Exploring North Karnataka – Part 2 – Pattadakal, Aihole, Badami

After exploring Bijapur  the whole day, the train journey came as a relief, but by the time we reached Badami, it was already dark and because it was raining as well, the roads had become difficult to navigate, there was mud and water all around, so we were really wishing that we could’ve taken the bus which was departing from Bijapur a little earlier. Anyhow, we reached the main city, which was annoyingly was very far from the railway station, and got ourselves a hotel for the night. Badami is not even a city, it is just a small town but in its golden days, close to 1500 years ago, it was the capital city for not just Karnataka but almost whole of of Andhra, Telangana and Maharashtra as well.


The Chalukya dynasty was established by Pulakesi I in 543 AD overthrowing the Kadambas, this happened around the time of the fall of the Gupta empire in the north. In the beginning they were really focused at north Karnataka, with Ganga dynasty ruling over the south Karnataka, but later their rule spread over most . Another thing to note is the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have been fighting each other from centuries.. Pallavas, who ruled from Kanchipuram, and Chalukyas have had multiple battles and power exchanges with each side occupying other’s capital city for some period of time. Chalukyas were finally overthrown by a local clan called Rashtrakutas but descendants of Chalukyas returned to power but split into Eastern (Andhra) and Western (Karnataka) kingdoms which were not really closely related to each other by then. Below is an aerial view of the city and the caves temples –


The other two places that you obviously can see in the title of the post but haven’t been mentioned so far were really temple towns more than administrative centers. Aihole and Pattadakal, had, in combination, more than 100 temples, a lot of them done in experimental styles. Thus, these sites were really the cradle of Indian temple architecture. These sites also had a unique advantage of being in center of the country, thus having equal influence from North and South India. Let’s visit the places in order we visited them – Pattadakal followed by Aihole on day 1 and Badami caves on day 2.

Out of the 9 surviving temples at Pattadakal, 4 are in Nagara style (North Indian), 4 are in Dravidian style (South Indian) and 1 is in mixed style. It is very rare to find such a variety of structures next to each other, consciously built by same builders, who indeed were patrons of temple architecture in India. And that’s why this place was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These different styles can be seen in the photo below, you see Mallikarjuna Temple (1st from right) in Dravidian style, followed by Kashivisvanatha Temple (2nd from right) which is in Nagara style and, Sangameshvara Temple (3rd from right) lies next to it and it is done in Dravidian style and then finally you have the Galganatha temple (4th from right) which is in Nagara style. Such contrasting brilliance!


But the biggest temple at Pattadakal, Virupaksha Temple, is missing from the photo above. The temple was built by Queen Lokamahadevi in 745 to commemorate her husband’s victory (Vikramaditya II) over the Pallavas of Kanchi. It is said that when Vikramaditya II visited the Kailasanathar temple at Kanchi, after he had conquered the city, he was so impressed by the architecture that he decided to build a similar temple in his kingdom as well. Virupaksha temple was thus modelled after the Kailasanathar temple of Kanchi. Further to this, when Rashtrakutas took over this region from Chalukyas and saw the Virupaksha temple at Pattadakal, they were really inspired to create their own version of it and that’s how they decided to build Kailash temple at Ellora.


Virupaksha temple is the one on right and on the left is the Mallikarjuna Temple, which was also issued in around same timeframe by the younger queen of the king Vikramaditya II , for the same feat i.e. defeating Pallavas, and that’s why the temple is almost a smaller copy of the Virupaksha temple. Both these temples are classic Dravidian style temples with their pyramidal towers (Shikhara).

The other temple that I really liked was the Galganatha temple with its slanting rooftops on the sides and the tall Nagar style Shikhara, picture below –



After exploring for a good 2 hours, it was time to move on to the next destination for the day – Aihole which predates Pattadakal in temple building. It really was the place where Chalukyan architects and engineers experimented a lot. The whole landscape of the town is dotted with boulders and temples!

