, Galaganatha temple Virupaksha & the Mallikarjuna temples. Our journey to the past: January 07 – There is a direct service from Bangalore to Badami; Rajahamsa service is operated on this route. Took this bus on January 25th evening, which reaches Badami by 8am. Badami is around 500kms from Bangalore and best reached by an overnight journey. After getting off the bus, could feel the heat instantly, here temperatures it’s the dry heat that gets on to you and you tend to get dehydrated very quickly. As it’s a heritage site, you see lot of visitors as well as foreigners here and don’t expect the rates around here to be cheaper, infact unless you bargain the size of your wallet reduces drastically. Got into a moderate hotel after searching around a few places to rest for a while and plan for the action for the day. The first thing that caught our eyes when we were moving around was the awesome sandstone cliff, which stands tall and beautiful in the background, much to that later. We were celebrating the republic day in our unique own way admiring the history that our land holds. We planned to cover Aihole and Pattadkal for the day and cover up Badami the next day. Negotiated with an auto driver to take us around both these places and finally settled for 150 per head (3 members) for the round about trip covering all the important places around Aihole and Pattadkal. First we visited the famous Banashankari temple, which is very popular here enroute to Pattadkal that is around 8kms away; the road was horrible (stone clad road and a bumpy auto ride!!). Restoration and renovation of these heritage spots at Pattadkal was still going on and I wish at least now a year later, it should be completed and the roads tarred for the benefit of the tourists. We go to complexes / malls around; anyone been to a complex of temples? <--- temple complex, Pattadkal, Virupaksa temple, Pattadkal ---> Here its temples everywhere and the red-brown combination strike through wherever you go. The sculpting works amazes you to no end, reminiscing the fact that India indeed has a glorious past adorned with such great knowledge and heritage. Notable here is the Virupaksha temple; also the most beautiful of the temples here is built in the north Indian style akin to a few temples, which are built according to the north Indian kind of architecture.

<--- carvings at Pattadkal --->

Our next destination was Aihole, which is around 13kms from Pattadkal. Aihole was the first capital of the Chalukyas before Pulakeshi I moved the capital to Badami. There are several clusters of temples at Aihole to be seen unlike Pattadkal. Here also the rock-cut architectural tradition continues in the Ravanaphadi cave, <--- ravanphadi cave, aihole ---> which has a linga in the sanctum at the rear end of the hall. Its sculpted walls and side shrines are peopled with large figures and lovely motifs adorn the pillars and ceiling. <--- great dancing shiva, aihole ---> A great dancing Shiva appears here and the sculpture works needs to be seen to be believed. The swirling forms of two great snakes that he holds and the lovely images of the Sapta matrikas capture the graceful movements of the dancing Shiva. The best-known temple here is the photogenic Durga temple (I myself have seen this picture of the temple adorn many calendars and placards). <--- famous durga temple, aihole ---> Seeing through all these temples and the magnificent sculptures and architecture, we were so exhausted, amazed and drained out that only the butter-milk sold by the local vendors could rejuvenate us and bring us back to the 20th century. We took so much time that we could only cover Aihole and Pattadkal for the day, so we planned Badami and Hampi for the next day. We went back to our base at Badami and rested our drained out bodies for a more grueling day out in the sun the next day. January 27th 9am – ideally we had to be at our offices doing the grueling work, but we were freaking out here digging into the history that was unfolding like a fairy tale and amazed us to no end. Badami or Vatapi as it was known was the center of ancient Chalukyan glory. The first of the rock-cut shrines in a cave is a rare image of an eighteen-armed dancing Shiva (curse me as I’m unable to find out where this snap is stored). <--- cave temples at badami, agastyatheertha at badami ---> It’s a beautiful sculpture with Shiva waving his arms vigorously accompanied by musicians around with one foot of his securely on the ground and the other raised above. The second cave has images of Vishnu in his varaha and trivikrama incarnations. The third rock cut temple can be reached climbing a flight of 60 steps, this cave again denoted to Vishnu with carved images of narasimha and trivikrama avatars. The fourth is a Jain rock cut temple dating back to 12th century dedicated to Tirtankara Adinatha. We came down and went ahead to the side opposite to the caves where there is a museum, which holds quite a few rare sculptures, and carvings that probably could not be restored. We can walk up to after a series of round about flight of steps to reach the top of the peak from where a beautiful view of the entire Badami town is visible to the naked eye. The sight was not so rejuvenating as it was hot and humid and we quickly came back to undertake our next sojourn. <--- badami town view from the top ---> We had planned to go to Hampi from here, but were rudely awakened by the fact that there were no direct services from here. It was nearly evening as we spent time waiting for the connecting bus that would drop us half the way through to proceed ahead, but as said fortune favors the brave, a direct bus from a remote town to Hampi landed there, much to our amusement and relief. We boarded the bus and it left almost empty with 3 seats filled by us and a couple to other passengers for company. As the roads were good, reached Hampi by late evening after nearly 3-4 hours of smooth journey in the famed NWKRTC. We had planned to stay overnight at Hospet and then proceed the next morning to Hampi (as the rentals in Hampi are quite expensive), but we ran out of luck and we wasted nearly 3 hours searching for a place to spend the night, finally found a room with plentiful of mosquitoes and we woke up the next day with mosquito bites all over us. <--- groundnut ganesha, hampi ---> 28th January, being a Sunday still we woke up quite early and reached Hampi by 9am. Hampi is a magical place that draws us towards it quite often and never once are we bored of visiting this place, which we do again and again. <--- ugranarasimha, hampi; famed lotus mahal, hampi ---> Being a world heritage site has its own disadvantages with people, government and traders making the most of it and as a result the small town is generally crowded and with chaos. There is nothing special to describe about Hampi here that nobody knows, but still visiting all those ruins which have been / are being restored / renovated is itself fascinating and some sense of excitement and happiness engulfs us as we walk amidst the ruins. <--- ruins restoration, hampi; king's balance, hampi ---> Observing the queen’s palace, the king’s balance, the stables for the elephants and the horses, only one thing popped up in our minds, how would it have been then?? Totally refreshed and almost traveling back into the history made our bonding with our history all the more stable and we returned back with a hope that more and more young people visit these places to be aware of the history of this great land and the people who ruled here. <--- stone chariot, hampi ---> Coming back to my desk, as I am typing this travelogue, a thought passed through my mind, on one part were the lush green hillocks of the Kodachadri and the Mullaingiri where I had been and the other, the rocky hot terrains of the Badami, Aihole, Pattadkal and Hampi, we truly are blessed to be living amidst such great confluence of nature mixed with rich cultural heritage. Proud to be a part of this “One state – Many worlds”. <--- rocky scenery, hampi ---> Care for the nature and the nature cares for you!
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