The Lost Treasures of Chalukyas Part - I

Badami was on my bucket list for long time.

In July 2011, during my Hampi trip, I had tried to go visit this town but time had played major role then.

As I have vowed, this year is going to be the year of travels and fulfilling my dreams, Badami topped the list.

There wasn't much of a prologue before this trip. I asked some of my friends and two of them agreed to join in.

However, due to personal commitments Deshmukh kaka backed out at the eleventh hour. My car is pretty old (14 years plus) now hence I was worried if it could sustain long distance hauls of this trip. These were the only two hassles I saw on the eve of the trip.

25 March 2015

It was 5:45 AM of 25 March 2015; we left my place and drove on NH4. There wasn't much rush in those early hours and we covered good distance before halting for a quick pit stop. Kamat Hotel near Satara served tasty Idli - Chutney for breakfast. (They also had a black female Labrador <3)

The road till we pass Satara is ok ok types but ahead of Satara you get a feeling as if you are driving in heaven. Not only the condition of road is good but the both
The banks of the roads are decorated with trees to soothe your eyes. I was driving at 110 km per hour when we crossed Nipani and entered Karnataka. Now we had to slow down as it was time to explore the interiors of North Karnataka on our way to Badami.

I had made a list of towns we would pass through hence the problem of GPS fail did not trouble us much. We did another small pit stop of Cane Juice at Sankeshwar. The roads were mostly empty and we were in Badami at about 4:15 PM. At about 4:30 we checked in at Hotel Rajsangam bang opposite to Bus Station. 

First thing after check in was to refuel ourselves and freshening up. We went back to exploring the town on foot at about 5:15.

We were informed by the locals that the entry for the cave temples is closed at 5:30. So we knew we did not have much time on hand, so we headed towards the main village and market. After a detailed scrutiny of market we found one shop which sold us the sunscreen.

The residential area of the town is right behind the market. We decided to explore the day today life of this medieval town. The kids were playing on streets and many were amused by my camera. There were old ladies sitting outside their houses and discussing day today life. These ladies also were fascinated by camera and posed enthusiastically. 

One of these was a middle-aged lady who invited us to visit her house. The house is all made from local stones and is around 200 years old. She proudly showed us
around. Far away from touch of contemporary architecture this was definitely a soothing site. The cute young daughter of this lady was also named as Shraddha and we made an instant connection. We spent good half an hour at their place & learnt to say “we don't speak Kannada” in Kannada (Kannada barala), We exchanged our phone numbers and waved bye. 

We headed towards the gates of the Cave Temples. Here we met some of the locals waiting to enter the mosque for evening namaj. They informed us that the cave temples are opened at 6 AM and closed at 6 PM. They also showed us the way to the Ticket Counters. After this quick chat we made our way to the Agastyatirthya, a natural reservoir secured by stepped walls. We spent some time on the steps of the lake before returning to the hotel.

We had a good dinner at a local restaurant before surrendering to the sleep.

We had expected it to be cooler in night but the room was as good as hot oven and we were almost sleepless entire night.
The Town of Badami on the bank of Agastyatirthya

26 March 2015

We woke up pretty early, Had breakfast and moved out at about 8 AM. First stop was at Badami Cave Temples. The caves are situated in a hill known as South Fort. The entry to the South fort is closed. We were charged Rs. 5 per head and Rs. 25 per camera. The guy at the ticket window, The gate keeper and couple of locals cautioned us about the monkeys around.

There are 4 caves dedicated to Nataraja, Vishnu Avataaras, Paravasudeva and Jain Tirthankaras.

The Nataraja at the entrance of the cave
At the entrance of first cave a Nataraja is carved. This lifesized image has 9 left and 9 right hands and the permutaions of poses of both hands can lead to 81 dance poses. This was mind blowing. I salute the unknown artisan for this legacy. The cave also has a many other carvings including a Shivalinga inside the sanctum.

Cave two is cave of Vishnu Avataras. The walls and the ceilings proudly bear the images of 9 avataras of Lord Vishnu.

Cave three is the largest of the group houses giant sized images of Lord Vishnu seated on a coiled serpent. There are highly expressive figures of Vaishnava Pantha deities. This cave also has an inscription indicating that the images were carved by Mangalesha during the rein of Kirthivarman. The date is 578 AD.

The last cave, is dedicated to Jain tirthankaras, and is full if images like Parshwa, Suparshwa, Yakshas etc.

