Visit to Badami – Pattadakkal and Aihole
Ever since I visited Gadag (Karnataka) around 5 years back, I was longing to visit Badami cave temples nearby. I could not visit during my earlier 2 visits to Gadag. This time when I had to visit Mumbai I decided to take a detour through Badami. It was a 3 days trip with Badami and Sonde Vathiraja mutt as the main places we wanted and had fit in all other places as per the route and available time.
Both Badami and Sonde are on the opposite sides of Hubli (called as Hubbali in Kannada officially and by railways) and Hubli – Dharwad are the twin cities like Hyderabad-Secunderabad. If you want to go only to Sonde, Sirsi or Banavasi, then there are earlier train stops at Ranibennur / Haveri. We started by Hubli Express which runs only once a week on Sunday that leaves Chennai by 3 PM. The only other train to Hubli is the Goa express which also runs only once a week on Fridays.
We reached Hubli by 6:30 AM and the cab driver whom we booked earlier was waiting at the station. He took us to a hotel (the details of cab and hotel are towards the end of this page).
Our first day was focussed on the famous archaeological circuit Badami – Pattadakkal – Aihole, all maintained by ASI.
1) Badami Banashankari Temple at Banashankari or Cholachagudd
After the breakfast at the hotel we started at around 9:30 AM and reached our first temple at Banashankari or Cholachagudd about 6 kms before Badami (detailed timing and distance info are given towards the end of this page).
It’s a temple of Goddess Parvathi and She is called in different names of Banashankari, Vanashankari and Shakambari Devi. The road was deserted and after about 20 kms from Hubli it was a totally backward area with no buildings on either side till the far reach of eyesight with some small towns coming in between occasionally.
It was a totally dry area with only Red chilly (Kashmiri chilly) as the cultivational crop. On return we could see even electricity was not there in most places. The roads were pretty bad as well and 20-30 minutes could have been saved had it been a good road.
The Goddess Banashankari was the family deity of Chalukyas and they originally built the temple during the 7th century. With later modifications, now it reflects the Vijayanagara style of architecture more than the original Chalukya style. When we reached the temple we were in for a sweet surprise. The annual Rath Yatra festival called Banashankari Jatre starts on the full moon day of January and is being celebrated as a grand festival for about 3 weeks. We were lucky to be there right in those festive days. There was a huge crowd inside the temple and since everything was written in Kannada we could not understand in which queue to stand but luckily a young policeman sent us into some queue. Later we realised it was a queue for Archanas with ticket for entry. When our term came for showing the ticket we were perplexed but the policeman from a distance signalled the gate keeper to let us in. The queue took us inside the garba graha itself and we were able to feel and breathe the beautifully decorated Devi’s blessings and love from a very close quarter of 5-6 feet. When we came through the other exit gate, we were surprised that the same young policeman was waiting for us there. He put his hand over my shoulder very warmly as if a good known friend for a long time and enquired about us. Having seen policemen only as crooks in most places I thought he was expecting some money but when I offered, he refused to take even a single paisa. He showed us the place where to get prasads and left to carry on his duty.
What a dharshan and what an experience!
There is a square water tank in the forefront of the temple at the entrance, which is locally called as “Haridra Theertha”. The pond is enclosed by a beautiful ‘Pradakshina’ path with stone mantapas on three sides. Unfortunately there was no water at that time but the photographs by the fellow bloggers when the tank was full of water is a delight to see.
The streets were filled with festive shops and we bought pure and fresh Sambrani just came from the tree at Rs 220 for half kg. When we bought it was very flexible like the typical neem gum fresh from tree and kept its flexibility (to some extent) even after a month. Having seen Sambrani as only rocky solid pieces, this was a surprise for us.
My wife also bought a truck load of cotton lamp wicks, which was found to be the cheapest among all the sacred places we visited.
Village people were also selling some rotis and compelled us but we were reluctant on the hygiene front and so didn’t buy. We later learnt it was Dry Jawar roti (Jolada Rotti) served with Chutney and Curd, very popular there. We felt very sorry for having missed it since it’s a speciality of that place. Especially when we didn’t have time for lunch at all on that day, we felt our guilt that we missed our lunch (punishment by Banasankari amman?) as well as didn’t help the poor villagers with a few bucks. Atleast we bought some bananas which kept our day to some extent.
