Deccan Delights

Hampi & Badami


The bus shakes and rattles like a child's plaything. With every jerk, the old springs underneath the bus, keep squeaking and creaking loudly, perhaps complaining about the cruel treatment given by the potholed road. The left side windows are all draped with heavy cotton curtains, to block any sun light piercing through. Even then, an odd quiver or shudder of the bus, makes the drapes dance wildly for a moment, allowing a brilliant yellow ray of light to shoot through and scorch my bare arms. The weather is pleasant and cool. Yet the rays of the sun hit my arms like a flare. I look out through the uncovered window on my right. I see unending acres of sugar cane, jawar and cotton fields roll on. I close my eyes for an instant. I realize that the the bus now taking a sharp left turn, suddenly comes to a stop. It seems we have arrived at Hampi.


Rocky Mountain

I get down from the bus and look around. The fertile fields have all disappeared as if by magic. What I see in the front, is incredible. In every direction, huge heaps of granite and sandstone stones and rocks of every imaginable and conceivable shape, lie scattered around on hilltops, vales or are heaped everywhere on top of each other in what look like to be the most precarious arrangements. It is difficult to even imagine how this scenario was ever created. Only explanation that I can think of is a major volcanic eruption billions of years ago, wherein the hot lava was thrown up in the sky to a great height. The hot lava solidified into stones while coming down and settled everywhere. My Deccan safari has just began at Hampi with the stones.


The history of any country in the world or region is always shaped by the geography of that region, human nature being same everywhere. In China, mighty empires of Qin, Han and Ming dynasties, faced periodic ravage and destruction from the north-westerly nomadic tribes of the Central Asian steppe region. The ancient Chinese history is shaped by these invasions. India is no exception. Ancient and medieval history of India also speaks of continuous aggressions from North-West.

Geographically speaking, Indian peninsula can be divided into four distinct regions. Himalayan mountainous region of far north, fertile flats of North and North-West India of Indus-Ganga river basins, central plateau region of Godawari-Krishna river basins and the tropical southern India. Out of these four regions, the entire Himalayan region, because of its extreme weather, was not really suitable for habitation and not many settlers came in except in the vale of Kashmir. Continuous foreign invasions took place over the Indus and Ganga river valleys or basins. The entire history of Indian sub continent is so closely associated with these invasions in northern plains, that the history of Deccan plateau region in the doab between Krishna and Godavari rivers is mostly neglected by most of the historians. We can learn from historical accounts that even this region was continuously subjected to foreign invasions. However this region saw many risings of local powers even up to 16th century CE, who had established their empires in the Deccan. These empires resisted effectively the Shaka ( Scythian) and later the Muslim invaders. As a result, no foreign rule could be established over complete Deccan region even up to 16th century CE, and the states in south India always remained insulated or isolated from Muslim invaders from north and Hindu culture prospered in South India. It can also be said that the local kingdoms of the Deccan plateau, blocked the process of Islamization of India, and it could never recover again.

The oldest known indigenous empire of the Deccan was established by Satavahana kings after demise of Emperor Ashoka in 3rd century BCE. However parts of this empire were soon captured by Shaka (Scythian) invaders sometime in first century BCE. The mighty king Goutamiputra from this dynasty liberated most of the areas of Deccan from foreign invaders around 78 CE and limited rule of foreign invaders only to west of his empire in Malwa, Gujrat and Kathiawad regions where kings of Shaka, Pahelavi and Greek origins continued to rule. Satvahana kings were followed by Chalukya, Rashtrakut and Yadav dynasties, who ruled over the Deccan. In the year 1294, Delhi Sultan Allauddin Khilji defeated Yadav kings and Muslim power was established over Deccan for the first time. In the year 1347, Bahmani empire was established in the Deccan and there were clear signs that Islamization of the Deccan would now be complete.

Two Hindu Kings, Harihar and Bukka from Sangma dynasty, established a Hindu kingdom on the bank of river Tungbhadra in the year 1336 and managed to block the spread of Islamic rule for next 200 years very effectively. The process of Islamization of India, which got blocked with establishment of Vijayanagara empire was eventually stopped for ever and even when Islamic rule of local Sultans was established 200 years later, with defeat of Vijayanagara army by combined armies of five Islamic kingdoms, it could not regain any momentum. Both these events therefore have great historic importance.

The traces of the indigenous empires of the Deccan are still found all over the region. In Maharashtra, such traces are found at Ajanta, Ellora and Doulatabad fort near Aurangabad city. However the region that could be considered as the most important from this historical point of view happens to be the Gadag, Bagalkote and Vijapur Districts of the state of Karnataka. The real glory of these empires of the Deccan can be witnessed still, only in these regions. That is why I have decided to start my safari of the Deccan, from Hampi.

The empire of Vijayanagara was in existence for more than 200 years and during this period it was considered as the most powerful and wealthy state. In 1565, after defeat of Vijayanagara army, the enemy armies totally destroyed the beautiful capital of Vijayanagara empire at Hampi. This destruction went on for a period that extended for more than 6 months. Only ruins of this once beautiful metropolis now remain. Even then, it is easy to find the traces and the signs of original affluence and wealth at many places in the ruins. Hampi ruins are spread over 26 square Km, but the most important ruins are seen only at 3 places, which are near about. It is therefore easily possible to see Hampi on foot, without much trouble.

After alighting from the bus, I am on my way to a section of ruins towards north, which have mostly temple ruins. I can see ahead of me 3 or 4 small structures, which appear to have a very special kind of construction. On a plinth built from granite stone blocks, number of vertical pillars stand up. Huge granite stone slabs seem to rest on these pillars creating a sort of a ceiling. Almost all the structures in Hampi that still stand, have a similar construction. I can see a structure bit higher up on the hill slope, which contains a huge stone idol. I walk towards the structure and immediately realize that this structure was a temple of an elephant Hindu God, Lord Ganesha. As per Hindu religious beliefs, any new undertaking succeeds surely, if begun with invocation to Lord Ganesha. I start my Hampi wanderings with a visit to a Ganesha temple. 


Sasivekalu Ganesha

This Ganesha idol, about 8 feet tall, is called Sasivekalu Ganesha and has been sculptured from a single granite rock. In the local Kannada language, word Sasivekalu means a mustard seed. It is said that this idol has a stomach, shaped like a mustard seed and hence the name. A cobra snake is seen sculptured around the waist. This Ganesha idol is supposed to have eaten too much food and was scared that his stomach may now burst, so he tied a Cobra around his tummy.


Cobra snake tied on tummy


Side view of Lord Ganesha

Rear view, Ganesha sits in the lap of mother Goddess Parvati 

I just go around the sculptured idol. Hindu mythology tells that Ganesha was originally a shepherd. That is why we can see a stick and a lasso in his hands of this idol. From the other side, this Ganesha idol looks very much like a woman in sitting position with hair tied up in a knot. What this sculpture actually is trying to depict is Lord Ganesha's mother “Parvati” sitting with her gigantic child in her lap. Perhaps the sculptor of this idol is trying to tell us the fundamental truth, that for any mother, her son, even if he is very famous and powerful, is always a small child in her mind. I leave the Ganesh temple and start walking further towards north, greatly appreciating in my mind, the flight of fancy of the sculptor. 

The Sasivekalu Ganesha temple in Hampi, which I just visited, is located at the foot of a small hillock known as “Hemakut Giri.” This hillock looks rather tiny, however climbing up from the side of this temple is difficult because the cliff here is rather stiff. Most of the people take the diversionary route, which goes around the hill, because it is easier on your legs. I decide to take this longer route and start walking. Ahead of me appears another structure constructed with a granite stone block plinth, pillars and slabs for roof, and that is all that has remained there now.