These days the caves are guarded by the watchmen who also double up as guides at times. 

I was missing my friend Jessicca and the beautiful memories of Hampi trip made me nostalgic.

When I was at Hampi, I had a simple point and shoot camera and this time I had rented a DSLR.  It was very first time I was handling DSLR all by
myself and was learning a lot new. As a back up I had requested my buddy to use my point and shoot camera too to avoid loss of images which she handled well. The long practice of Manual Mode on my point and shoot camera has helped me understand the aspects of photography. So, using the DSLR felt much like a cake walk, Except that SLR was way too heavy.

It was a pleasure to see the carvings. Any sensible mind would be spellbound by the creativity and hard word the artisans must have done.

Right at the first cave we met a huge group of people who tried to speak to us and with our newly acquired vocabulary we informed Kannada barala! Yet they insisted on being photographed by and with us. I was amused by their enthusiasm.

After cave temples, we headed to the Museum at the base of the North Fort. This small Museum is filled with artifacts from the ancient times.

Lower Shivalaya as seen from Upper Shivalaya
Now it was time for the much awaited North Fort. This fort is also managed by Archaeological Survey of India. The well cobbled path takes us to the Lower Shivalaya which may have been a Ganesha Temple. The upper Shivalaya is situated on the top of the North Fort and has carvings of stories from Mahabharata and ramayana. Upper Shivalaya and couple of other places in between. The only canon of fort still guards the town and The crowded town of Badami completes the landscape. The ruins are mesmerizing. One can only imagine about the rich culture and heritage of this corner of the world.

The not so well trodden path behind the fort brought us down near a cave at the backside of the fort and finally lead us to the Bhootnath Group of Temples.
 
The main Temple from the Group of Bhootnath Temples
The main temple of this group is constructed on a platform submersed in the lake. It must be quiet a site during monsoons. The security guard of this temple was a
friendly chap and he guarded us well against the monkeys and showed us around. Behind the Bhootnath Temple, There are 2 cave temples which we would have never known if he had never suggested.

One of these caves houses a sheshshayi Vishnu and another one houses a Buddha in meditation.

We were not satisfied but the hungry tummies insited the return to the modern civilization. When I checked the time it was already 2 PM. Fortunately we found a dugdug near the museum. The driver of this dugdug was friendly young lad and his dugdug was nicely decorated. He dropped us near the bus station and charged us a fair amount. It was a pleasure of not being looted in spite of the language barrier.

Now back in town, we had decent lunch at Hotel Royal Deluxe. Here we learnt to say Majjige, kannada word for buttermilk. I was wondering if my friend was tired and wanted to rest. (Also did not want to take a risk with the heat and was more cautious due to previous experiences of whims and fancies of co-travellers.) Thankfully, she insisted on going to Pattadakkal. I was relieved by her enthusiasm and was more than happy to drive off.

The drive from Badami to Pattadakal is mostly lonely with few villages along the road. We also passed by diversions to Banashankari & Mahakuta.  
 
Pattadakal Panorama

At about 4 PM we reached Pattadakal. On the way, she also noticed a few other famous sites. We ignored going there as we were more interested in seeing the Mallikarjun Group of Temples.

The temple complex consists of several temples built during 8th Century by a chalukyan kings. The site is well maintained by ASI and has an entry ticket of rs.5 per head.
 
They did not charge entry fee for cameras. It was an eye soothing site on a sunny afternoon with lots of trees and lawn. There are about 8 temples in the entire
complex. Virupaksha, Mallikarjuna, Sangameshwara, Galaganatha, Kashi Vishveshwara, Papanatha,  Jambulinga and Kadasiddheshwara Temple.

Additionally, there is a museum which had closed by the time we reached. ( We werent much keen to visit it either.) I was admiring the architecture and the craftsmanship of the temples and almost forgot to use camera. This is when my buddy reminded me that we were there not only to explore the lost treasures but also to learn photography. Then my camera started doing its work and went on to fill the memory card.

It was till 6 PM we were taking pictures when the guard informed us that it was about closure time. Post a quick rehydration session of coconut water, we drove back to Badami.

It was dark but the streets were still fairly crowded. We went on to explore more of this town. Once Back to the hotel, we requested the manager to switch on the AC as last night had been terrible due to hot weather.

We ordered Some delicious chinese for dinner, we chatted & copied photos & prepared for next day. Later we watched some cartoons and slept off.