2) Badami cave temples
After about 20 minutes of travel, our next stop was the popular Badami cave temples.
The Puranic story says the wicked asura Vatapi was killed by sage Agastya here and so this is named as Vatapi.
The first Chalukya king was Jayasimha (a feudatory lord in the Kadamba dynasty), who in 500 AD established the Chalukya kingdom. His grandson Pulakeshin I (535-566 AD) built a fort at Vatapi.
Pulakeshin’s choice of this location for his capital was no doubt dedicated by strategic considerations since Badami is protected on three sides by rugged sandstone cliffs for nearly 40-50 kms!
The greatest among the early Chalukyas was Pulakeshin II (610-642 AD) who defeated many kings including the Pallavas of Kanchipuram. The Pallavas under the King Narasimhavarman I seized Badami under Pulakeshin II and destroyed it. Vikramaditya son of Pulakeshin II then drove back Pallavas in 654 AD to Kanchipuram and held back Badami.
Pallavas brought the moorthy of Vatapi Ganapathy from Badami which is now in Uthrapathiswaraswamy Temple at Thiruchenkattankudi, near Thanjavur. Vatapi Ganapatim Bhaje by the composer Muthuswami Dikshitar is highly popular.
Briefly there are 4 cave temple caves in the order for 1) Shiva 2) and 3) Maha Vishnu and 4) Jainism. There are beautiful icons carved out in the walls as well as the ceilings.
Cave 1 Shiva cave:
Cave 2 Vishnu Cave:
Cave 3 Mahavishnu cave:
Maha Vishnu sitting stylishly is a delight and is the icon of Badami. It is said that it is the sitting posture of the King Pulakeshin in his Raj Sabha.
The boy under the lady is so disturbing his mother like a monkey and so his back is depicted as a monkey. What an imagination and talent it is!
Cave 4 Jaina Cave:
Through the windows:
A differently abled girl is climbing the footsteps:
You require one whole day to explore Badami alone but in the given time (2 hrs ) we could see only one side with the 4 cave temples.
My video on Badami is here:
3) Pattadakkal group of temples
Our next stop was Pattadakkal, a group of about 10 temples.
“Pattadakal is the historical location where Badami Chalukya kings were crowned as it was considered a holy place. Vijayaditya was the first ruler to be crowned here at “Pattadakisuvolal” at the start of the 7th century AD. It was the capital of the Chalukya dynasty between the 6th and 8th centuries. The Chalukyas built many temples here between the 7th and 8th centuries. There are numerous small shrines and plinths in fusion of various Indian architectural styles of north and south India (Rekha, Nagara, Prasada and Dravida Vimana). These temples reflect the various religious sects that existed here. Four temples were built in the Chalukya Dravida style, four in the Nagara style of Northern India, while the Papanatha temple is a fusion of the two idioms. In all, a total of 9 Shiva temples and a Jaina basadi (called Jain Narayana temple built in the 9th century during the reign of Krishna II of Rashtrakutas, the last temple to be built at Pattadakal), are situated along the northern course of a river.
The oldest of these temples is Sangameshwara built during the reign of Vijayaditya Satyashraya during the period 697-733 AD. The largest of all these is the Virupaksha Temple built by Queen Lokamahadevi and Rani Trilokyamahadevi, between 740 and 745 AD to mark their husband Vikramaditya II’s victory over Nandivarman, the Pallava king of Kanchipuram from South; the temple was patterned on the lines of the Kailasanatha temple at Kanchipuram. They also built the Mallikarjuna temple.”
Out of all the temples, only the Virupakshi temple is under worship now. Sadly, the moorthies of all the other temples have been either stolen or spoiled in the wars.
Local villagers in large numbers were selling buttermilk and it was a great gift for us. We tried to eat some mini lunch types there but didn’t, due to poor quality and hygiene.
Our next stop was Aihole, again another group of real temples as well as experimental structures. The roads were poor but road constriction and extensions were going on and may become ready by 2018.
Aihoḷe was established in 450 CE as the first capital of Chalukyas. Pulakeshin I, one of the greatest rulers of this dynasty, moved the capital to Badami. Aihoḷe has rich historical significance and has been described as a cradle of temple architecture. The whole village has about 125 stone temples, many of which were constructed as experimental structures. It is from these temples that the Chalukyas gained their experience and went on to build the great temples of Pattadakal and Badami. The first phase of temple building in Aihole dates back to the 5th–6th century, the second phase up to the 12th century CE.