Entry gate for Kadalekalu Ganesh temple. Left gate is for the King, middle for commoners and right for noblemen 

This structure was actually a gate with three separate entrances. Left entrance for the king, right entrance for the senior officers and the middle one for common people. All the three ways converge into the same path later. I am bit amazed at this segregation of classes. I walk ahead and see another Temple structure with another Ganesha idol facing me. This temple structure is somewhat different from the one I saw earlier. There are actually two sections an outside prayer hall, known as “Rang Mandir” and the inside sanctum where the idol is kept. All the pillars that support the prayer hall have bass reliefs carved on them. My initial reaction about the bass reliefs is that they lack fine work. However I soon realize that they are looking bit crude because the basic material in which they are carved is granite, which is an extremely hard stone. Because of the hardness, it must have been really tough to sculpture or create baas reliefs here. On closer look I much impressed with the bass reliefs as these are quite different from the usual stuff. I can make out unusual stuff here like a hunter female with a bow and arrow, a monkey faced lion, a Shiva figure and a lingam and Hanuman monkey with his tail wrapped up around him.


Bass relief on a pillar, a servant with a "Chauri"

Figure of Shiva 


Shiva Lingam 

Monkey faced Lion 


Kadalekalu Ganesha

The Ganesha idol in the sanctum is huge, at least 15 feet high. The part of the elephant trunk and stomach have broken off and are not seen anywhere. This Ganesha idol was known as “ Kadalekalu Ganesha” because, Kadalekalu means gram lentil in local Kannada language and that is how the tummy of this idol had looked like. The surrounding view from the prayer hall is magnificent . I can see Hampi market directly ahead with famous “Virupaksha” temple on left and further away in almost all directions the famed Hampi's rock mountains. I feel rather pleased with the view and the place.


Entrance gate to Hemakut hill
I continue walking on a steadily climbing path and see ahead a huge gate, which has been fashioned more like a Roman or a Greek sculpture without any “Gopura” or tower on top. It is also possible that it looks like this because the original Gopura or the tower on the top of the building has now collapsed. There is a particular symbol which I do not understand, but must have been some kind of good luck sign.


Temples from Rashtrakut Period


Temples on Hillside; on left are Hoyasala style, middle are Rashtrakuta style and on right Chalukya style.


West side view: Sasivekalu Ganesha and Krishna temples 


East side View; tower of Virupaksha temple.

Hemakut Giri” means a mountain of gold. This name has been derived from the Sanskrit word “Hema” which means gold. It is believed that when Hindu God Shiva got married with Goddess “Pampa,” this hill was covered with gold flakes, which fell from the heavens. In reality, I can only see shining black granite rock slabs covering almost entire hill. There are number of Shiva temples on the hill with three distinct types of “Gopura” or towers on top. I can clearly identify the typical “Rashtrakut” style stepped towers of earlier times. Perhaps the absence of the tower on the entry gate, which I mentioned above is because of this reason only. This kind of entry gate without a tower, is seen in many structures of “Rashtrakut” period, like the Gate structure of the famous “Kailash” rock temple at Ellora caves. Obviously, many temples here must have been in existence long before the “Vijayanagara” was established.

I climb to the top of the hill. I am told that the sunset view from here is quite picturesque. However it is still mid morning here and only things I see are the Sasivekalu Ganesha temple and the Krishna temple further away. There is two storied structure here right on top of hill. I had never seen anywhere this kind of structure built out of just stone slabs without any binding materials. This was built as a place for overnight stay of disciples, who came to prey at the “Hemakut” temples. There were ramparts all around the hill to protect the temples from any invaders. The ruins are still seen at few places. While getting down the hill, I see a bass relief depicting few scenes from “Ramayana” done by some amateur artist. One of the temples has a victory pillar. A Frangipani tree is in full bloom with brilliant white flowers. I just can not avoid the temptation of snapping all that.


Hemakut hill guest house

Shiva lingam engraved in stone 

Engraving on temple towers done in Rashtrakut style 

The Victory Pillar 


Bass reliefs on hemkut hill 


Frangipani tree on the hill

If you look east from top of the “Hemakut” hill, a huge “Gopura” or a monumental tower, can be easily seen at a distance. This tower belongs to the “Virupaksha” temple, which has the distinction of being the only Hindu temple in this place where religious ceremonies or “Pooja” is still conducted and many disciples visit the temple to pay their respects to the lord. I am now inside the temple courtyard having crossed the outer gate over which the huge tower has been erected. I see two huge enclosures on my both sides. The stone slab roofs of which are being supported by 80 or 100 pillars. All the pillars and the stone walls are decorated with beautiful bass reliefs. The original “Virupaksha temple” was constucted in the seventh century CE. The outside entrance gate and the tower above were built by the Hampi Kind “Krishnadevaraya” in the fifteenth century . There is another gate with a smaller “Gopura.” ahead. After crossing the second gate, I can see the main temple and many other smaller temples on the sides. The prayer hall ceiling has some painted scenes from epic “Ramayana” besides few more bass reliefs and sculptures. I do not find anything outstanding in the artwork. There is an exceptional arrangement in a completely darkened side enclosure on the right side of the main temple. It is possible to see an inverted image of the scene outside on a wall through a pin hole that has been provided on the opposite wall. Am ancient pin hole camera viewer! Obviously, the principle was known to the architects, who built the temple. I find it quite amazing.

Towers of Virupaksha temple


Bass relief Virupaksha temple 


Goddess Durga fighting demons 


100 pillared enclosure, Virupaksha temple 


Painting on the ceiling of Virupaksha temple 


Vali and Sugreev, Monkey kings from Ramayana, fighting a battle


View of Virupaksha temple from Hampi Bazaar 

I walk out of the temple through the south side entry gate. Just outside the temple gate, the way opens in to a wide King's way, which had stalls, where traders used to set shops. All these are now in ruins. Much nearer, modern traders have set up shops here selling materials for religious ceremonies, clothes and usual stuff for visitors like souvenirs and Tee shirts. I find the quality of good quite pathetic and keep walking to our bus, which has been parked a little distance away. Because of this modern shops, the place is now known as Hampi bazaar.

After visiting the Virupaksha temple, our bus is now leaving for another master piece of Hampi; The Bal Krishna Temple or the temple of Krishna as a child. This temple was built in 1513 CE by Hampi king “Krishnadevaraya” to celebrate his victory in the war over king of Utkal ( Present day Orissa state). The temple is enclosed inside a compound barricaded by massive stone ramparts. The main entrance gate is also constructed from stone. However, the tower above or Gopura, is of brick construction. While standing at this entrance gate facing north, I glance at the view in front of me and try to imagine what it must have been like in the glory days of Hampi. In front of me is a huge water reservoir, which is completely empty now. On both sides of the lake, there are ruins of rows and rows of shops or stalls. The entire landscaping of this temple front has been done so well that it is fairly easy to imagine how picturesque and beautiful this must have looked then. All the shops here only dealt with merchandise that women love and desire, such as clothes, jewelry and ornaments. This area is still called with its original name of “Krishna Bazaar” only. I turn around and my attention is drawn by some fine bass reliefs on the entrance gate to the temple. Besides a hunter female with a bow- removing a thorn from her sole, a meditating ascetic and a divine nymph-Apsara, there is also an inscription giving details about the victory won by the king and details of temple construction.

Entry gate for Bal Krishna temple

A lady with a bow gets a thorn removed from her sole

A meditating ascetic 

Celestial Nyph-Apsara

After entering the temple premises, I turn back and have a look at the tower above the entrance gate, as I had spotted some fine full reliefs there. The figures are supposed to represent King Krishnadevaraya and his 2 official wives and a concubine. The temple hall, with highly decorated pillars, is huge. Two well crafted stone elephants, on both sides of the steps to the temple hall or “Rang Mandir” welcome me. Some of the pillars have bass reliefs depicting a lion faced animal called “Yali.” I realize that I am getting late and decide to leave. I want to have a last look at the tower on the entry gate. Right on top I detect a full relief human figure, which is intact. It is so high up that I need to use full zoom on my camera to snap it. Finally I succeed and get the picture of the beautiful relief.