Reaching Aihole is not easy unless you have your own cars, public transport is hard to find and the frequency is not so good. It is best to rent an auto rickshaw for a return journey from Pattadakal and that’s what we did. Let’s talk about the temples now,,, the most famous temple at Aihole is undoubtedly the Durga temple because of its unique shape of that of a horseshoe, picture below –



The temples at Aihole were really very old and a lot of them were in deplorable conditions, but it was good to see the conservation work though. We did not stay long and moved out to see the other sight that had caught our attention – a rock cut temple, called Ravanaphadi.


The sanctum has a vestibule with a triple entrance and has carved pillars as seen in photo above. The walls and sides of the temple are covered with large figures including dancing Shiva. Below is the statue of half-man and half-woman avatar of Shiva-Parvati, found on one of the walls inside.



It was time to return back after visiting a few more sites at Aihole. We did not take any chances as it would be really unfortunate to miss our ride back home and get stuck in the lonely town of Aihole. We returned back by evening before it was dark and then had a peaceful end to the day with dinner at a local restaurant.

Next day was meant for Badami, we were ready with fresh energy next morning and reached the site of the cave temples quickly after breakfast.

The rock-cut Badami Cave Temples were sculpted mostly between the 6th and 8th centuries. The four cave temples represent the secular nature of the rulers then, with tolerance and a religious following that inclines towards Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. cave 1 is devoted to Shiva, and Caves 2 and 3 are dedicated to Vishnu, whereas cave 4 displays reliefs of Jain Tirthankaras.

The caves and the associated temples are set around the Agastya lake, the landscape adds to the beauty of the place. I personally loved the cave temples more than the temples of Aihole and even Pattadakal. Let’s have a look at the 4 caves..


What you see above is the sculpture of Nataraja, from cave 1, with his 9 arms on each side creating the 81 combinations of Bharatnatyam pose. Below are some shots from caves 2 and 3 –

Right from the entrance of the cave, you can imagine how skillfully the caves have been carved out the solid granite stone. What you see below is the entrance of cave 3 –


The caves had a common feature of having ornate sculptures on the side walls and the main shrine at the end in center. Most of the side sculptures in cave 2 and 3 were different incarnations (avatars) of Vishnu, as seen in the 4 pics below (2 side walls X 2 caves = 4 sculptures) –





And if you’re wondering how big these caves really are, here is a shot from inside the caves, showing its many pillars in both length and breadth. Infact before the restoration work for these caves started some 50 years back, there were villagers who had pitched tents in these caves and were using them for shelters, that’s how huge they are!


Cave 4 had Jain tirthankaras all over the cave, mostly from the Hinayana  period, here is a shot, the only good one i could manage in such low lights inside the caves –


Here is a view of the city from inside the caves, with one of the side sculptures, but you really have to be there to witness the grand beauty of the caves. I for one, was thoroughly impressed by them!


Across the lake, there are 2 temples called the Shivalaya temples, lower and upper Shivalaya temples. We climbed up the hills for the temples, but the real surprise that was waiting for us was the view of the city from the edge of the hills. That’s where I had taken the first photo of this post. Below is the view of the hills from the cave temples –


The small structure that you see on top of the hill in the middle, is really the temple in photo below –


I would also suggest you to visit the Archaeological Museum of Badami, one of the installations that I clearly remember is a big tree map of the languages in India, and there were many more like a sculpture of the fertility goddess. After the museum, we had some sugarcane juice to prepare for the last excursion of the trip – Bhootnath temple! even I was astonished to see there is an actual place by that name, here is how it looks –



I really wanted to go further from there to climb up the hills behind the temple to get a better view, ahead of the hills in the picture above, but it was getting dark and we ended up returning to the city for dinner. So, after spending some memorable time in Badami, we bade a goodbye to this sleepy town and headed back to Bangalore.

Exploring North Karnataka – Part 1 – Bijapur

The Deccan produced some of the greatest Dynasties in Indian History like the Satavahana dynasty, Vakataka dynasty, Chalukya dynasty, Rashtrakuta dynasty, Western Chalukya Empire, Vijayanagara Empire and Maratha Empire. What is missing from this list is the Bahmani Sultanate which too emerged and became obsolete in the deccan soil. It is partly true to say Bahmani Sultanate was a deccan sultanate because the campaigns it started, battles it fought took place here and partly untrue because the rulers were muslim sultans from the outside world, only the subjects were Indians.