The whole village is filled with archaeological structures and you will be confused which is the main centre of attraction. Like people sitting and chatting on the stone benches under big banyan trees in our villages, here villagers were seen sitting and chatting in these small monumental structures here and there. Village homes are sandwiched in between these monuments and crumbled walls!
Since we were very tired in the evening after a hectic day we couldn’t enjoy much here. From the administrative side also, this is poorly maintained (the toilets didn’t have water!). However for history and archaeology lovers, this is no doubt a treasure trove and you need atleast half a day to explore!
5) Sri Mahakuteshvara Temple at Mahakut
Finally on our way back, we visited Mahakut Shiva temple located between Pattadakkal and Badami. Originally this was not in our plan but thanks to the guide at Badami, we visited this temple. There was a diversion for about 4 kms from the main road.
It is also a temple complex of many temples like Pattadakkal and Aihole and of the same historical period but unlike them, this is a living temple complex in worship. This huge temple complex is fully packed with around two dozen temples, out of which the Mahakuteswara and the Mallikarjuna temples are the largest. A natural mountain spring flows within the temple complex and feeds fresh water into a large beautiful tank called the Vishnu Pushkarni and an ablution tank called Papavinasha Tirtha (“Tank of Ablution”).
Plenty of Lingams, Nandhis and other relics of various Gods are all left behind in the praharam.
There should have been more than 100 lingams with many in the proper sub shrines and the remaining left out in the praharams.
So many temples, the beautiful pushkarani, plenty of relics spread all over and the nature with the huge trees – all together gives a great refreshing divine experience.
We were there by 7 PM but it already looked like midnight. Outside, a row of shops were half closed and half open and a Sabarimala troup was singing Ayyappan bhajans. When we entered the temple, the last batch of people was coming out and then it was only the priest, me and my wife inside the temple.
In the praharam, there was a pin drop silence excepting for the strong flow of the natural water spring and the prharam was dimly lit since the huge trees were obstructing even the available light. So, while doing circumambulation of the temple, it was a mystic experience of total Ehantham, Bliss, Nirvana, whatever – with us and the divine only.
Having missed out the lunch, we were looking out for good hotels for dinner on the way but there are only a few villages coming in between and that too still not yet electrified! We could have dinner only at around 10 PM after returning to Hubli.
One day will not be sufficient to cover all the five places fully unless you start very early and take care of the travel time. I didn’t take care of the travel time properly and so we were very late in our schedule. If you are religious, I can recommend skipping Aihole and spending more time on Mahakut. Pattadakkal is being referred as an University of art and heritage while Aihole is a high school. So once you visit Pattadakkal, Aihole can be a repeat and may be of less interest for you.
On the other hand if you are a history / heritage lover Aihole will be lovely and has enough to spend 2-3 hours.
We took lodging at Hotel Swathi at Hubli. It was a pretty decent hotel and the 2 occupancy room was very spacious and clean at a very nominal rate of Rs 800+ for non-ac.
We booked the cab with Ganesh Travels @ 94487 45520. The driver was ok from the safe driving point of view but I have little doubt whether he was a master of all the routes and took us in the shortest or fastest route to various places. It’s better that you keep a copy of various routes as guided by google maps. The net won’t work in most of the places since they are all either very backward on the North Eastern side towards Badami or forest on the South Western side towards Sirsi. The driver was too silent and not knowing all the tourist and sacred places. I expect a local driver to show us more places than we planned / knew. In spite of my clear instructions, the travels sent me a driver whom I was not happy on those fronts. Otherwise the driving and the cab rate are all ok (will give the cab charges towards end of the trip).
Timing and distances:
9:30 AM – Started from Hubli after the breakfast at the hotel
11:40 AM – 110 kms – Reached Banashankari temple
12:45 PM – Left Banashankari
1:15 PM – 6 kms – Reached Badami
3:30 PM – Left Badami
4:10 PM – 22 kms – Reached Pattadakkal
5:00 PM – Left Pattadakkal
5:30 PM – 14 kms – Reached Aihole
6:00 PM – Started from Aihole
7:00 PM – 24 kms – Reached Mahakut
7:20 PM – Started from Mahahut
10 PM – 120 kms – Reached Hubli