Rang-mandap of Bal-Krishna temple

Figures of King Krishadeavaraya and his 3 wives carved on tower of entry gate of Bal Krishna temple

Tower of the Bal-Krishna temple 

Figure on Gopura, snapped with full zoom

There are two smaller temples towards east of Bal Krishna temple. One of them is known as “Badawiling” and contains a huge Shiva Lingam as the name suggests. This temple was build just on a roadside so that votaries could pay easily their obeisance to the idol. There is another temple of Lord Nrisimha in an angry mood, just on the side. To me, this idol appears very much like the cartoon character Shrek, but I keep my thoughts to myself. I am told that this temple was completely renovated by the Archeological Department, but when people objected to it, all the work done was undone and the temple now remains as it has been for last 500 years. I see two hand carts on the other side of the road. One of them is selling fresh coconut water. I decide to go for it as it is fairly hot with the sun blazing above. While drinking the fresh coconut water, I observe that the other hand cart has many small idols made from stone for sale. The prices however turn out to be as stiff as in a a big show room. I give up all thoughts of making a purchase and proceed further.

"Badawilinga" Shiva Lingam

Angry "Nrisimha"

Hand cart selling artifacts
Most of the temples of Hampi are situated in the area, which I have so far visited. I am on my way now to the capital area which had King's and Queen's palaces and administration buildings etc. The first building, which I see on my way is a single storied squarish building without any roof. The arches on the entrance gate and small windows on sides are of typical Islamic style. A name board on the side says that this is the Queen's bath house. But after having a look it is apparent that this is actually a water sports center for the royal family. The building has a huge and built up square shaped water tub at center open to sky with roofed verandas on all sides. Fresh water inlets are provided on all sides with drain outs at the bottom. The water was kept scented with fresh flowers and perfumes. Female guards used to stand on the veranda roof, looking outward and if any intruder was noticed, he would be immediately arrested and thrown off in a water moat nearby. I can see beautiful designs in the plaster work on the sides of the tub and on veranda walls. These walls used to be covered with big silk curtains and a flag used to fly, when a member of the Royal family used the bath house. There is no doubt that this bath house must have looked stunningly beautiful during the glory days of the empire.

Queen’s Bath

Royal Bath Tub 

Decorations in the plaster

As I come out of Queen's bath house, I realize that I am very hungry. I move to a nice restaurant nearby. After having good lunch, I relax in a cane chair. A cool breeze is blowing from the barren landscape around even with the sun blazing. My eyes close unknowingly. After a nap I get up for my next visit, which is to be to the King's palace.

Twin sisters 

On way, I see two huge boulders lying is such fashion as it appears that they are embracing each other. These rocks are known as “Akka tangi gundu” or twin sisters. 

Wall of the Royal Palace

Door pane made from stone slab

After travelling some distance further, I see a huge wall built from giant stone bricks. These bricks were individually chiseled to fit each other. The wall has no gaps and no binding material such as mortar lime was used. The wall is about 12 to 15 feet wide at the bottom and as tall as 36 feet at some places. Archeologists say that Hampi had 7 such protecting walls around the city. The wall surrounding the King's palace was naturally the strongest. The door panes of the main door were constructed from solid rock slabs and moved with two stone pins rotating in the sockets provided in the stone sills. An arrangement very similar to a ball and socket joint. The door panes are lying on a side. It was possible to close or open this door only with an elephant's help. No wonder that with this kind of massive security, Kingdom of Hampi stood onslaught of Islamic armies for 200 years. 

Mahanavami Dibba

Bass reliefs on Mahanavami Dibba 

King's court 

Elephants near the steps 

A lady waiting in her house 

Panel with carvings of women; on extreme right a pregnant woman

I enter the palace ground through main entry door. The scene inside is very similar to Shaniwarwada, a place of historical importance from my home town Pune. I see everywhere, only plinths of buildings built from stone bricks. Boards have been erected near all such ruins explaining, what buildings stood there once. King Krishanadevaraya's palace made from sandal wood, the Darbar hall with 100 pillars are all destroyed. A secret enclosure for King's consultations with his spies, exists is good shape. A large stone brick platform known as “Mahanavami Dibba” has somehow survived the ravages of time.

This 25 feet high platform has been a mute witness to each and every major celebration done in Hampi. The platform has a stepped construction. A flight of steps in front and on two sides, have green granite stone panels with beautiful bass reliefs, depicting king's court scenes, life of people, horses and elephants. On one of the sides, the bass reliefs only depict female warriors. This platform can be seen without any visit fee but it is definitely worth seeing. King used to sit on this platform and watch various sports events, march pasts and festival programmes. The stairs in the front appear bit stiff but stair case at the rear, which was used by the king, is easy on the legs. In the various events organized to celebrate festivals, there used to be an eating competition. Special giant sized plates made from stone were used in these contests.

The palace water staorage

U shaped water supply channels

Stone plates for the foodies

All the royal buildings were supplied running water through U shaped channels made from rocks. I can also see a large sized water reservoir with steps on all sides. I now walk towards the rampart on the northern side. A temple known as “Hazari ram “ or temple of 1000 Rama idols, exists just near the northern boundary of palace grounds. Some of the best bass reliefs found in entire Hampi area, are found here. The pillars of the temple hall, outer and inner walls, are all studded with wonderful sculptures. Some of the reliefs are very funny too. A tram car for the Gods or Krishna as a child trying to steal butter are just unbelievable. To light up the temple with lights, decorated engraved lamps are carved at many places.

Figures on "Hazari Rama" temple entry gate tower

An imaginary animal 

A battle scene 

King Rama meets his sons "Lava" and "Kusha"

Bal Krishna tied to grinding stone

Rama breaks the divine bow to win his wife Sita 

Bal Krishna stealing butter 

Rama kills a female demon "Shupanakha"

Krishna kills the evil serpent "kaliya"

A tram car for the Gods

More Bass reliefs from "hazari Rama" temple

A Lamp Holder

Rama kills the demon "Maricha" in the form of a deer

I look at the watch. It is already 5 in the evening. This means that I have been wandering all over Hampi ruins, in blazing sun, for last 5 or 6 hours. Still what I have seen in that time is something unique and can not be seen very often. I am not feeling particularly tired, so I decide to travel to a garden near the dam on Tungabhadra river, to spend the evening. After reaching the spot, I find that the shuttle bus, which would take me up to the dam is not playing today. So, it is another long walk and then down again to the garden, which is almost a replica of Vrindavan gardens near Mysore city. Similar fountains with coloured flood lights and jets of water dancing to music, are very comforting for my tired condition.


The fountains in the Tungabhadra dam garden

Later, as I retire for the night, I wonder, how did I manage to walk so much today? Perhaps it was the magic of Hampi after all. Tomorrow I visit the greatest attraction of Hampi, the famed temple of “Viththala.” With a great expectation for tomorrow, I fall asleep in no time at all. 


I an nurturing a question in my mind, since I visited the King's palace and the Queen's bath house yesterday, as to where the Queens of the kingdom actually resided. I later found out, that a separate barricaded enclosure or a harem existed for all the queens and the concubines of the king. I am on my way now, to see this area, also known as Zenana Enclosure. This enclosure is quite far away from the royal palace and also has a strong wall around it. In one of the places this wall has fallen to ruins. Just one look at the broken wall is enough to convince how strong this fortification must have been.

Protecting wall of Zenana enclosure or Harem
This Jenana enclosure was built like a jail. Once a girl enters this enclosure, it was almost impossible for her to get out. I have read one interesting story about this. In one of the villages in the jurisdiction of Hampi's staunch enemy state, the Bahamani empire, there lived an goldsmith, who had a stunningly beautiful daughter named as “Prayal.” This girl not only was very beautiful, but was also an expert in all the arts like music, painting and conversing with others. Somehow. King Devaraya of Hampi came to know about her. The king sent one of his court Brahmins to her village to somehow bring her to Hampi and also sent an expensive choker type gold ornament to entice her. This clever girl however knew that going to Hampi would be like going to jail and she would never be able to meet her parents again and refused to go. King Devaraya felt very offended with her denial and himself lead an army of 30000 soldiers to her village. After hearing that the king is marching with his army, this girl, along with her parents, disappeared in the jungles. The army of Hampi caused great amount of destruction in the Bahamani empire region around the girl's village and returned empty handed. When Bahamai Sultan came to know about this, he collected a huge army and marched to Hampi itself. King Devaraya had to finally sign a treaty with the Sultan and had to pay a ransom of 1 Million Gold coins, 50 Kg of Pearls, 50 elephants, 2000 male and female slaves and had to marry off his own daughter with Bahamani Sultan.

