The day started with breakfast at a new restaurant. Once we were filled up we we ready for the day.
It involved a long drive to reach Aihole. This road was good but still it was a 3 hours ride.
For those historically inclined, Aihole was the erstwhile 1st capital of the Chalukya Dynasty. Today it is a small town in the state of Karnataka. We reached the group of temples and as usual we were approached by a guide. Looking at the ancient structures, we decided to hire him after deciding the rate.
First he took us to the main temple of the complex whose outside walls were hugely eroded. Many of the sculptures are now almost gone due to the erosion. The major reason, other than being very old is that the temple is made out of sandstone, which is not a very stable stone especially over a considerable period of time.
The guide made us stand outside the temple as he gave a brief history of the town. As per one legend, after Lord Parshuram had had his revenge on the Kshatriyas for killing his father, he came down to the river Malaprabha and washed his blood-stained axe in its waters. This turned the river red. The washerwomen down the river saw this and screamed, “Ayyo, hole…” roughly translated as ‘Oh no, blood…” and that’s how the town got its name.
Aihole was also known as Aivalli, Ahivolal or Aryapura at various periods of its history. It has many ancient and medieval era Jain, Buddhist and Hindu monuments.
The guide further enlightened us that Aihole served as a college of architecture for various gifted artisans, who honed their skills here before branching out to other towns. You can say that Aihole is a cradle of Hindu temple architecture as more than 100 temples adorn the town.
Though it is called Durga temple, it is actually dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It owes its name to the ‘durg’ or fort which surrounded it alongwith other monuments. It dates back to the Chalukyan era.
Beautiful carvings in various stages of erosion adorn the outside walls of the temple. Other exquisite carvings are present on the pillars as well and three of them on three consecutive pillars grab your attention.
The first one is a couple but if you look closely, the woman has the face of a donkey or horse. The guide told us it denotes that love is blind.
Next is another couple, this time normal, and appearing to be totally in love with each other.
The third one is a family, a couple with a kid and the three pillars taken together tell a story progressing from blind love, to real love to a happy, married life. We were impressed.
The Durga temple is said to have inspired our parliament building as the rough design draft is the same, though the parliament building is on a much grand scale.
It seems the temple was most likely painted in its heyday as the colour is still visible faintly, but only if you look closely. The guide told us that it is a plant based colour.
The entrance to the temple has 5 vertical panels flanking the doorway (you can zoom and observe), a serpent is the first, followed by vegetation or creepers, followed by a pillar, then carvings of people and finally, vegetation (more in design form) again.
There is an ancient well in the same premises though no longer in use.
This is a very interesting monument as the structure is quite unlike any other temple. It is built with two sanctums and the structure reminds you of a wooden house. It contains a Shiva Linga and a Nandi and if my memory serves me right, it is the same temple where I saw the stone ladder. It also has the royal emblem of the Chalukyas carved on a pillar. It is named after a Muslim nobleman who had converted it into his residence.
In addition to the above two temples, the complex also has few other temples, the names of which I have forgotten, but are of equal beauty. One temple has the idol of the Sun God.
A small museum is also present on the premises.
After have a light lunch we reached Pattadakal town which is at a distance of@14 km. from Aihole.
Pattadakal is situated on the banks of the Malaprabha river. It is this town where the architectural prowess of the Chalukyas reached the zenith. Earlier it was called Pattada Kisuvolal which I am told, translates as ‘city of crown rubies’.
The main complex in Pattadakal is huge with manicured lawns. It consists of atleast 10 temples, one more grand than the other and all of them dedicated to Lord Shiva. These temples are a mix of Drawidian (south Indian) and Nagara (north Indian) styles of architecture. These were granted world heritage site status in 1987.
Though I am not very well versed with the two styles, I was told that there are 4 of each style and two are a combination of the two.
The temples in the complex are Kashivishwanatha temple, Galaganath temple, Sangameshwara temple, Mallikarjuna temple, Papanatha temple and the Virupaksha temple of which, the Virupaksha temple is the only living temple where daily worship still takes place.
All the temples are so grand and beautiful in their own way, no description would do justice. Let the photos talk.
Our next and final destination was Badami which is at a distance of 21 km. Here we visited the carved caves and did not visit any other tourist places.
Badami, also called Vatapi, was the capital of the Chalukyas from the 6th century to the 8th century.
It’s a beautiful place with the caves carved into the sandstone rocks on one side with a peaceful pond, the Agatsya lake opposite, small temples and a masjid dotting the surrounding landscape.
The ASI has made good arrangements and first and foremost we had to buy tickets to visit the caves.
Then we were given the most important instruction; don’t carry any handbag or carrybag to the caves as the monkeys are quite aggressive and there is every chance of the bag being snatched out of the hands. So we kept everything in the taxi and proceeded towards flight of stairs leading upto the caves.
The first cave temple is dedicated to the Nataraja.
Cave 2 & 3
Cave 2 & 3 are dedicated to Lord Vishnu and the various avatars of Lord Vishnu, whose sculptures adorn the two caves.
All the three caves are connected by flight of stairs and so is the fourth cave, which is dedicated to Lord Mahavira, the founder of Jainism.
This time however a group of monkeys literally blocked our path. One of the tourists had carried his hand bag and now this was in one monkey’s hands. It was sitting there, carefully unzipping the bag, then reaching its hand inside, and sometimes its head, and taking out all the clothes, toothpaste, etc., observing them minutely and discarding the non-edible things.
It was especially hilarious when he fetched an underwear from the depths of the bag, observing it by holding it with its hands raised, and then dumping it on the ground. All this while, the owner of the bag was looking embarrassed and almost pleading with the monkey to return the bag.
And since there were few more monkeys sitting on the flight of stairs leading to the last cave, it was we who lost our nerve, and started on our way back to the taxi. But the monkeys were not done yet.
As soon as we approached the taxi, one monkey jumped on the windshield and refused to get down. We had no other option but to wait till it got bored and descended from the car.
Since it was already 4.30 pm. by now, and we were tired and another 3 hours journey loomed ahead, we cancelled all other plans and proceeded towards Hospete to our resort.