[Continued from Part I]
Pattadakal is a cluster of around 10 temples built in South Indian, North Indian as well as a combination of both styles of architecture. Pattadakal means the ‘coronation stone’ or ‘site for coronation’ and it indeed was one, for the Chalukyan kings. UNESCO‘s website writes about this fascinating architectural wonder thus:
“Three very closely located sites in the State of Karnataka provide a remarkable concentration of religious monuments dating from the great dynasty of the Chalukya (c. 543-757). There are the two successive capital cities – Aihole (ancient Aryapura), Badami, and Pattadakal, the ‘City of the Crown Rubies’ (Pattada Kisuvolal). The latter was, moreover, for a brief time the third capital city of the Chalukya kingdom; at the time the Pallava occupied Badami (642-55). While Aihole is traditionally considered the ‘laboratory’ of Chalukya architecture, with such monuments as the Temple of Ladkhan (c. 450) which antedate the dynasty’s political successes during the reign of King Pulakeshin I, the city of Pattadakal illustrates the apogee of an eclectic art which, in the 7th and 8th centuries, achieved a harmonious blend of architectural forms from the north and south of India.”
Apogee it truly is, for Pattadakal is one of the most beautiful sites in Karnataka’s rich heritage. Spend some moments in quiet solitude and you can almost hear the stones whisper stories about the kings and their victories of yore. As for me, all I could hear were the collective shrieks from the school children who seemed to have an itinerary similar to ours.
Right outside the temple compound, we found a shop selling hot mirchi pakodas (a special chilly, de-seeded to remove the acidic taste and dipped in gram flour and then fried). Delicious was not quite the word that came to my mind, for street food even in some of India’s remotest corners has an amazing variety of tastes that can take time to sink in, in the first bite and only later, can light up your senses like a christmas tree. We devoured a few plates along with some spicy coconut chutney and some sweet tea to wash everything down.
Aihole, our next destination was some 14-15 kilometres from Pattadakal and there was about an hour to go before sunset when we reached there. As mentioned above in the unesco description, the ‘laboratory’ or the ‘cradle of temple architecture’ epithets come from the fact that it was here that the skills of the Chalukyan architects were honed.
The durga temple at Aihole (crowded again, with too many school kids) was the first sight to greet us. If we had done our research on Aihole well, we would have known that there were about 125 temples in Aihole instead of the solitary few that greeted us inside the compound. Having said that, here is an interesting wiki article if you want to read about the architectural style of Hindu temples.
Excavations were going on at quite a few places inside the compound and we would have loved to talk to the excavators and find out more, but since it was getting dark fast, we could not afford to spend more time and had to hurry back to Bagalkot.
There are not many buses that run directly to Bijapur from Bagalkot and it is advisable to check at the bus station. If I remember correctly, it was around 8.15 or 8.30 that the last bus was scheduled to depart and we got there well in advance, which meant that dinner would have to wait until we reached Bijapur.
It was around 10.30 by the time we reached Bijapur. Dinner was foremost on our minds and we scouted around till we reached this nondescript place called Everest hotel. There, 15 huge chapatis, 3 curries (including a non-vegetarian dish) cost us a total sum of around 240 Rupees. If that is not value for money, in 2012, I don’t know what is.
After dinner, we looked around for rooms and struck gold at the Lalit Mahal hotel opposite the KRSTC bus stand. Clean rooms with television and hot water ! That meant an early night although for some reason TV kept me up awake for quite some time. The last thing I seem to remember was Bear Grylls on Man vs Wild, wearing his socks outside his shoes to get some extra grip on a slippery surface and scooping up maggots from the dead body of a seal…
[Continued in Part III]