While going around the Jenana Enclosure, I am getting reminded of this story again again. This enclosure, surely must have felt like a golden cage for all the ladies who stayed within its perimeter. I cross the entry gate. There is a huge open ground ahead of me. At the middle there is a stone brick plinth, about 150 feet long and 90 feet wide, of the Queen's residence. This plinth is stepped and on each of the steps, just like the royal palace, there are stone panels with extremely delicate carved patterns. A Sandal wood palace once stood on this plinth. Just opposite the Queen's residence, there was a shallow lake (now empty). At the center of the shallow lake there is a platform again with delicate carved panels on all sides. A building known as “Jalmahal” or lake palace was built on this platform. Being in the middle of a lake, this structure used to remain cool even during hot summer. There is also another water reservoir, for use of the enclosure inmates. In one corner of the enclosure, a building without any windows, still stands. This was used to store all the gold, precious jewels and other expensive things.

There is one more building that looks like a half bloomed lotus and still stands erect, known as “ Kamal or Chitrangani Mahal” or Lotus Palace. This building with brick construction and lime mortar plaster, has a unique kind of design which appears like fusion of Muslim and Hindu styles of construction and probably was saved from the invaders because of that. There are huge open arches on all sides of the building with lotus buds embossed on inside of the central dome on ceiling. The arches on sides have nice delicate design patterns created in the plaster and were covered from inside with huge silk curtains. Arrangements for anchoring the silk curtains can be still seen.


Two storied Lotus palace

Arches and decorative work

A guard tower, only female guards were deployed

Bass relief of serpent God 

To the northeast of Jenana enclosure, are the elephant stables. 12 elephants used to be housed here for the use of the Queens. The elephants were never chained at their feet but near their chest and the chain was hooked at the ceiling, where a suitable iron hook was fixed. The staff attending the elephants used to stay nearby in a building with a very high plinth. This building was also used by the ladies to mount the elephants.


Elephant stables


A lone guard tower on a hill 

Our bus is now moving north to last of the places, I intend to visit in Hampi, the “Viththla Mandir” or the temple of deity know as “viththala.” These ruins are known as best of what Hampi offers to the visitors. The bus stops quite far away from the temple site. I get a feeling that I would have to walk again over a large distance in the hot sun to reach the temple. However, I can see ahead, a battery operated stylish minibus, available from this point onwards. These buses have been provided by the Government to prevent any damage to these world famous ruins with diesel or petrol smoke.

The first stop, where the bus stops is a huge weighing balance frame made from stone. The balance was used to weigh the king with gold on special occasions. The King would sit in one pan and the gold was put in the other pan, When the pans balanced, that gold was donated to the poor.


Viththala temple battery operated minibus

King's weighing balance

The bus moves to the next stop on the bank of Tungabhadra river. This is one of the most scenic spots found in Hampi, with azure blue sky above, the rocky hills all around and picturesque river bed right in front of me. The scene is so stunning that I do not feel like moving away from this place. Just on the bank of the river, there are ruins of a dwelling, where Karnataka's greatest saint poet, Purandardasa stayed once. The river can be crossed here in huge wicker baskets. I feel like doing it, but I have to move on as there is no time left for this. Just on the other bank, there is a tall hill called “Anjaneya Hill.” A brilliant white temple of deity “Anjaneya” or “Maruti” glistens in the bright sun light on the hill top.


Tungbhadra river scene, Anjaneya hill behind


Anjaneya temple on the hill 

The rocky hills around, have been given very poetic Sanskrit names like “ Gandhamadan, Matang, Hemakut, Malayawant and Rishikesha,” which makes me feel that I have travelled back a millennium in India's history.


Sculptures on temple entry tower

Court yard of Viththala temple
The Bus is now leaving for the main attraction, “Viththala Mandir.” I get down from the bus just near the entry gate with a Gopura or a tower. Opposite to this, is a familiar view, a long bazaar with rows of stalls or shops constructed from stone slabs, now in ruins, on both sides of a longish pond or a water channel like what I saw in Krishna Bazaar. This place was Hampi's main cattle market. The middle water tank was for feeding the animals kept for sale. Traders from far off lands like Arabia would bring Horses here along with local cows, bulls, goats etc. I turn back and look at the Gopura, which is much damaged now, but whatever remains has stunningly beautiful figures sculptured on it.

I enter the temple court yard. An enormous view unwraps itself before my own eyes. Right ahead, in a straight line stand 3 platforms called as “Dhwajapeeth” or Flag pedestal, “Jyotipeeth” or pedestal of a flame and “ Balipeeth” or Sacrifice pedestal. Behind this, but in the same straight line is a large sized “Tulsi Vrindavan” or the Basil shrub Pot, made from stone. Behind this, is the world famous chariot of Hampi, carved from a rock. The main temple hall is at the end of this straight line.

On both sides of the main temple hall, there are open structures without any walls with highly decorated supporting pillars. The structure on right was a kitchen and the one behind was used for chanting religious songs or “Bhajans.” The structure on left was used for solemnizing marriages. The structure in front of this marriage hall is a dance hall built by King Krishnadevaraya. His second wife, “Chinnadevi” used to dance here on special festival days like Dussera. Arrangements are provided to enclose the dance hall in curtains so that only selected few can watch the dance performed by the Queen. On this day Queen would dance at 3 places; Krishna Temple, Virupaksha temple and this Viththala temple.


Basil shrub pot


The world famous rock chariot 

I am now wandering around the temple court yard. The first and the foremost sculpture that I see is obviously the Rock Chariot. This is not a monolith but has been assembled from separate rock parts made independently. The joints have been hidden so well that it appears that it has been carved out of a single rock. This Chariot was a temple of an eagle, supposed to be the carrier of Lord Viththala and hence has been set up right in front of the main temple. On three sides of the Chariot, bass reliefs describing various wars between Gods and Demons, along with other decorations are seen. The front side has the entrance door and a stone ladder. The 4 wheels of the chariot also are made from rock and could rotate on axles made from stone. Wheel are decorated with flower patterns. The whole chariot was painted with bright colours and remnants of the paint are still visible at some places. Two pull this chariot, two horse sculptures were in position. These are now destroyed and their hoofs and tails only remain now.


Temple south wing 

Musical Pillars 

A pillar from dance hall 

Two elephant sculptures have been kept in their place by Archeological department.

The main temple hall constitutes of four wings. On the sides of the eastern steps, there are two elephant sculptures, whereas bass reliefs of an imaginary animal “Yalis” adorn the north and south steps. The entire plinth area is decorated with beautiful bass reliefs which include reliefs of horses and their trainers. In the temple halls there are pillars with fantastic engraving work. The pillars in the front have carved wind pipes, which can create all notes like Do Re me.... etc. of a musical scale, when hit with a wooden hammer. It is said that other pillars produce sounds, that appear like various musical instruments. To prevent damage to the pillars, hammering the pillars is no longer allowed. The eastern wing is known as music hall and has bass reliefs of musical instruments and players only. Southern wing has bass reliefs of the imaginary animal “Yalis” only. Northern wing has bass reliefs of Lion-Man God “Nrisimha” only. Western wing does not exist any more. Ahead of this main temple hall, is the sanctum of the temple with bass reliefs of lotus flowers on outer walls.


Bass relief near the steps 


Bass relief of horses and trainers on plinth of temple


The sanctum without idols 
There are no idols in the temple, which I am told were taken to Pandhapur town in Maharashtra state. Perhaps a hearsay without any basis. I can not be sure. Viththala temple no doubt is the best place in Hampi to visit and if one has very little time, he should definitely see this.


