My last visit to Aihole and Pattadkal was in February 1996 with Gulli during our 13 day biking trip around Karnataka. Somehow memories of these two places remained sketchy. I decided to revisit. The first attempt sometime July failed, I got tied down with work. While the second plan was taking shape I met Dr.Girish Kamat. Chetan, my colleague was enthusiastic to join me. The plan was set- August 14th- we would be visiting Badami, Banashankari, Aihole and Pattadkal.
Our journey started at 6AM. Our cab driver Shrikant was familiar with roads... Hebballi, Byahatti, Hebsur, now we were cruising on SH63... Konnur, Navalgund, Nargund and Kulgeri.
Between Navalgund and Nargund a minivan loaded with plastic pots was chugging along happily. It looked very colorful, like a curly haired head from the back.
Shrikant is from a farmer's family. I enjoyed discussing about Banni tree and Shiva-Jaali trees which are pretty common here.
From Kulgeri Badami, Pattadkal and Aihole are 22km, 44km and 66km. It was around 8-30 when we reached Badami, we stopped for breakfast. Our plan was to visit Pattadkal and Aihole and then come back to Badami & Banashankari. Just outside Badami we saw a board pointing the direction to Sidlaphadi. Few months back I had read an article about Sidlaphadi in DH and ever since I wanted to see the lightning struck rock. But the dirt road was not motorable and we were not prepared for a trek in this rough terrain ...our sandals would not have lasted the 4km + 4km trek. Some other day. We decided to go to Pattadkal. Few kilometers down the road we saw the arch beckoning travelers to Mahakoota.
The moment we got out of the cab, we could feel the silence, it was so peaceful. We saw some pilgrims bathing in the fresh water stream in the front yard of the temple. The stream passed under the temple wall into a pond. We passed through the gateway past this Basavanna.
The inside is crowded with temples and varieties of sculptures scattered all over the place. Not all sculptures are ancient, I could see a few new sculptures too. For instance this mantapa below is a recent creation styled similar to the mantapa in Banavasi.
Shivalinga and Basavanna sculptures are aplenty. I guess there are about 8 to 10 temples within this complex with Basavanna facing each one of them.
Of all Basavannas, the one you see below looked most beautiful- color, shape, the decoration -it's different in every aspect. Chetan described it as a Gooli.
This temple is attention grabbing. The shikhara is captivating, makes me wonder how wonderfully talented were the people who created it. It's not just the looks but also the engineering behind it. This particular shikhara reminds me of a photo of Angkor Wat I'd seen long back.
A closer looks reveals so much details in each of the stones.
The most notable feature of this temple complex is the pond. Water is crystal clear. We climbed down the steps leading into the water, it was cool. Small black fish hovered around our feet, they were the most friendly fish I'd ever seen. Chetan noticed bubbles rising out from the pond bed. The color of the pond bed is just like Chilume Honda of Ulavi.
This is Ardhanaareswara, half man and half woman. I've seen similar sculpture in Alampur also. In fact the architectures are similar.
This is the only place I've seen temples and trees co-existing but I also feel trees are trying to grab what ever attention temples get.
We had seen most of the temple now and we had to end our stay and move on the next place ...we still had 4 more places to cover. Before turning back we thought we'll check out what was behind a gateway at the back of the temple. As we stepped out of the gateway two life size figures... Kaala and Kaali.
The couple zapped us out of our wits. So many questions arose- why were they made? are they guarding a graveyard? how would anybody feel if they saw it during a night? As you see, both seem like skeletons covered with skin. We got so engrossed studying and discussing these two characters we had to force ourselves to move on.
As we walked back to the car-park we saw a well, water was just 6 feet below ground level and we saw three turtles swimming peacefully. We bought guavas from a woman asked to stay back. It seems most people come here to stay for a day at least. We told her an outline of our plan and hoped to see her again. We moved on towards Pattadkal.
Back home I read the DH article and realized that Sidlaphadi was just one kilometer from Mahakoota. I have plans to visit again, stay overnight at Mahakoota and see Sidlaphadi.