It was the hot month of April when I decided to explore the 4 close-by cities in the deccan region. There were many threads that connected these erstwhile capitals of kingdoms to the places I already had been namely Hampi and Aurangabad. I would connect these dots as I progress with each of the cities. For now I can say the trip post is divided into 2 parts – Bijapur being capital of the Bijapur Sultanate was to been in a different light as compared to the other 3 cities which were part of the Chalukya period, Badami being the capital city.

This time my friend Anshul had joined me for the trip, he still is unsure of how and why he agreed for the trip as he couldn’t connect to the place but still it was good for me to have him around! Although he was cursing me the whole time for making him walk so much on a weekend! 😀 It was a 3 day trip which started from Bijapur followed by Pattadakal and Aihole on day 2 and finally Badami on day 3. Let’s move on to the history update! The part on history update has become something that I personally really like as it really helps in connecting with a heritage place. There is no sense in clicking pictures for instagram unless you know the background to it, hope you guys are finding it useful.. Let me start with Bijapur as that’s the place we visited first, I’ll come to Chalukyan history in part 2 of this post!

In the 14th century the Muslim Bahmani Sultanate and the smaller Sultanate of Khandesh ruled much of the northern Deccan, while the southern part was controlled by the Hindu Vijayanagara Empire. The Bahmani Sultanate disintegrated in the late 15th century, breaking up into the Sultanates of Ahmadnagar, Berar, Bidar, Bijapur (the Adil Shahi Dynasty) and Golconda (the Qutb Shahi Dynasty).

In 1510 the Portuguese conquered Goa from Bijapur. In the late 16th century, Berar was absorbed by Ahmadnagar. In 1601 Khandesh was absorbed by the Mughal Empire. By 1619 Vijayanagara had lost much territory to Golconda and Bijapur; Bidar was absorbed by Bijapur. Ahmadnagar was absorbed by the Mughal Empire in 1636. In 1565, a decisive battle took place between the united forces of the Sultanate and Vijayanagara empire which ended up against the Vijayanagara empire, but finally by 1646, Vijayanagara disintegrated; it was succeeded by the Sultanate of Mysore and the Nayak kingdoms of Tanjore and Madurai and a separate kingdom of Mysore. The military campaigns of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb into southern India failed to establish lasting Mughal rule, but succeeded in terminating the Sultanates of Bijapur (1686) and Golconda (1687). The timeline is roughly depicted in the maps below –


There is a lot more to talk about, but without going into further details, let’s have a look at the city of Bijapur, which emerged as the biggest and richest one in the Sultanate. The city as such existed before the Adil Shahi dynasty, infact the foundations were laid centuries ago by the Kalyani Chalukyas (descents of the Badami Chalukyas, from the city of Badami, where we’d be going next) and was known as Vijayapura (City of victory). The city changed hands and became part of the Khilji Sultanate during the second part of the 13th Century. In 1347, the Bahmanis of Gulbarga took over the sultanate from the Khiljis only to be split into 5 states, known as the Deccan Sultanates, with the Adil Shahi taking control over Bijapur. But yes, it would be right to say that the city of Bijapur owes much of its greatness to Yusuf Adil Shah, the founder of the independent state of Bijapur.

Today, when you come from a metropolitan city, Bijapur would seem like a distant town that is ages behind, the roads are narrow and littered with cow dung and plastic wrappers. It’s not the best idea to explore the city on foot, your best option is to just cover all the monuments you can without dehydrating yourself in the summer heat. This was one trip where we were running for water after almost every monument visit.

The first place that we went to after getting down from the bus stop were the Jod Gumbaz. Hemispherical domes really dominate the skyline of the city, and emerged as the typical architectural style to be conceived by the Adil Shahi dynasty. Jod Gumbaz are 2 twin structures and it was as if they had been constructed just to perfect the art of making Gumbaz as otherwise, there wasn’t much to see around the 2 buildings.