A full relief sculpture near east entrance steps 


A blooming Frangipani tree near the temple 

The final war between Hampi army led by king Ramaraja and joint forces of four kingdoms formed after demise of Bahamani empire, and known as “Nizam shahi, Adil Shahi, Barid Shahi and Imad Shahi” took place at Banihatti on 23rd January 1564. The famous “Malika-e-Maidan” or Queen of the battle, gun of Vijapur was used for the first and the last time in this battle. The Hampi king “Ramaraja” was killed in this battle and Hampi army was defeated. For a period of 6 months afterwords, enemy forces completely destroyed the once stunning beautiful capital of Hampi and converted it into ruins. Even then, as I have mentioned earlier, the process of Islamization of India, which was stopped by Hampi empire could never recover again.

Few decades after demise of Hampi empire, a new form of Hindu power rose in the Deccan, led by a brave general; Shahaji Bhonsle. In the ensuing power struggles, all other kingdoms except “Adil Shahi” were destroyed and the power struggle in the Deccan revolved around this kingdom and Bhonsale dynasty for next century before entry of Mughals from Delhi.

In my Deccan safari, I have now to go back by 1000 years from times of Hampi empire and to the times of the Chalukya's, who were supreme lords of the Deccan around 700 CE.


The earliest known indigenous empire that rose in Deccan, came up immediately after demise of Emperor Ashoka in 2 nd century BCE. Satavahana kings were in fact feudatories or vassal kings of Ashoka in the Deccan and managed to become independent after his demise. Goutamiputra was the mightiest king of the Satavahana dynasty and had extended the Satavahana rule over a large area after wresting the areas of Malwa, Gujarat and Kathiawad under foreign rule of Scythians, Pahelavi (Persians) and Greeks. He had unified for the first time, entire Deccan plateau under his own rule.

Satavahana dynasty rule came to an end by 3rd century CE and the erstwhile empire got divided into many smaller kingdoms. In Maharashtra, Abhirs' took over power, whereas Karnataka was ruled by Kadamba kings. In the south and to the east, Pallava, Chola and Ishvaku kings took over the reins. This continued till 6th century CE, when a new dynastic power rose in the Deccan plateau. This dynasty originated from northern part of Karnataka and were known as Chalukyas'. Kings of this dynasty, soon managed to establish their rule in the region between Kaveri and Narmada rivers and created a new empire. The most famous king of Chalukya dynasty was “Pulkesi II”, who had defeated emperor Harsha to limit his empire to north of Narmada river only. Except for a 13 year period when Pallava kings from south, had defeated Chalukya army and had captured their capital at “Badami,” Chalukya power continued unabated till middle of the 8th century CE. In the initial period of time, Chalukya kings had selected “ Aihole” village from “bagalkote” district of Karnataka state as their state capital. King “Pulakesi I” shifted it to “Vatapi.” (present day “Badami”) The entire Chalukya period is considered as one of the most important in the history of Deccan.

Travelling from Hampi to Badami is not particularly convenient. A major highway (NH 13) leads north from Hampi. At present, major road widening works are going on this way almost over entire stretch. There are many diversions and the road surface is completely damaged by the heavy road building machinery. This road at present could be considered as an excellent test track to determine fitness and health of any vehicle using it. A smaller and probably even worst kind of road, branches off this highway towards east, near a small town called “Amingadh.” I am on my way to “Aihole” village on this road.

Aihole” village is an ordinary and nondescript village hidden in the interiors of the “Bagalkote “district. There are no facilities at this village. I find it difficult to get even a cup of good Tea here. Yet, about 1400 years ago, the same place was a beehive of political and cultural activities including architecture of the “Chalukya” empire. It is almost impossible to realize this fact unless one visits the archeological park here. Government of India first decided to conserve the old “Aihole” structures in 1912. Till then, villagers of Aihole had made these magificant archeological wonders their homes and had damaged them to substantial extent. The first Government ordinance for conservation of 123 ancient structures was issued in 1914. Surprisingly, even 100 years later, some of the structures are still occupied by the villagers and Archeological survey of India has not been able to evict the villages from these structures even today. Luckily most of the structures are behind a barbed wire compound now and are fully secured. 

The entrance to this barbed wire compound is gated now and one needs a ticket to enter. I have bought my entry ticket after paying a small fee and I am now entering the “Aihole” archeological park here. The first structure in front of me is called as “Durg mandir” or a fort temple. This entire structure has an oval shape. There are pillars on the outside, supporting a flat stone slab roof and on inside, there is a wall of oval shape all around. Between the outside pillars and the inside wall, there is a continuous walk-way by which, one can go round the temple for his “parikrama.” Because of this peculiar shape and construction, this structure appears very distinguished one! To an onlooker, this temple appears like a fort and that is why it has been given this name as fort temple. It is difficult to say now, what idol or deity was installed here. It is said that the idol of Hindu God “Vishnu” was installed here. However, just above the main entry door lintel, there is a high relief structure of a strange animal having a human face, with many tentacles which look like snakes or arms of an octopus. I have never seen this kind of animal on the door of a “Vishnu” temple before and it is difficult to imagine that this temple could have been a temple of this God. The “Durg temple” has a tower of Curvilinear construction. A lotus flower stone sculpture was built on the top of the tower. This has fallen off now and can be see on the side of the temple. 


Durg Temple


The high reliefs on pillars and outside wall of Durg temple


High relief on temple door lintel

Durg” temple was built in 742 CE and does not have the traditional temple construction of a prayer hall and a sanctum. There is only one room here and inside walls are almost plain with no engraving work. This lack of decorations is well compensated by bass reliefs and high reliefs on the outer wall. There are superb high reliefs of “Shiva”, “Vishnu”, “kartikeya”, “Goddess Mahishasurmardini”, “Varaha Avatara of Lord Vishnu” and half man half woman “ Ardhanarinateshwara.” Since most of these sculptures are with high relief, they appear almost life like. There are bass reliefs of swastika and wooden lattice pattern windows on the outer side of the inside wall.

The pillars on the outer side are carved with fantastic high relief sculptures of couples in love. I am really stunned by the beauty of these. The sculptors have tried to show here, many subtle aspects of love. In one of the sculpture, the man has obviously bought a piece of jewelry for his beloved. But instead of handing it over to her, he is shown holding it high with his one hand and his lady is begging and persuasively pleading with him to give it to her. In another sculpture, the couple is shown examining an ornament the man has brought for his lady. In another sculpture the lady has put her arms around the neck of her man and is having a conversation with him. Yet in an another sculpture, a couple just had too many glasses of wine and are drunk. It is very difficult to understand the real purpose of such sculptures done on outside near temple entrance. Besides, these sculptures, have not just come from imagination of the sculptor. He has tried to portray whatever social life he has seen around. It only shows that the life of ordinary men and women in “Chalukya “ period must have been free and and secured one. I feel that in a way, these sculptures are kind of a mirror portraying the social life of those times.


Window with Swastka design

Lrd Vishnu, At Bottom his wife Laxmi and Garuda the eagle

Shiva and Nandi

Nrisimha Avatar

Kartikeya or Murugan, a peacock at bottom

Varaha Avatar 

mahishasurmardine Goddess


A high relief face 

A drunk couple with a bar tenderer

A couple in love with girl putting her arms around her lover's neck

Couple in love examines an ornament

A couple in love.

There is a small structure, which looks like a hut, just adjacent to the Durg temple. I peep in but find it plain and empty. I move on next to a temple known as “Ladkhan” temple. In reality this is a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva( The Shiva Lingam and his carrier the Bull “Nandi” are seen here) and is one of the oldest temples of “Aihole” group. This temple, built around 450 CE has been constructed like a residential house. It is known as “Ladkhan” temple as a peson of this name used to reside here. The temple has a pillared veranda in the front and a prayer hall. The sanctum has been constructed in the middle of prayer hall instead of it's usual position behind the prayer hall. The temple has no tower on roof but a normal tapered roof. Stone rafters, which look very much like wooden rafters, and which spread radially outwards, have been chiseled on the roof top. Pillars in the veranda have some odd bass reliefs like one showing an ascetic doing a yoga position known as “Sheershasan” and another one showing the official seal of the “Chalukyas,” displaying a swine, mirror, sun and a sword. It is said that Hampi empire had thought of their official seal based on this seal only. Th front veranda pillars have carved high relief figures, of couples in love again. In one of the sculptures, the lady is shown blushing. The sculptor has managed to show feelings of this lady, so well and like real life in his work. The temple has latticed windows done with great workmanship. It is unbelievable that such fine craftsmanship existed here some 1500 years ago. 


