The Independence-day long weekend finally turned out to be the occasion for the much-needed and always-planned-for-but-never-executed get-away for the two of us. Though ideally we would have much preferred a quiet restful holiday in the hills or the home-stays, alas! there were also long-pending social obligations to be honoured. So as the best bet, we decided to combine socio-business with pleasure! 😀
And that’s how the trip to Badami – Pattadakal – Aihole and Hampi happened to come about.
We hired a taxi and drew up an itinerary to visit the above-mentioned on the first two of the three days of our holiday.
Day 1 – The plan was to cover Badami – Banashankari – Mahakoota – Pattadakal – Aihole – Koodala Sangama and Almatti dam. We managed to visit all the attractions except Almatti.
Badami – the now sleepy town was once the capital of the mighty Chalukyas who ruled most of Peninsular India at the peak of their regime. It is located at the beginning of a ravine amidst red sand-stone hills of Northern Karnataka. Set against this back-drop are four majestic caves rock-cut into the gigantic red sand-stone cliff-faces. The first cave is dedicated to Lord Shiva and has some amazing carvings of his various forms like Nataraja and Ardhanareeshwara – there are interesting stories woven around these sculptures which an enthusiastic guide will narrate, in case you avail his services.
The second and the third caves are in honour of Lord Vishnu and the fourth is a Jain cave with carvings of several Jain teerthankaras.
Banashankari – from Badami we headed to the temple town of Banashankari. This was more of a village with just one main street leading to the temple and typically lined with the small shops selling flowers, coconuts and other pooja paraphernalia. The place was quite crowded, it being the day of the Varamahalakshmi festival. The place is supposed to be teeming in the months of Jan – Feb when the annual jaathre is held and people walk from as far as Ilkal to offer their prayers, we heard. The temple itself is quite typical with the deity and there is also the customary kalyani/stepped tank in front.The Mahakooteshwara temple, built in the Dravidian style, is believed to be one of the oldest Chalukyan temples and Lord Shiva is still worshipped here to this day. The temple complex houses several fig trees and their hanging roots lend a sheltered soothing atmosphere to the interiors of the complex. There is a fresh water pond inside the complex and also a Vishnu Pushkarni just outside. Legend has it that one takes a dip in the pushkarni, offers one’s prayers to the Ganapathi before going inside in the same wet clothes for another dip in the fresh water tank and worship of the Lord.
Pattadakal – is another historic site which used to be the second most important city of the Chalukyas and the site of royal ceremonies like their coronations.It is home to some of the most beautiful sandstone temples with a unique combination of the Dravidian and Nagara (Northern) style of architecture. Several of these seem to be experimental in nature and it is deemed to have been the site for study of development of South Indian architecture – other dynasties are said to have borrowed ideas from here. While all the temples are distinctly different in style and beauty, the main Virupaksha temple, the only one where Lord Shiva is worshipped now, is the best in Dravidian style. Opposite this temple is a huge Nandi facing the lord – which seems to be a latest addition, as part of the work carried out by the ASI. This temple is supposed to be a replica of the Kanchi Kailasanatha temple and was built by the queen Lokeshwari in honour of King Vikramaditya II’s victory in the battle against the Pallavas. Isn’t that interesting? Imagine, a queen getting a temple built in honour of her husband’s victory!! 😀
The Galganatha temple, with its unique gopura, is the most beautiful of the temples in the Nagara style.
Aihole – after drinking in the temple sights at Pattadakal we made our way to Aihole. This is home to a variety of temples built in totally differing architectural forms – a total of around 125temples are believed to be here. This village is actually dotted with a collection of temples located within small complexes. The main complex or the museum comprises of the Durgi temple and the LadKhan temple. The Durgi temple is the most photogenic and is believed to be built in the Buddhist chaitya style and a pillared corridor runs all round the temple housing the inner mantapas with beautiful carvings. There is an interesting story which is associated with the place, about how it came to be called so – Parashurama after one of his conquests is believed to have washed his blood-soaked axe in the river waters of Malaprabha on whose banks the village stands. That is supposed to have turned the entire river-water red, which when witnessed by the village people, elicited the cry – ‘Ayyo hole!!’ – which became Aihole and the name stuck on!
Koodalasangama – From Aihole we headed back and visited the birthplace of the social reformist Basavanna. This small town has grown into a full-fledged pilgrim centre thanks to the contributions and efforts of a localLingayat leader. Koodalasangama lies at the point of confluence of the rivers Krishna and Malaprabha. The temple has been built beautifully right at the point of confluence with a flight of 120 steps leading down to a Shiva-linga at the point where Basavanna is believed to have attained eikya/ nirvana. The temple-city also houses a huge Basava mantapa – an auditorium to seat thousands of spectators and also a shrine with their statues, built to honour all the vachanakaaras.
The sun had long set and we had to wind up the sight-seeing for the day and had to fore-go the Almatti dam visit for another day.Day-2 was going to be all Hampi and most definitely requires a separate post – to do justice to the glory of what was the grand Vijayanagar empire!