Friday, August 3, 2012

A Chalukyan Pilgrimage I - Aihole

Durga Complex
From the side seat of Sholapur Express, the long flat land on both sides of the track covered with black soil represents a typical Karnataka village. A person sitting opposite told me that after taking a long vacation there was some rain on his part of Karnataka.

At Bhagalkot

I reached Bhagalkot railway station around 8.30 in the morning. My plan was to reach Aihole first, continue to Pattadakkal and in the end visit Badami. But according to many people I consulted in Bhagalkot it was better to go to Badami first and then to Aihole. After many unsuccessful attempts with a number of buses I got one direct bus to Badami. If you are coming from South the best way to visit all these places is by taking to Sholapur or Bijapur from Yeshwantpur railway station and get down at Badami.

Badami - On the way to Aihole

Around 10am I reached Badami bus stand, beautiful red sandstone decorates one side of the town. Even though it was a retracing the journey back to Badami was an interesting one. Majority of men wearing white dhoti, white kurtha and Gandhi cap. It was a unique experience to see many people in Gandhi caps. Now-a-day you can't see this much Gandhi caps even in Congress rally. On the way we overtook so many bullock carts - tractors are indeed very less in number. Many girls were pedalling their cycles to school in full school uniform. In fact in one of the school on the way - Digambareshwar High School - had a huge collection of cycles.

Houses on both sides of the road are small - many had one or two rooms only. In between many students boarded our bus using their free pass - One of the good initiatives by Karnataka RTC. I moved some years back in my memory lane - in my school days - we got concessions on almost all private buses but not in Kerala RTC. As the road was not a nationalized in that part of Kerala, government run RTC never even bothered to provide concessions for students!!!

Next direct bus to Aihole was around 1.30pm but there were so many small tempo travellers running shuttles. After checking with some people I got in one such vehicle - 20 Rs to Pattada Kallu (Pattadakkal). It took some time to start; I never imagined that that much people can travel in that small vehicle!!!
Ravana Pahadi

There were so many young and old men, women and kids. Men who were old were wearing white and white dress with Gandhi cap. Young men were wearing shirt and pant. Women appeared generally in sari; however some girls in their early twenties gave a chance to Churidar. Women had a number of jewelleries in ear as well as in neck. Apart from piercing the lower part of the ear, they were also wearing jewellery by piercing the upper part of the outer ear as well. Lady sitting opposite to me was wearing a special type of necklace, I turned around, and many women sitting behind me (except one) were wearing necklace of similar kind.

We crossed Badami railway station as we continue our journey more and more people came in. One side of the road was full of sunflower fields, after some we reached another junction. Here many people got down and the vehicle started sunning in seating capacity. But in the next stop, one farmer came with a number of Urea sacks. 1, 2, 3...7 big sacks full of Urea. Because of this extra passenger I was not even able to move my legs any more. With not so comfortable smell urea we continued our journey. Farmer also jumped in and sat opposite to me happily looking to his urea possessions, smiling....

We finally reached Pattadakkal World heritage site. As Aihole was some more kilometres away from here I had to take a shared auto to reach there.
Aihole Inscription

Finally, I am in Aihole. Situated near Malaprabha River in Bhagalkot district, this ancient capital of Chalukyans is more than 500km away from the current capital of Karnataka - Bangalore. It was a major city and fist capital of early Chalukyas. They built over 125 temples in this area.  Later Pulakesi I moved the capital to Badami which was then known as Vatapi. Aihole has been described as one of the cradles of temple architecture in India. Some temples are dated as back as 5th century CE.

Durga Complex, Museum and Temples

After buying the ticket from the gate, I walked towards Durga Complex. This is not a temple of Durga; the name came because of its vicinity to the fort. This temple was built by 'Aatada Ale Komarasingha' during the days of Vikramaditya II. Durga temple is in the form of Gajaprishtha with exterior narrating Ramayana scenes. From here I went to museum located close to this temple (there is separate ticket for museum - 5 Rs).

After visiting other temples in the area - Suryanarayana Gudi, Gaudaragudi, Chakra Gudi, Lad khan temple, Ambigere Gudi, Shri Huchchimalli temple etc - I moved towards Ravana Pahadi cave temples.

Ravana Pahadi

This 6th century rock cut Shiva shrine has a tall dancing Shiva with ten hands and equally tall Saptamatrikas observing Shiva's dance along with rows of beautiful ganas, varaha, Mahishasuramardini and other figures. Bhoodevi's and Nandi's sculptures are also present here.

From RavanaPahadi cave temples, I walked straight to Aihole Fort. Jyotirlinga temple group and Mallikarjuna temple complex are one the sides of this road. We have to go through a number of steps to reach the top. There is nothing other than the reconstructed wall by ASI which indicates there was a fort.

Meguti Jain temple and Aihole Inscription

The famous Meguti Jain temple is here. The famous Aihole inscription - in Sanskrit language and old Kannada script - dated 634 CE, is on the walls this Jain temple. After walking in and out of the temple finally I saw the inscription on the outer side of temple wall. After spending some time there I walked towards the Aihole junction to catch a vehicle to Pattadakkal. There are some more temple complexes in this area.

Please note the frequency of buses is very low. You have to depend on hired/shared vehicle. After checking with so many people and waiting for long time I got a shared auto to Pattadakkal.


How to reach: The best way to reach here is by getting down at Badami Railway Station and then using either bus/ private vehicles.

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