Ladkhan temple 


Carved windows from Ladkhan temple


An Ascetic doing sheershasan

Laughing Vishnu


Chalukya official seal


Couples in love from Ladkhan temple 

Adjacent to the “ladkhan” temple, there is another temple with curvilinear tower. This temple, built in 7th or 8th century has been dedicated to the Sun God. The pillars in the temple have bass reliefs of an eagle, supposed to be a carrier of God “Vishnu” and two major rivers of India “Ganga” and “Jamuna” shown as Goddesses in human form. The ancient Indian scripture, Rigveda, imagines two feminine forms of the Sun God called “Usha” or Dawn and “Nisha” or night. The main deity of Sun God in this temple is shown flanked by these two Goddesses in human form here.


Curvilinear tower of the temple of the Sun God

Sun God isol with human forms of dawn and night on sides

Next to Sun God temple, there is another temple with a roof, which is clearly built in Rashtrakuta style. (Rashtrakuta dynasty ruled Deccan before Chalukya rule in 6th and 7th century.) This temple built in 9th century was also originally dedicated to the Sun God only. The tower on the temple, shows a bass relief of the Sun God. Now this temple is considered as dedicated to creator of universe 'The Brhma.” It is however known as Badigera temple for unknown reasons.

Badigera temple with Rashtrakut type roof and sun god bass relief at centre
I look at my watch. I have spent well over 2 hours at “Aihole Archeological park,” a time well spent. However there are no facilities of any kind here. I must therefore cut short my visit and proceed to the next proposed halt: the temples at Pattadakal village.

I have mentioned earlier that the “Chalukya” kings, who had firmed up their power over Deccan plateau in sixth century CE and had continued to rule till 8th century CE, had established their capital at “Aihole” and later shifted it to “Vatapi” (present day Badami) in Bagalkote district of Karnataka state. In spite of “Vatapi” being the state capital, the royal family of Chalukyas', considered a village located about 22 Km away from the capital, as a place of special significance. This village known as “Pattadakal” also happens to be a nondescript and ordinary village today. However, Chalukya Royal family built in this village, a number of beautiful temples over the generations. One of the reasons that is put forward for selection of this village for construction of Royal temples is, it's geographical location. Most of the rivers in peninsular India flow from west to east. “Malaprabha” river, which is a subsidiary of the mighty Krishna river, flows next to this village and is no exception to the rule of flowing from west to east. But it so happens that near this village, this river suddenly changes course by 90 degrees and flows from south to north for some distance. “Pattadakal” temples were built just next to this river bed. In all, there are eight superb temples in the “Pattadakal” archeological complex. For Chalukya royal family, this place was the most revered one and the kings also had their coronation or “Rajyabhishek” ceremonies performed here at “pattadakal” temples, instead of at state capital “Vatapi.”


Our bus is now negotiating the road between “Aihole” and “Pattadakal.” This road also can not be considered as comfortable for travel. The road, in the first place is very narrow and full of pot holes. On both sides of the road, I can see standing crops of sugar cane almost ripe for cutting. That explains the almost continuous traffic of huge trailers carrying tons of sugar cane, being pulled by tractors to some sugar factory around. To add to our woes on road, are the number of cattle herds being driven to some nearby grazing spot and also hot blazing sun. Many travellers like me, bear with all this happily, for one and only one reason, the expectant joy of visiting something that is considered as one of the best in the world, the fabulous architecture of “Pattadakal” temples. These temples are compared by many to solid gold, a standard with which other temples may be judged. They say here that if “Aihole” temples are considered as artifacts created by kids studying in primary school, then “Badami” rock cut temples would have to be considered as artwork done by middle school boys and without any doubt, “Pattadakal” temples could be only considered as art forms created by university students.

Our bus stops next to the “Pattadakal” archeological complex. The entire area has been well secured and protected with chain link and barbed wire barricades. I buy entry tickets for me and my camera and enter the complex premises. The first view is rather impressive. In front of me are large tracts of well manicured green grass lawns, glistening in the mid noon sun and behind the grasses are the stunningly beautiful temple structures of Pattadakal. These temples were built in seventh and eighth century CE and, when compared to “Aihole,” the over all plan and workmanship appears to be far superior.


Kadasiddheshwar Temple 

I cross the greens along the well marked walkways and enter the temple premises from the northern gateway to come across the first two temples of “Kadasiddheshwara” and “Jambulingam.”which in reality, are two forms of same deity; Shiva. For both temples, the towers above are similar to the Sun God temple at “Aihole,” and are of curvilinear pattern ( North Indian style) and the construction appears simple , straight forward and somewhat similar to each other. On the eastern wall of “Kadasiddheshwara” temple there are high reliefs of two standing doorkeepers, whereas in the other or “ Jambulingam” temple, the wall stand plain and simple. “Pattadakal” temple architects were keen to try out new techniques and experimented continuously with newer forms. In both these temples, the curvilinear towers bear a bass relief sculpture on the front side, which was something new.

Galagnath temple


Curvilinear tower of Galagnath temple


Siva in his doomsday dance


Sangameshwar Temple

I continue walking. The next temple is known as “Galagnath” temple. The temple tower is also curvilinear but here there is a new change in design. On both sides of the temple, two verandas have been added, which appear to me like two wings. The verandas have sloping stone slab roofs. The front door lintel has a bass relief showing Shiva doing his “Tandava” or doomsday dance along with small figures of “Parvati” and “Nandi.” The next temple is the “Sangameshwar” temple. In the year 2009, there were huge floods in the “Malaprabha” river and entire “Pattadakal” village had gone underwater. Many of the villagers had then taken refuge on the roof of this temple. This temple is quite specious and appears to have rock solid construction. I am not able to see much of decorations here on the roof but the walls have nice lattice work windows cut in stone and some relief sculptures but of smaller size.


Temples of Pattadakal; Mallikarjun on left, 
Virupaksha on right and Kashi Vishveshwar in middle


View of Malaprabha river from Virupaksha temple


The bull, Nandi


Virupaksha temple prayer hall


Sun God riding a chariot with 7 horses

Vishnu on outer wall of Virupaksha temple
The next temple ahead is “Pattadakal's” biggest and most famous temple of “Virupaksha.” This was constructed by queen “Lokamahadevi” pf Chalukya king “Vikramaditya II.” This temple was constructed as a mark of the famous victory won by this king over his arch-rival, “Pallava” king at “Kanchipuram.” The outer walls of the temple have some superb high relief sculptures, which not only include Gods and Goddesses like Shiva-Parvati, but also portray other subjects like all time favourites; couples in love and also an ascetic doing yoga. The 'couples in love' sculptures here appear to me somewhat of different style. Along with couples embracing each other, I can also see a couple here, where the lady is questioning or ordering her man.

Facing the main entry door to the temple a huge black coloured “nandi” or the bull, sits waiting for the command of his master, the God “ Virupaksha.” Behind this bull is the river bed of “Malaprabha.” This temple is quite impressive and shall always remain etched in my memory. I enter in the main prayer hall of the temple. Up above on the roof is a fabulous bass relief of the Sun God riding in his chariot of 7 horses representing 7 days of the week. All the pillars in this hall have small panels of miniature bass reliefs depicting stories from Ramayana, mahabharata and Bhagavata; important Hindu scriptures. To observe and study all sculptures here, one would need to spend at least few weeks here. Since I do not have that kind of time available, I continue to move.

