Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Badami, Aihole, Pattadakal - Glory of Chalukyan heritage

We always got confused when the history teacher asked us the question
"Which  is the capital of Chalukyas"
Is it Badami or Vatapi.....was the eternal dilemma.

Chalukyas were the earliest rulers of Karnataka in 6th century and were the first dynasty in South to extend their empire till Narmada after defeating Harshavardhana. Having read so much about them, it was a pity we had not seen them all these years.

It was in October 2008 that we decided to do a road trip to these places after reading a nice write up on these places by noted artist Shakti Maira in The Hindu. We planned to go to Goa via Badami - Aihole - Pattadakal.Our search for accommodation in Badami ended at Badami court, the only decent hotel then in Badami. It was also accidental that this happened to be managed by a friend of ours. 

The weather was good and driving after monsoons in south India is a pleasure as you find greenery everywhere. The road till Chitradurga was a blast. We were sceptical about the road beyond as we had a bad experience on our trip to Hampi last year.  Surprisingly, the road seemed looked new, relaid and smooth. We were able to reach Hospet in five hours. The road beyond Hospet was not bad either and took us another two hours to reach Badami by around 2.30 in the afternoon - in time for lunch.

Knowing the owner of the hotel has its own advantages! We were give royal welcome and a good room. Badami court is a small resort. The rooms are decent and food is good. This is is the only decent hotel in the town from which one can explore the amazing sights of the bygone era.

A quick rest after lunch and we were on the go. With Chandru our guide, we decided to explore the cave temples of Badami. The rock outpouring in Badami is just awesome. It really makes you feel so small that you are awestruck for the first time.

At the Entrance of Badami caves - look at Rocky Outcrops

As we climbed to the cave temples, we were treated to another spectacle - the panoramic view of Bhutanatha temple surrounded by the small hills. If you are lucky and go to this place in monsoon, you can see beautiful waterfalls from the rocks behind the temple which is just awesome!
Panoramic view of Bhutanatha Temple. In monsoon, waterfalls can be seen from the top of rocks!!

Cave temples in Badami are known for earliest rock cut sculptures in India. These sculptures are magnificent and more than life size that you will be struck by their beauty. Especially the Trivikrama, Vijaya Narasimha, 18 handed Nataraja, and Harihara sculptures. Look up at the celling and you will see the beautiful motifs. These are rock cut temples. Chandru was explaining to us how the sculptors could have done those beautiful sculpting on the ceiling - lying on a plank of wood parallel to the ceiling!!!.
Brinda in front of 18 handed Nataraja

The Archaeological Survey Museum in Badami is well maintained and has some good exhibits. Unfortunately, the government has not been able to relocate the village and clear the surroundings which is an eyesore. Returning back to hotel and freshened up, we were ready for a deserving mug of chilled beer!

Chandru was ready at 7.30 in the morning next day to take us to Aihole and Pattadakal. These two places are located in the Malaprabha valley at a distance of 35 KMs. Aihole was our first stop. It is difficult to believe that this small village was once upon a time a major centre of art and culture. Aihole is called the cradle of temple architecture as you see earliest example of temple architecture here. The Durga temple is a well known landmark. Notice the stone ladders in the neighbouring temple. Interestingly, the Durga temple also had some earliest examples of erotic sculptures as well!! An excellent museum again. You can also climb to see basadis of Jain tirthankaras which will allow you to see the beautiful Malaprabha valley as well here.
In front of Temple in Aihole. Notice the figures on columns.

The next stop was Pattadakal. A UNESCO heritage site - very well maintained - this is where the different forms of temple architecture was practised. You can see the North India "Nagara" Style with Dravidian style. You can spend hours appreciating the amazing details of temple architecture.
At Pattadakallu complex - Notice Nagara style on left and Dravidian style in the middle

From Pattadakal we went to Mahakoota. Architecturally not great, this is an interesting place with a small "Pushkarani" or "temple tank" where devotees were seen bathing before entering the temple. Since we were visiting during Dasara, it was more like a village festival with people from nearby villages assembling there. We partook a meal from a family who had come all the way from Athani near Belguam who were gracious enough to share "Jolada Rotti and Bele Chutney" (Jower roti and Dal Chutney) which was very tasty.

With villagers from Athani - Sharing meals!
We ended the day with the visit to Banashankari temple in Badami. Banashankari temple was established after Marathas took over the region and it resembles the typical Maharashtra style.

This trip was like a history lesson for us. Chandru, our guide was well versed with the historical and Architectural aspects and was able to give good detail about the places. The guy can speak in Kannada and English.

Winters is the best season to visit these places which are just outstanding.

Getting there

By Road

Distance from Bangalore - 480 Kms by road via Chitradurga. I do not recommend this route now as the road is bad and would advise to go via Bellary. These are the other options

a) Bangalore - Hiriyur - Challakere - Ballary - Hospet (NH4 till Hiriyur is a blast)
b) Bangaloree - Anantpur - Ballary - Hospet (NH 7 till Anantpur is a blast)
c) Bangalore - Chitradurga - Harihar - Harapanahalli - Hospet (longer route)
d) Bangalore - Chitradurga - Hubli - Nargund - Badami (Longer route)
Option (a), (b) are best if are planning to visit Hampi also. Ballary - Hospet road is not great but is not as bad as NH 13. At some places you will find bad road but is much better than NH 13
Option (d) is best if you are going only to Badami. Though longer, the roads are good.  

By Train

Hampi express from Bangalore is an excellent option if you are not inclined to drive. Hire a taxi for a day trip from Hampi if you don't want to stay.

Alternately, you can also catch Gol Gumbaz Express which takes you straight to Badami from Yeshwantpur.

By Bus

KSRTC has direct buses from Bangalore to Badami. It would be better to go to Hospet and then change as the frequency to Hospet is more.


We stayed in Hotel Badami court which has decent accomadation and good food. The other option is "The Heritage".

There are no other good options for families as others are run down.


a) You need at least one and half days to explore the places. Better make Badami as a base. You can also do a day trip from Hampi but have to leave early.
b) Get a good guide. Chandru is good and can be contacted on 9448823161
c) Good to read something on these places helps before you go. To begin with Wikipaedia helps! "Blue Guide on South India" is also very good.Also follow the links given below which are excellent sources
d) Savour the village atmosphere. People are generally friendly. Hence no worries.
e) Nothing much to shop.
f) The cave temple of Badami has many monkeys. Be careful with eatables.
g) Badami is also an excellent place for rock climbing. If interested contact hotel staff and they will help.
h) Don't try to climb the rocks if not trained. It can be dangerous.
i) Driving in these areas after monsoon is exhilarating as it is very green.
j) You may be surrounded by agents near Banashankari temple to help you get quick darshan. Don't oblige.

Postscript - This blog entry does not cover the historical and archaeological details of the ruins. They are available in Wikipedia and other sites as below 

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