We started from Badami to Mahakuta, a group of Shiva temples which is 12kms from Badami.
Mahakuta is sacred place for Veerashaivas(Lingayats), it is an ancient temple which has Shiva Linga in the Pushkarani itself. We spent some 20minutes here and continued to Pattadakal. Mahakuta to Pattadakal is a short ride of 10kms
Pattadakal means place where the kings were coroneted, it is a UNESCO world heritage site with a group of 10temples. The masterpiece architecture is built expansively with exemplary forms of Dravidian and Nagara styles and was a flourishing and important town of the Chalukyan times during 500-750AD. Though much of the previous glamor as quoted by locals is lost to vandalism and nature, what remains is still awe inspiring.
Pattadakal in ancient times was known as “”Pattada Kisuvolal” or “Rakthapura”which means valley of red soil.
The Western Chalukya dynasty founded by Pulakeshi I in the 6th century was a powerful dynasty that ruled for nearly 2 centuries where there was all round development. Those were peaceful and prosperous times that people excelled in the fields of art, architecture, literature, administration, socio-religious and economics.
There are no decent hotels in the vicinity and the only source of food was from the street vendors who sold North Karnataka variety of Jolada Roti and Curry.
We were forced to live on tender coconuts and soft drinks.
If you are planning to visit Mahakuta,
Pattadakal and Aihole in one go, it is strongly
advisable that you carry your own food(get it
packed from your Badami hotel) as there is
literally nothing here in Pattadakal and Aihole.
Next in the list was Aihole, the much awaited place for me, Pattadakal to Aihole is some 25kms which is a one hour drive on the dusty lanes by the Jowar fields.
Previously these fields were considered for construction purposes but the ASI has intervened and stopped any construction near the proximity of the ancient monuments.
Bleating flocks of sheep, open scape of fields as far as your eyes could see welcomed us on the dusty lanes with Jowar and onions harvests spread out by the roadsides to dry in the scorching sun.
Aihole is an ancient rustic town on the banks of the Malaprabha River in the dusty abode of Bagalkot district.
Aihole is derived originally from the term “Ayyavole” or “Ayyagala Hole”, Ayya means learned one and Hole means stream, so Ayyahole literally means a place of Brahmins. In fact the word ‘Ayyavole” is a corrupted version of the Sanskrit word “Aryapura”, Arya means Pundit and Pura means a place or town.
There is a legendary story behind the origin of the name Aihole, the story goes like this….
“Aryapura was ruled by a mighty king named Kartaviryarjun, once on his expedition to the forest, Sage Jamadagni invited the king for extending his hospitality as it was customary in those days to for hermits in the jungles to host and serve the king when he passed by the forests, the king was very pleased and equally surprised at the swift service extended, upon enquiring the sage revealed that it was due to the divine powers of the God sent cow “Kaamadhenu”. The king demanded that the divine cow be handed over to him but the sage refused, Kartaviryarjun in his fury killed Jamadagni. Parashurama who was the son of Jamadagni was furious on hearing this and set out to avenge his father’s death, also those were the days when the tyranny of the Kshtriyas on the sages had become rampant hence Parashurama decided to cleanse the world by destroying the whole of Kshatriya race. After the killings, he came to Malaprabha river to clean his bloodstained axe upon which the entire river had turned red and he exclaimed _ Ayyi Holi”.
Another angle is “Ai or Aiyoo is an exclamation and Holi in Kannada means stream/river”, thus the town got its name.
Aihole was the cradle of temple architecture during the prosperous rule of the Chalukyas between the 4th and 8th century. It was an important educational and religious capital that housed many scholars and saints. Varaha(Boar avatar) was the emblem of the Chalukyas, which bears similarity to the Vijayanagara emblem.
The Chalukyan empire extended across today’s Karnataka, AndraPradesh and Maharastra and Karnataka was called as Kuntala Desha as it was a flourishing trade center, the inscriptions in Aihole bear testimony to it.
Aihole is a town full of temples however the main attraction is the Durga temple complex that houses several little architectural wonders. Although the sanctum deities are mostly Shiva Lingas, some mutilated, some missing, the inside of the temple porches/entrances have a sculpture of Garuda with folded hands which is a symbolic trait of Vishnu temples, meaning that these were originally Vishnu temples. No deities are there and the ones remaining are disturbingly destroyed.
The Indian Parliament design was inspired from this ancient architectural marvel of the Durga temple.
The apsidal shaped monument is clearly one of the finest structures of the 7th century. The pillars have carved figurines of Mahishasuramardhini, Varaha, Vishnu, Shiva and Ardhnarishwara sculptures, some figures are plucked out from the pillar and even the dilapidated sign boards and information boards need a facelift.
Some of the other temples surrounding the main monument mostly have low ceilings and they are unfortunately named after shepherds and nomads who occupied the place before the place was taken over by ASI. Not much study seems to be done on these sandstone marvels that lie in a pitiable environment. There is also a ASI museum within the temple complex.
Another interesting stone carving that I came across here is the MAKARA carving or the Makara Torana
Makara is a strange beast with a crocodile’s face, lion’s feet and a body bigger than an elephant with snakes emerging from its mouth, whatever it indicated I could not get any information about this strange depiction of art form which may even be mythological or symbolic to the spirits and lifestyles in those reigning times.
If you are a first timer then you have to hire a guide lest you don’t understand a thing and might miss out on some important aspects but since this was my second visit we were content pretending to be amateur historians with our own deciphering and interpretations.
Next we headed to Ravanaphadi, which is a unique and very interesting rock cut cave. It is also a 6th century marvel, with a hall and pillars and a deity chamber inside. It has large sculptures of ten armed Shiva in a dancing pose on one side and Harihara on the other side.
You can get a good view of Aihole Durga temple from here. There are some 28-30 ASI recognized temples around but most of them are in a deplorable condition.
Even in the immediate vicinity of the main monuments things are not very inspiring,
the irony is that although the cluster is maintained by ASI, the surroundings are shockingly filthy with no food or facilities for tourists, also many squalid shants are lined up dangerously close to the monument. The roads are horrendously dusty and except for couple of main tourist attractions the rest of the hundreds of temples lay in filth with narrow connecting roads where pigs soaked in slushy swamps welcome you and one cannot even think of getting down to enter the temple premises.
After a hectic day we headed back from Aihole to Badami which is 36kms and could not wait to have some delicious food at 5pm.
After which, we visited the Banashankari temple which is 5kms from Badami.
Located by the side of the
Harishchandra Thirtha the temple
is dedicated to ‘Banashankari’ or
‘the deity of forest’.
Bana or Vana means forest.
The goddess is also known as ‘Shaakaambari’ meaning the one who wears a garland of vegetables.
This goddess of nature and vegetation is offered 108 vegetables by the local devotees who regard her as their Kula Devi as she had emerged from the Yagna Kunda and saved
them from the demon Durgamaasura.
She was the revered deity of Rastrakutas and Chalukyas. But after the white man came here to explore he engaged in his quest of lies and tirade against intrinsic beliefs and values of Hinduism. Today in the several branches of Banashankari temples, the devotees no more offer vegetables but sacrifice animals as they have no knowledge of the very meaning of Shaaka Ambari. We took blessings from the eight armed Devi seated resplendently on a lion and called it a day.
That was the end of our 4day architectural extravaganza in Badami, Aihole and Pattadakal.
The next morning we were driving back to Bengaluru.