Shiva killing a demon


Shiva, Parvati, Nandi

Angry lady as her man says no


The lady questions her man

Mahabharata bass relief panel


Bramha, Vishnu, Mahesh Parvati bass relief


Mallikarjun temple bass relief 


churning of the sea


A panchatantra story


The bull and elephant with same head

Just on the side of “Virupaksha” temple, there is a similar temple, which was constructed by “Trailokyamahadevi,” the second wife of king “Vikramaditya II,” who incidentally was the younger sister of “Lokamahadevi.” This temple is known as “Mallikarjun” temple. The overall layout of this temple is very similar to “Virupaksha” temple. The difference is in the subjects chosen for the bass reliefs in side the temple hall, which are mostly from stories narrated in books like “Panchatantra,” and “puranas.” “Panchatantra” carries animal stories just like Aesop's fables. Both “Virupaksha” and “Mallikarjun” temples have towers of typical south Indian style and look quite different from other temples having north Indian curvilinear towers.


the couple have same hair style 


couple in love 

An argument 


Latest fashions, a miniskirt and a kurti

The temple adjacent to “Mallikarjun” temple is known as “Kashi Vishveshwar” temple. In all the temples that I saw so far, the presiding deity was Shiva. This temple is also no different. The presiding deity here is also none other but Shiva. This temple has north Indian curvilinear style tower, yet the intricate design on the tower appears quite different and is making this temple to stand out.

Kashi Vishveshwar temple

In the history of temple Architecture of India, “Pattadakal” temple architecture is considered as a major milestone. Experts say that in “Pattadakal” one can find a eye pleasing combination of north and south Indian styles of architecture. Frankly I am no expert in this line and can not really add anything worthwhile.

As a layman, I am comparing the temples and sculptures of “Aihole” and those that are here. The temple architecture here is far superior, no doubt on that. I somehow prefer the high reliefs of “Aihole” which appear more lively and lifelike. The relief sculptures here are many more, have much varied subjects, yet do not appear that live, at least to me.

I have to hurry as our bus leaves now for “Badami”, the formal capital of Chalukyas. I am quite tired and also hungry. I must have my lunch, then relax for little and then proceed to the final stop for the day; the famous rock cut temples of “Badami.”

As our bus enters Badami town, the first thing that strikes me is the similarity this place has with Sedona town in the Arizona state of US, with it's huge, red coloured rocky mountains standing next to the town. Badami also has very similar looking red mountains, almost in the middle of the town. Yet there is a difference. The Sedona rocks just stand there. At the most, few rock climbers are seen around engrossed in their hobby. In Badami, things are quite different. After Chalukya king Pulkeshi the first, had shifted his capital to Badami in the sixth century, successive generations of kings, facilitated excavations of fabulous rock cut temples in the mountains. These rock cut temples have some of the most wonderful low and high relief sculptures inside them. This has made the Badami mountains a frequently visited tourist place.

The first thing that I must do now is to have lunch as I am quite hungry. For last several days I have been eating food, cooked in south Indian style. Not that I have any complaints about it, today I would prefer food that tastes different. More like north Indian food. Badami has several eateries that serve north Indian food. I indulge in one of these and then relax in an easy-chair. I have time on my side because climbing up to Badami caves is not exactly a good idea in mid noon.

Historically, Badami was known as “Vatapi.” It must have changed to Badami, probably even before Chalukya dynasty time because Greek historian Ptolemy mentions about it in his book written in 150 CE. Even in Ptolemy's times, this town was known as a premier trade centre. The tradition continues and even now this town is a Taluka place and a trading centre. In Chalukya dynasty time, Badami had great political and cultural importance as capital of the empire. During reign of king Pulakesi II, famous Chinese monk Xuen Zang had visited the Chalukya controlled part of India, which he calls as Maharashtra. Xuel Zang mentions about the capital city of Maharashtra in his travelogue. However that place, from his description, is definitely not Badami. It is possible that Xuen Zang visited some other city (Like Nashik), which might have been made the temporary capital. Badami however always remained as the formal capital of Chalukyas. Later in Eighteenth century, then Sultan of Deccan, Tipoo, had build a fort on Badami mountain to protect the town from Marathas' ruling from Pune under reign of Peshavas'. Tipoo Sultan had built along with the fort a treasury also on the nearby mountain. The ruins of both these can be seen here.

Badami mountain with fort on top and cave at bottom
Our bus is now taking us to Badami caves and can drop us at the foot of the mountain. I look at the watch. Time is about 4 P.M. I can see clearly the Badami mountain and the fort on the top. Archeological department has put up a barricade and gate at the base of the mountain. I buy the entry ticket and enter through the gate. The lowest cave is only about 10 or15 feet from the ground level. There are about 30 or 35 steps that lead me to the first cave known as “Shaiva Gumfa” or cave of Shiva followers. The steps have nice flower beds on either side with patches of green lawns right up to the mouth of the cave.

All Badami caves have a similar type of construction. There is a foreground created by flattening the rocks near the mouth of each cave. After climbing about 5 to 7 steps from the foreground, there is a veranda, which is known as “Mukha Mandapa” or Hall at the mouth, with pillars to support the roof. The inner and side walls of this hall at the mouth, have almost life size high relief structures. The entry to the “Sabha mandapa” or Assembly hall is through doors provided in the inner hall of the veranda. This hall also has supporting pillars to support the roof. There are no sculptures engraved on the walls of assembly hall. However just near the roof, where supporting pillars touch the roof, support brackets are usually provided on all four sides of the pillar. On all these brackets there are many low or high relief sculptures. Behind the assembly hall is a smaller room or sanctum. Usually, only presiding deity of the cave, can be found here. No other sculptures are seen in the sanctum.

The first cave of Shiva 


Nataraja showing 81 dance poses


Shiva's doorkeeper


Godess Durga kills demon in form of a Buffalo calf


Half man-half woman Ardha Nari Nateshwara


Hari Hara

Shiva riding a bull with Parvati riding pillion

The first Shiva cave was excavated during the reign of King Pulakesi the first, in 543 CE. I am now entering the hall of the mouth after climbing few steps. On my right there is a high relief of the dancing Shiva or “Nataraja,” with 9 pairs of hands. If we blank out 8 pairs of hands, the remaining pair shown a dancing position. In other words, this Dansing Shiva, shows us in all 81 dancing positions. Directly opposite to this dancing Shiva there is a high relief of a doorkeeper with a triple pointed spear or “Trishul.” On the inner wall. There is a high relief of the Goddess Durga trying to kill the demon “Mahishasur,” who has taken the form of a Buffalo calf. Next to it is Shiva again in form of half man-half woman creature called as “Ardha Nari Nateshwar.” In this sculpture, half man part is Shiva and half woman part is his wife, “Parvati.” Next to it is a similar high relief, which shows half Shiva and half Vishnu, known as “Hari Hara.” In an adjacent sculpture, Shiva is riding a bull and his wife is shown riding pillion with both her legs on one side; very similar to the way modern women wearing skirts or sarees ride a scooter or a motor bike. I enter the assembly hall. It is quite dark inside, but there is not much to see here. I have a casual look at the sanctum an come out of the cave and again start climbing the main flight of steps. The next cave is about 60 steps from the first cave. This second cave is known as “Vishnu Gumfa” or Cave of the Vishnu.


Vishnu as a dwarf Brahmin

Music makers with Greek hairstyle

swastika design with Yaksha couples


Vishnu as a swine with Godess earth

There are two important sculptures in this cave. The first one describes the story of God Vishnu having taken the form of a swine to free Goddess earth. The Goddess is shown here standing on a lotus and supports herself with her left hand kept on the head of the swine. In the next sculpture, the God Vishnu is shown in the form of a dwarf Bramhin known as “Wamana.” He is shown capturing all three entities of “Swarga, Patala, and Bhooloka” or Heaven, Hell and earth from a king known as “Bali.” There is an interesting bass relief on the pedestal here. There are several figures playing musical instruments. The hair style however is shown as curly often seen in Greek sculptures.


Nrisimha killing demon Hiranyakashyapu



After climbing another set of 60 or 65 steps, I reach the third cave known as “mahaVishnu Gumfa,” or cave of the God “mahaVishnu.” This cave was excavated in memory of Chalukya king “Kirteevarma” by his brother “Mangalesh.” in the year 598CE. The main sculptures here describe God “mahaVishnu,” Half Shiva-Half Vishnu figure similar to the sculpture in the first cave and Vishnu in form of a man with Lion head, killing demon “Hiranyakashyapu” and roaring like a lion.

