My visit to the famous Cave Temples of Badami on a glorious afternoon on 11 November last year was chronicled last month [see: 63) Rock-cut cave temples of Badami and surroundings – Personal Photo Album Part 18 (Jan 13)] with a promise that I would write about my visits to the other two places that morning in a later post. I am doing so rather sooner than intended principally because these two places, Pattadkal and Aihole (pronounced eye-ho-le), together with Badami form a trio of closely related and conveniently located (see the Google map of the region below, marking out these three places in relation to Bagalkot at top left) tourist spots in the Bagalkot district of Karnataka, all relics of the great Chalukyan empire that ruled most parts of south central India between the sixth and twelfth centuries.
My group had arrived at Badami the previous night after visiting Bijapur and other places on the way and checked into a good hotel. These visits, which included the famous Gol Gumbuz, will be the subject of a future blog post. Early in the morning we wasted sometime on our breakfast and headed for Pattadkal which we reached in very hazy and overcast conditions after driving for about an hour on a road that is quite an insult to the great stone temple complex that greeted us.
In Kannada, Pattadkal literally means ‘coronation stone’ and was once the capital of the Chalukyas and the place where the early kings of the dynasty used to be crowned. It lies on the banks of river Malaprabha in Bagalokot district about 25 km from Badami. What the visitor finds today is a group of stone temples and monuments, all located close to each other within a large rectangular complex superbly maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India as a UNESCO Heritage Site since 1987. With its rich greenery and sprawling lawns in the midst of a nondescript village, it looked to me more like an oasis in a desert. The place represents a harmonious blend of architecture of the Nagara (north Indian) and Dravidian (south Indian) styles in its many distinctive structures.
The biggest and best known of these structures is the Virupaksha temple, built by Queen Lokamahadevi in 745 AD to commemorate her husband Vikramaditya’s victory over the Pallavas of Kanchi. Other important ones are the Sangameshwara temple, the Mallikarjuna temple, Kashiviswanatha temple, the Galaganatha temple, and a nearby Jain temple.
Here is a view of the complex from near the entry gate capturing the greenery in the foreground with three of the major monuments standing out against a hazy background at a distance.
[As in my previous albums, all pictures are in high resolution and can be blown up to their full size by clicking on a picture and opening it in a separate window]
The next picture is a panoramic view of the complex from a closer vantage point showing all three monuments besides two others on the far right. All but one of the humans in the picture belong to my group (including the friend and guide who looked after all our needs throughout the day) and provide a sort of relief to the overall view, something that might not have been needed if bright and sunny conditions had existed.
Here is a view of the Galaganatha temple on the left and the Papanatha temple on the right, with the tree in the foreground and the lawn around it both enhancing the beauty of the view.
Here is a view that highlights the rich green lawn and the flora in the foreground as much as the three monuments in the background:
The next picture shows the Sangameshwara temple in the right foreground, the view again accentuated by the rich lawn around it.
Here is a view of the famous Virupaksha temple:
Here is another view of the Virupaksha temple along with the rock ‘Victory Pillar’ nearby on the right that carries some significant inscriptions in old Kannada.
Despite the gloomy weather that also affected the quality of my pictures to a considerable extent, the visit to Pattadkal was both memorable and enjoyable for us. Our parting memory of it is etched in the next picture as we walked out of the complex on a paved path lined with some more serenely beautiful flora and greenery.
Our next destination was the sleepy village of Aihole, a much shorter distance but on a road even worse than the one leading up to Pattadkal.
Described as a cradle for temple architecture in the country, this place village was used in the Chalukyan period as a laboratory of sorts for experimenting with temple building in different styles and sizes. About twenty temple complexes housing about six times that many temples in all have been identified in Aihole. Since we had given ourselves only about ninety minutes for this visit we had to contend with seeing only the more important complexes.
It was still hazy and overcast when we reached the place and spent most of our time at the imposing Durga temple complex seen partially in the following photograph. The plant with its shimmering leaves and flowers in the foreground attracted my attention as much as the temple itself in the background and I have tried to do justice to both.
My next picture shifts its attention at a different angle squarely to the iconic and photogenic Durga temple that would have looked far more impressive but for the unavoidable haze surrounding it. The pillared corridor surrounding the shrine contributes greatly to the majesty of this monument. There are beautiful carvings on the walls and ceilings, both in the interior and on the exterior.
Here is a rear view of the same monument, with the intricate carvings both inside and outside standing out in considerable detail.
Stepping inside, I took this picture of the interior showcasing the ceiling as well as the pillars. The effects of centuries of aging are obvious.
Very close by is the Ladkhan temple housing a Shiva lingam shown in the next picture. Its two tiered ceiling gives it a very distinctive appearance.
Just across the Durga temple complex on the other side of the road is this Ambigera Gudi complex, the well maintained lawns adding value to the sight.
On our way back, I took the following picture showing the Jyothirlinga temple with the trilingual tablet describing the place standing out nearly as impressively as the monument itself inside the well cordoned complex.
My final picture of this album shows a structure housing a stone statue of Nandi (the bull) in the foreground inside the Jyothirlinga complex, with the temple itself seen in the background.
Unlike Badami and Pattadkal, Aihole is yet to be bestowed the ‘UNESCO Heritage Site’ status. Two possible reasons are the scattered nature of the monuments and their general state of preservation, many of them in rather decrepit condition. Nevertheless, Aihole commands as much attention as Pattadkal for its historic and cultural importance, a thought that was not lost on us as we drove back to beckoning Badami.
Before the all-important visit to the famed cave temples and surroundings of picturesque Badami that awaited us in the afternoon (and chronicled in my earlier blog post), there was an equally important interlude – a traditional and sumptuous lunch at the ancestral home of our local host and guide who was also our constant companion throughout the day. For good measure, nature lifted its veil and showed us Badami at its very best.