Badami , Pattadkal & Aihole (Part I – Banashankari Temple and Badami Museum)

The auto driver stopped his vehicle near a tree, picked up two incense sticks and lighted them with a matchstick. He walked towards the idol under the tree and prayed in front of it for two minutes as we watched him. Faith is something that stands like a rock no matter what is happening around you.

In the age of internet bookings and meticulous planning, Pranav & I had decided not to book a room in advance. We evaluated hotels from the outside , like book hoarders glancing at titles during a clearance sale. Finally we walked into a place that seemed to be just OK. After checking the facilities in the room, we decided to stay there . Some decisions have to be taken on the spot based on ground realities.

We live in the age of arm chair historians who distort facts to suit their ideology and agenda. If people like you and me packed bags and went to places where historical monuments stand as a witness, our opinions would change drastically. Sometimes , it may even taken a 180 degree turn. The experience of visiting an old temple, living or dead would probably do more to your historical awareness than reading a tome that describes the temple architecture.

Banashankari Temple

Our first destination was the Banashankari temple. It was a ten minute drive from Badami. The location is called   Cholachagudd.  , which is five kilometres from Badami. The temple was built by Kalyani Chalukyas in the 7th century. The temple was modified or rebuilt in the Dravidian style during the reign on Vijayanagara Kingdom. It has survived the onslaught of Muslim invaders. However, the temple in its present form looks like a modern construction. Wikipedia puts the date to 18th century.

At the entrance of the temple, we saw an interesting structure that doubled up as a guard tower and a deepastambha [ A pillar filled with bowl shaped enclosures for lighting a lamp ]. This is supposed to be constructed in the Indo Islamic style, similar to the lotus mahal in Hampi.

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Deepastambha over the watchtower in front of Banashankari Temple

After an auspicious beginning, we went back to Badami town in a shared auto. I was enjoying the texture of the place on my first morning. The version of Kannada spoken in this part of Karnataka is unique. Strangers in rural parts seem to be more comfortable with having conversations in the shared auto. That is something that has totally disappeared in urban parts of the state. The farmland and the fresh air added a certain rustic charm to this place.

One of the distinct feature of this historical town is the wide gap between living spaces and the fenced/walled premises of historical monuments. Open drains, dirt and narrow lanes are in stark contrast to lush green lawns and neatly tended shrubs maintained around the museum and monuments.

Badami Museum

Our next destination was the Badami museum. The museum is at the bottom of the Badami hill. The town derives it name from the color of red sandstone on which the capital has been built. It was formerly known as Vatapi, the capital of Chalukyas.

Legend and archaeological evidence states that the king had built his wooden palace at the top of the hill. It was a strategic decision taken by rulers to have their residence on a hill as he could defend it easily from invaders. Evidence of granary like structures are visible even today.

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Picture Credits : http://www.highwayonlyway.com

Most of the exhibits in the museum did not have a description. Apathy of authorities and the lack of interest in maintaining the historical treasures was blatantly visible. Among all the exhibits I saw, I would like to talk about three that I consider to be exceptional .

Makara Torana was the most majestic exhibit in the museum. It is a sculpted on both sides (front and back) and depicts floral designs emanating from the mouths of two crocodiles on the right and left. In the inner side of the panel Mahishasura Mardhini , Brahma and Ganesha deities can be seen.

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Makara Torana – Badami museum

Tripurantaka shiva is a motif that narrates the story of Shiva attacking three mythical cities of asuras. I feel that this was the sole occasion on which Shiva wielded a bow and arrow to destroy his enemies. This was necessary because of the nature of the boon given to the asura named Taraka by Brahma.

Somehow Brahma is the dude who gives all boons to asuras and other gods have to come and fix the mess that ensues. Otherwise, our man  Shiva would have used his third eye to burn down these mythical cities within a second.

The story of these three cities sounds like science fiction.

The demon Taraka had three off-springs named Taarakaaksha, Kamalaaksha and Vidyunmaali. These demon princes performed severe penance towards the creator-god Brahma and obtained the boon of immense power. Brahma, on being pleased with them, presented each of them with an aerial city revolving in the sky. The legend further states that these three cities or forts (Tripura) continued to revolve in the sky for hundreds of years. In the course of revolving, the three would converge very rarely. The boon granted them that they would live for a thousand years in the three invincible, moving cities and that they would be destroyed only by an arrow that could merge the three forts into one, and set them to fire.

From Wikipedia.

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Tripurantaka Shiva ( 7th – 8th century AD)

The third astounding exhibit in the museum is that of Lajjagauri .  Lajja gauri means a a gauri who is not shy. It is a fertility goddess adopted from the tribal pantheon into the Hindu constellation of deities. Ladies pray to this deity for a baby if they have any trouble in conceiving one. The deity poses like a lady in a position favorable for conception. In the place of her head is a lotus , which symbolizes prosperity. In addition to that she holds a lotus in both her hands

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Lajjagauri

In addition to this Markandeya Anugrahamurthi and Chamundi, Virabhadra and Chaturbhuja Shiva idols are also on display. Krishnavatara and Bhagavata panels are also exquisite and detailed. They carry stories from Krishna’s childhood. On the outer porch , virakallu or martyr stones are also displayed.  Most of the idols of deities have been destroyed by Bahmani, Bidar and Tipu Sultan’s armies that have invaded and captured Badami over a period of time.

Part 2 : Badami Caves [ Yet to be written ]

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