Thursday, April 14, 2011

Badami, Aihole and Pattadakal – A Journey through history- Part 2

           My friends and I had travelled to North Karnataka seeking the cradle of temple architecture of India. Here's part  two of my blog on our journey through the ages. 

Badami was the second capital of the Chalukyas and was founded by Pulikesi-I in 540 AD. Badami is called so because of the colour of rocks is the same as the nut Badami (or Almond). The main temples have been hewn out of sand stone on the precipice of a hill. Cave style is the most difficult form of temple building because there is only one opportunity to get the sculptures right. No second chance to replace a broken statue with another one built elsewhere.

Anantasana - Vishnu on a nagasheshaShiva Thandava

There are four cave temples, three Hindu and one Jain. The first cave is the oldest and has a stunning sculpture of Shiva with 18 arms in a dancing posture- the apocalyptic Shiva Thandava. The Ardhanarishwara (half-Shiva, half-Parvathi) and the Harihara (half-Vishnu, half-Shiva) are the other main sculptures in cave 1. Caves 2 and 3 are dedicated entirely to Vishnu. Cave 2 has a sculpture of Vishnu sitting on a lotus- The Anantasana, the image that is ubiquitous in every reference to Badami. Cave 4 has images of Digambara Jains, Tirthankaras and Mahavira and goes some way in showing the secular nature of the Chalukyan rulers.
Front view of the Badami caves
These caves also served as shelter houses at lean times and you can also see carvings of board games like Pallanguli(Many-Holes) and HuliMane(Lion House) indicating the presence of young children. There are no palaces in Badami (unlike Hampi) to show that the rulers lived in splendour and research shows that the rulers resided in wooden houses while building these majestic caves temples for the Gods to reside in.

                Pattadakal is situated on the banks of the Uttara Vahini River and is supposed to be the pinnacle of Chalukyan architecture. It was established in the later stages around 7-8th century AD. Pattadakal literally means rock of coronation in Kannada. It is also called as Shilapura or the place of sculptures. All the temples here are Shiva temples (unlike Badami and Aihole) and all of them face the East. There is also a Jain temple built later by the Rashtrakuta rulers.

Mallikarjuna (Dravidian)  and the Kasi Visvesvara(Aryan)

View of all temples in Pattadakal
                Pattadakal is a UNESCO world heritage site and has ten major temples, a co-existence of Dravidian, Aryan and hybrid style of temple building. The textured carvings on the pillars are full of stories of Ramayana, Mahabharata and the DashaAvatars of Vishnu. We could also find a rich trove of stories from Panchatantra carved on the pillars. In 1565 AD, the Bahamani Sultan ransacked the place, but let the temple structures remain intact. I imagine that perhaps the conqueror recognized that such a fusion of art, architecture and skill is rare and deserves its place in history.

P.S: The link to my Picasa web album with pictures from the trip:

Badami, Aihole and Pattadakal – A Journey through history- Part 1

                 Be it a metro dotted with skyscrapers and malls or a dusty little village in the hinterland, you can be sure that you are never too far away from a temple in India. Some of these majestic structures have withstood the ravages of time for centuries and still stand tall and proud. Have you ever wondered when and where our ancestors discovered, honed and perfected their skills in art and architecture thereby permitting us to gaze proudly at these temples today?  To answer these questions and also have some fun along the way, I set out to North Karnataka with a few of my friends hoping to travel through the ages into the very beginning of known Indian History.
                Badami, Aihole and Pattadakal form the historical trio of places where the art of building temples and rock carvings flourished right from 5th century AD. Badami is located around 500 kms from Bangalore and is accessible by train and bus. Aihole is around 40 kms from Badami and Pattadakal is midway between them.

Durg Temple
                Aihole was the first capital of the Chalukyas and was called Aryapura in its earlier days. It was supposed to have been renamed Aihole after a woman found Parashurama, the Kshatriya(warrior clan) killer, washing his bloody axe in the lake and exclaiming “Ayyo-Hole”(the lake)!! Doubtless we will never know why and when Aryapura became Aihole since in our nation mythology is sometimes indistinguishable from history.
Aihole is supposed to the “Cradle of Indian Architecture” and has around 125 temples and a few caves. At the entrance of the complex is the horse-shoe shaped durg temple. This temple is supposedly the inspiration for the famous Konark temple in Orissa. Aihole has temples for both the main Hindu deities- Vishu, the protector and Shiva, the destroyer. Even though the Chalukyans worshipped Vishnu, prominence was given to Shiva as well indicating presence of both Shaivism(Worship of Shiva) and Vaishnavism(Worship of Vishnu) school of thought.

TriBangi ShivaHariHara - Vishnu/Shiva

The Tribanghi Shiva, Vijaya Narasimha, Mahishasure Mardhini and Harihara(Half-Vishnu Half-Shiva) are some of the notable sculptures. The Ladkhan temple in the structures dates back to the 5th century. Interestingly the sculptors were given the freedom to paint a true picture of those times. One sculpture shows an elephant crushing a condemned man to death. Another set of carvings show a couple cozying up before marriage and fighting it out after. Clearly the sculptor must have drunk deeply from the cup of life!

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Traffic Signal

The traffic signal ahead turns red and I slowly ease my car to a halt, squeezing it in the gap between two other cars. My car window is generally up, mostly to avoid the dust and smoke in the roads of Bangalore. It also helps avoid bothersome hawkers, groping eunuchs and old women with crying babies. But tonight it is down and before I know it, there is a kid beside my car, with a bamboo basket full of what can only be described as plastic junk. He says ‘Anna, 10 rupees only. Will you please buy one?’
My first instinct is to pull up my car window. After years of driving on Bangalore’s roads, I had pretty much become inured to such sights and had taught myself to ignore such things. I generally persuade myself with the usual arguments – ‘Of course the crying baby clinging to her neck is rented’, ‘I don’t want to encourage begging’, ‘This crossing is so busy, this woman makes enough money to manage a savings account in the bank across the street’ etc. But something about the little kid peering expectantly at me stops my hand.
The boy seems to be around 5-6 years old and the first thing I notice is his grotesque lips split till his chin leaving his disfigured for life. There is a misty glaze in his eyes that shouts out that he does not belong to streets. Perhaps he wants to go home. I wish that he has one and somebody to take care of him. But I know there is nobody since the kid would not be hawking toys in the streets at night if somebody really cared about him.
In spite of my refusal, he continues to plead. ‘Please anna, it’s only 10 rupees’. I think that maybe he has a ‘pimp’ who would beat later him until he handed over all the day’s earnings or else maybe he has not yet sold his quota of toys for the day, which could explain what he was doing in the street at 9 in the night. But one thing I know for sure. The kid led a tough life; one that folks like me in air conditioned cars cannot understand or seldom bother to. I empty all the change in my wallet into his outstretched hands and even refuse the plastic toy that he hands me in return.
I know that the kid will probably not get to keep the money. All I could hope to do is give him ‘hope’. I look into his eyes and give him a gentle and reassuring smile as if to say ‘Everything will be fine kiddo’. His response to the smile shatters what little hope I harbor for the little boy. There is none. Perhaps both of us know that my smile serves no purpose and does little to alter his predicament. As if on cue, the traffic signal turns green. He seems ready to burst into tears at any moment. But instead just turns his head away from me and hurries along to the pavement, anxiously waiting for the signal to turn red again.