We moved forward, still on foot, towards the main road and after a few turns, through the internal roads, we happened to be near the famous cannon at Bijapur – Malik-e-Maidan (The Monarch of the Plains). It is the largest medieval cannon in the world. It is said that after igniting the cannon, the gunner would remain underwater in a tank of water on the platform to avoid the deafening explosion.


The cannon is placed on a raised platform which once was the part of the outer walls of the city. Now these walls have been brought down at many places to extend the roads. In the picture below, the green patch you see is a post on the city walls where the cannon is kept. Ahead of it used to be the moat but the modern city spread over its walls like grass grows over old buildings.



Bijapur thus has this unique situation where the old fort walls and the modern signboards can be seen together as if history has been augmented over the reality.



We asked around to figure out where our next destination should be and we were told that Ibrahim Rauza is closeby. It infact is outside of the old city walls, thus when it was constructed it would have been far away from the city, but now lies as part of it. Ibrahim Rauza (A.D. 1626-A.D. 1627), a mausoleum was built on the orders of Ibrahim Adil Shah II. It is an important building which for its “technical accuracy, and skilled artistry. It consists of two buildings, a tomb and a mosque. The tomb considered as the most ornate building in Bijapur, consists of a square chamber, surrounded by a double row of arches forming two open colonnades.


It is also said that the rauza served as an inspiration for Taj Mahal in Agra, and the main entrance doorway served as the inspiration for Char Minar at Hyderabad.



Another interesting thing that our guide told us was that there exists a maze below the foundations of the building which was to serve as the escape route for the Royal family incase of an attack. What you see as the pattern on the door which leads to the tombs, below right, is actually a map to this maze!



We learnt quite a few interesting things about architecture as well from our guide. A mausoleum is called a rauza and not a maqbara when the husband dies before the wife. This is what happened with Ibrahim Adil Shah II, he died before his wife and it was his wife who got the building completed and was then later buried besides him. Also, this being one of the earlier grand scale buildings to be built by Muslim kings, it shows how Indo-Islamic architecture was shaping up during that time. The domes although present only in Islamic architecture, not in Indian, were actually built in shape of a Kalash (metal water pots used in Hindu temples during prayers) kept over a lotus flower. This style grew with time and all the domes from here onwards were built in the same fashion. This is clearly visible in the small dome over a tower in the picture below –


Gol Gumbaz too is built in the same fashion, just much bigger! That’s where we were headed next, we took a bus as Ibrahim Rauza and Gol Gumbaz are at 2 ends of the city and infact had to further walk a lot from where the bus dropped us.

Gol Gumbaz is the largest dome ever built in India, next in size only to St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. It is the mausoleum of Mohammed Adil Shah, the greatest king that ruled Bijapur. He was successful in maintaining good relations with the Mughals in the north, Shah Jahan at his time, and the Sultanate was at its zenith under his rule.

One thing that really struck me was that the side towers of the building looked very similar to the bell tower present in Tanjore from the last trip.



Eight intersecting arches created by two rotated squares that create interlocking pendentives and squinches support the dome, seen in the picture below. It is said that because of its unique design to allow the sound to echo within its walls, one can hear reverbations upto 7 times!



The museum besides the main building gives you a really good background on the Sultanate. You can see the family tree, coins, weapons, painting styles and other artifacts that belong to the medieval ages. You also get really nice views of the city from the top of the dome, here is the Jami masjid as seen from the Gumbaz, amongst the other buildings that have cropped up in the city –



We went to other smaller places as well, but a lot of them were in really bad situation, with dilapidated walls, paint chipping off and stagnant water that must’ve been harboring insects with potential diseases. Bijapur definitely is in need of some serious conservation work, otherwise I don’t see how the heritage buildings would survive another century of this paralysed existence in modern world.

We were now ready to move on to our next destination – Badami, and to our surprise, there was a train that was leaving for Badami in the evening from Bijapur. WE boarded the train and off we were! The journey continues in the 2nd part of this post…