February 8, 2016

Heritage Tour Of Karnataka : Badami, Aihole and Pattadakal

Karnataka has abundant sites which oozes with culture and represents the heritage of the state. Hence on this particular road trip, we planned to cover all the sites which have entered in world heritage list or almost part of it, by making it to the tentative world heritage list. Therefore on a 4 day trip, 3 days was reserved to cover all the major heritage sites in northern Karnataka, which included Badami, Aihole, Pattadakal, Bijapur and Hampi. Since the distance between Bangalore and our first destination i.e. Badami was quite substantial, we decided to cover half of the distance till Davangere on the previous night itself, thanks to the effortless night driving on the 4 lane highway. The following day we covered the later part of the 500km journey from Bangalore.


Badami , Aihole and Pattadakal are all quite nearby , but unfortunately the only place where one can find accommodation is in Badami. There are only a couple of decent enough hotels in this town , and it pains to see the total lack of empathy by the Govt Of Karnataka in setting up and maintaining infrastructure to these heritage structures. The roads are pretty bad and totally neglected. But since the distance between each of these sites is just 20km , we were able to manage. On day 1, we reached Badami at noon, checked into the hotel, had lunch and then decided to explore Pattadakal and Aihole, and reserved Badami for the next day. These regions are quite dry and reminds one of a desert landscape. One feels sorry for the local inhabitants who lead a very frugal life and one can see poverty everywhere. This is in sharp contrast with the regions around Hampi, wherein you would be greeted with lush green fields thanks to the Tungabhadra reservoir.

After a 20km drive we landed at Pattadakal. This was after getting stuck for half an hour at Banashankari due to some village fair. Thankfully while returning we found an alternate route. There are a group of monuments by the bank of river Malaprabha. The group of monuments of Badami, Aihole and Pattadakal are considered to be the cradle of Hindu temple architecture throughout the Indian subcontinent. One can even find a temple dating all the way back to 450 AD, which according to some estimates is the oldest standing hindu temple. Pattadakal has temples dating back to the 8th century AD and has temples which represent both the Dravidian (South Indian) as well as the Indo-Aryan (North Indian) style of temple complexes. This UNESCO world heritage site was built during the  Chalukyan empire and have withstood as a mute spectator, when generation after generations of humans have come and gone.

Aihole-Durga Temple

Lad Khan Temple
We spent close to an hour and half at this site, admiring the beauty of these group of monuments. The most imposing temple being Virupaksha temple and one interesting thing to notice is that, in all the temples they used to worship Shiva. The ASI has maintained these sites quite well and these temple structures are surrounded by a lush green lawn which is in sharp contrast with the monuments they adorn.

From Pattadakal we moved towards Aihole, along a very bumpy road. The road just near the entrance of the village of Aihole is in real bad condition. One thing which irritated us a lot during our trips to these world heritage sites,  were the countless number of people trying force us to take them along as a guide and this included children who were barely 5 to 6 years old. Aihole in comparison to Pattadakal was a bit of a let down. The only things which interested me was the unique shape of the Durga temple and the Ladkhan temple. Ladkhan temple is believed to be one of the oldest surviving temples in the Indian subcontinent dating all the way back to 450 AD. After spending some time over here, including the mildly interesting ASI museum we reached back to Badami by nightfall.

We got up early next day and the objective in the day's first half was to explore the town of Badami itself. We first made our way to the cave temples of Badami which dates back to 8th century AD. There are 4 man made cave temples and one natural cave one can find along the 400 meter climb up the rocks flanking the town of Badami. There is a cave dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu, Jainism and the grandest of them all dedicated to Maha Vishnu. The natural cave is dedicated to Buddhism. The purpose of these cave temples was to allow saints to meditate in peace in their own respective temple of belief.  It must have been a hell lot of an effort to carve out these temples from huge rocks, including the pillars which come in various aesthetic shapes and sizes. The MahaVishnu temple comes 4th in the order of climb from the starting point. This cave temple has a huge hall adorned with attractive looking pillars which are carved from the rock itself. The most imposing of the carving on the walls is that of Mahavishnu, which was visually stunning.

Mahavishnu Cave
From the Jain Cave temple, one gets the birds eye view of Bhootanatha temple and the Agastya tank which dates back to the 5th century AD. Hence after finishing our exploration of the cave temples we made our way to the Bhootanatha temple on foot. This route first takes us through the slums of Badami and then along the serene banks of this ancient lake. Explored the temple and its surrounding for an hour or so including the ASI museum, which again was mildly interesting. Post exploration we made our way towards Bijapur , which I would be detailing in the sequel of this blog.

Route taken :

Bangalore-Davangere-Hubli-Badami-Pattadakal-Aihole (Avoided Chitradurga to Hospet route due to some bad reviews)


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