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Published: March 13th 2005
Durgigudi Temple in Aihole
These boys were very happy that Stephan took a picture of them in front of the only semicircular temple we have seen so far
We had some problems finding out how to get to our next destination, in Hampi they just tried to sell us a taxi ride at a high price. We took the local bus to Hospet, trying to catch a train at 9:00 am that we had read about somewhere. Still, the idea of a taxi and a chauffeur quite intrigued us, we had some time left, so Stephan went to look for the taxi stand, which is usually close to the bus stand. He actually found what we wanted, in the end it was 30% cheaper than the arrangements in Hampi, which is only 12 km away. We used an old white ambassador car, with seating benches for the driver and the passengers. Like in a movie of the 1950s! From Badami we would have had to rent a car in any case, this way we saved some precious time.
For the first time, we were on a National Highway, the existence of which we had not guessed considering the very bad streets in Karnataka. The street actually was much better than the ones we had used before, but we also encountered considerably more traffic, mainly lorries. The sight of
Impressive old temples in a cluster
one lorry overtaking another in spite of being hardly faster brought strong memories of German motorways. Despite being a National Highway, it only disposed of one lane in each direction, this is the reason why we saw the remains of several accidents, some of them severe. We also found out the reason for the dense lorry traffic: they transport steel to Goa, from where it is shipped to China. Quite soon our driver had to stop at a petrol station, where we realised that one litre of diesel is not much cheaper than in Europe with around 60 cents, whereas the rest is up to eight times cheaper.
We first stopped at Aihole
, which was the first centre of Chalukyan
power from the sixth century AD. Aihole is regarded as the birthplace of Indian architectural styles and the site of the first built temples, as distinct from those carved out of solid rock. While our driver parked the car in the shade and went for a lunchtime nap, we went to explore the site in the burning midday sun. Fortunately for us, the temples are rather small and situated very close to each other, and inside it was always
Lad Khan Temple
A stone ladder was used to get to the shrine on the roof
shady and cool. We saw different styles, from very simple temples with a couple of pillars and a roof, to an interesting species, where a stone ladder leads up to the roof (from where you get a wonderful overview of the complex), to one temple with the unusual form of a semicircular apse and numerous superb sculptures from the late seventh century. It was a wonderful feeling to be on such a historic place!
On we went to another place of extraordinary historic and architectural importance, Pattadakal
. As it was almost 2:00 p.m. and we were getting hungry, so we looked for a place to eat. The only thing we could find was a tiny food stall, where only one meal was on offer. Since there was no alternative and you sometimes can’t afford to be picky, we accepted. In a way, this was the most astonishing meal we had had so far. It consisted of puffed rice with a spicy gravy and tasted really good at an unbelievably low price. India is really full of surprises! Pattadakal was another one, when we entered the World Heritage Site we thought we were dreaming. The place was the second capital
Stephan on his way up
What will he find up there?
of the Chalukyan kings between the seventh and eighth century and the city where the kings were crowned. The picture of a cluster of temples built out of pink-tinged gold sandstone immediately gave us the feeling for the site’s former importance. We were quickly able to distinguish two distinct styles. The first one reminded us of the temples in Mahabalipuram. In fact, the Pallavas from there were contemporary to the Chalukyans, and two Chalukyan queens had imported sculptors from the far South. The second style was yet unknown to us, but we would have the chance to discover more of it, being the North Indian temple tradition.
We arrived fairly early in Badami
(around 4:30 p.m.), where we would stay a bit longer than just a couple of hours. Also Badami was a Chalukyan capital between AD 543 and 757, several temples and a spectacular setting in a gorge between two high red sandstone hills warrant a visit. The modern village is quite charming, with its busy bazaar, a large lake and whitewashed houses clustered together along narrow winding lanes up the hillside. We soon left the hotel to discover the village, and started strolling around without a concrete
Early examples of columns, the Hoysalas did not make it very different
destination. Badami’s setting is really breath taking, squeezed between the sandstone hills, whose colour got a special glow in the late afternoon light. We discovered a sandstone temple on top of one of the lower hills, due to its position we had no problem finding our way. Life in India, at least in the rural regions, does not give you much privacy (at least to our western point of view), the streets are narrow and due to the heat the houses are always open. That evening we were the attraction of the day and felt a bit like in a zoo (though without bars). Many adults greeted us in a friendly way, but for the children our presence was real fun. They ran after us in crowds, shouting and playing the drums in our honour, when they reached us they had to shake hands, of course they also wanted pens and so forth. We walked in the middle of dogs, cows, chickens, pigs (we still have no idea what they do with them) and many monkeys. It took us some time to reach the temple, but we had great fun. As we were in the mood for walking, we just
These beautifully carved windows guaranteed a low incidence of light
went on until we happened to reach the huge artificial lake. Again, the spectacle spreading out before us was like from a fairy tale: the small white houses, the red hills and a beautiful temple surrounded a mossy green lake full of water birds where the women were doing the last washing of the day. We enjoyed a kitsch sunset and went back through the bazaar, which was still active in the dark.
Badami still has some remains of an old fort of the sixth and seventh century. It is not very famous for itself though it still looks threatening due to the narrow gorge it dominates. What it is known for are its cave temples
, which were cut out of the hillside underneath in the second half of the sixth century. We had only a vague idea about what to expect, knowing caves either as grottoes with stalagmites or as prehistoric human shelter. Once again, we entered monkey land, here they were a bit more aggressive than in Hampi, having very small babies. This time we came so close (there was no other way) that we observed them picking lice or saw them sleeping cuddled up in small
Also the carving of the ceilings was already advanced
groups. A lovely sight, better than on Discovery Channel! Four cave scan be visited, an overwhelming experience. It is absolutely unbelievable how masterly the rock was cut and carved almost 1400 years ago. Again we are not going to describe the caves in detail, we’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. The caves are situated one on top of the other in the ascending hillside. So you climb up and up from one marvel to the next. The fourth cave was probably cut 100 years later than the three others and is protected from view until you are very close. You move in a long covered stairway, climbing the stairs impatiently, still seeing nothing, then all of a sudden you stick your head out – and immediately stop in wonder. We were overwhelmed by the cave’s beauty, it is really hard to find the right words, decide yourselves when you see the pictures. Badami is not so well known among tourists, without any justification, this we can assure!
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