Third cave of MahaVishnu


Love under mango tree; man giving foot massage to the lady

The loving couples of Aihole and Pattadakal, which I have decribed earlier, make there appearance once again in this cave. These couples are engraved on the pillar roof supporting brackets here. In one of the high relief the lady is given a foot massage by her man. Another embracing couple stand below a mango tree. There are also some “Yaksha” couples. The sanctum has an idol of “maha Vishnu.”


Jain Ascetic

Another set of 30 steps and I reach the fourth cave. This for a change, is dedicated to Jaina religion and prophet Mahaveer. There are some nice sculptures here of Jain ascetics like “Parshavanatha, Gomateshwara and Bahubali.” I come out of the cave and stand near the wall facing the steep cliff sloping downwards. The weather is pleasing, a light cool breeze is blowing and the scene in front of me looks stunningly beautiful and picturesque. There is a lake opposite me, deep down. This is known as “Agasti Teerth.” A nice looking temple on lake side is known as “Bhootnath Mandir.” This part of Badami is so beautiful that it is no wonder that Chalukya kings chose this place as their capital.

Agastya Teerth

Bhootnath Temple

I have now covered almost all of the important places, which are connected with Chalukya history. The time has come to return home. However one more important place, worth a visit and connected with the history of Deccan remains to be seen. I need to cross again a period of eight hundred years to sixteenth century, when Hampi empire was getting destroyed. However all that would be for tomorrow. I realize that I am extremely tired and need to hit the bead as early as possible.


For last few days, I have been visiting temples and temples only, every day, right since morning till evening. With such an overdose of temples, I have been feeling slightly templed out without any doubt. To bring me back to the present from the Chalukya king's period of seventh century, I decide to visit two picturesque spots from this area. I am on my way to to the confluence of the same “Malaprabha” river that I saw next to “Virupaksha” temple in “Pattadakal,” with one of the mightiest river of the Deccan; “Krishna” river near a place called “Kudal.”

Confluence of Krishna and Malaprabha rivers 


The Bridge for crossing to Shiva Lingam Well


Shiva Lingam well, Circular stair case and canopy

Circular stair case


Malaprabha river bed

At the point of confluence, river bed of “Krishna” river is much wider, compared to that of “Malaprabha', which makes it look like a small rivulet. The confluence spot is extremely picturesque without any doubt at all. Azure blue water, lavish green banks with all that foliage and clear bright blue sky convert the scene into a magical blue kingdom. Earlier, the river bed of “Krishna” was not so wide and a Shiva Lingam with its temple, existed at the point of confluence. Because of the new dam that has come up on the river, this confluence spot has now gone underwater, as river bed here now is part of the backwaters of the dam. Most of the people from this area belong to “Lingayat” community, who worship this Shiva Lingam and opposed the reality of its submergence. The Government bowed to the pressure and have built a well around this old Shiva Lingam, which now can be seen at the bottom of this well. A circular staircase has been built along the inner wall of the well. I cross the river waters by means of a bridge and walk down the well to the bottom. At the top, a balcony has been built around the perimeter of the well. I stand at the point and enjoy the fabulous cool breeze flowing across the waters. It is a lovely experience, which can not be described in words very easily.


Almatty dam

Entry gate for Almatty dam top

After visiting the confluence, our bus leaves in the northern direction to the last stop of my Deccan safari; Vijapur. On way, we cross a huge dam known by the name “Alamatti.” This dam has become a major dispute between two of Indian states, Karnataka and Maharashtra because of its height. As it is, the backwaters have reached the Sangli city in Maharashtra. If the dam height is increased further, there are chances that the backwaters may enter the Sangli city itself. This is really the bone of contention as Maharashtra state is afraid that many more villages around Sangli city, would get submerged. Nevertheless, this dam has now transformed once drought prone districts of “Bagalkote” and “Vijapur” into a fertile wonderlands. “Vijapur” district in particular, was always known for its terrible droughts.

On way, I stop in “Irakal” town, a place famous for its red hot chillies and sarees. After seeing heaps and heaps of red chilies drying in the sunlight on the road side fields, on my way to the town, I am tempted and buy some chilli powder in the town. This chilli is not considered to be hottest but supposedly gives a great red colour to the dishes.


Entry gate, Krishna park


Krishna Park, Almatty

Just next to the “Almatty” dam, which I mentioned above, a vast and beautiful park has been developed by the Government. The park, with a beautiful environment and scenes of vilage life with innumerable statues of animals and birds is really worth visiting. I see number of small kids wearing school uniforms, on a day picnic at the park. I can not linger here any longer, as I need to reach “Vijapur” city by evening.

In the year 1347, Hasan Gangu Bahamani established his kingdom on the Deccan plains, which is kinown as “Bahamani” empire. It ended in 1480 and was divided in five seperate kingdoms: Imadshahi of Berar, Baridshahi of Bidar, Kutubshahi of Golkonda, Nizamshahi of Ahamadnagar and finally Adilshahi of Vijapur. In addition to these The Hampi empire was in existence in Deccan, as seen by us earlier in this series of articles. In 1565, all these Muslim kingdoms got together and defeated Hampi forces at “Banihatti.” Subsequently, these kingdoms kept on fighting with each other and also with Mughals in control of north India at that time. Slowly one by one, these kingdoms were defeated and disappeared with Nizamshahi last to go in 1636. After this, only two powers remained. Mughals in the north and Adilshahi in the Deccan.

This Adilshahi kingdom ruled over Deccan from 1489 to 1686 almost all over the plateau except for the small area under control of the small kingdom of Great Maratha General, Shivaji. In 1686, Mughal emperor Aurangazeb defeated “Vijapur” armies and Adilshahi saw it's final demise. Since “Vijapur” was the capital of a large empire for more that 150 years, we can still see here in “Vijapur,” many traces of its past glory. All these reasons make it a must for me to include this place in my Deccan safari.

You may enter “Vijapur” from any direction, the first thing you notice is the superb architecture of the magnificent landmark; “Gol Gumbaj.” I am starting my visit from very this building. I have been told, that to enjoy this monument, I must visit it early in the morning. Heeding this advice, I get up early and reach the outer gates of this place at sunrise. Ahead of me is a facade structure known as “Nakkarkhana,” which houses a museum now. Archeological survey of India has recently found ruins of Jain temples, while excavating at this place, A pillar of a temple from these ruins can be seen lying on the ground. From the place, where I stand now, “Nakkarkhana” structure is completely hiding the main monument of “Gol Gumbaj,” with only top dome and four minars or towers in four corners visible to me. This kind of arrangements were built in those days to make an impression of the grandeur of the main building on the mind of the visitor. There is one more entry gate between this “Nakkarkhana” and the main structure of the “Gol Gumbaj.” I start walking towards the main structure through the entry gate. This gate has been constructed in such a fashion that as I walk along, I see the top dome of the main structure rise in front of me like a full moon rising in the east.


Big dome behind Nakkarkhana ar sunrise


Excavated Jain Pillar


Morning sunlight floodlights the cemeteries


Roof supporting brackets, east side minar on the side

Balusters on roof


whispering gallery

I reach the base of the main building and become acutely aware of the fabulous grandeur of this great structure. I enter from a side door. In front of me, in the middle, are the cemeteries of Mohamad Adil Shah and his wife. However my attention is caught by the sharp beams of sunlight piercing through small windows specially provided in the east, which are directly falling on the cemeteries in the middle and are making them shine as if floodlighted. The Adilshahi kings, after coming to power, would start building their mausoleums first as probably they never knew, how long they would continue to be in power in those days of great uncertainty. They might be thinking that if they do not have a mausoleum ready at the time of the their death, they would never be remembered in the future.

I start climbing a staircase built with steep steps in of the corner minar or tower and reach the balcony along the inner perimeter of the top dome after climbing up seven stories. One can witness many amazing effects created by multiple reflections or echoes of a sound produced at a spot in the balcony. Even if I wrinkle a piece of paper in my hand, it can be easily heard at a distance of 38 meters. This is the reason for this balcony being called whispering gallery. I feel like paying my respects to the architect, who conceived and built this place. The main hall of this “Gol Gumbaj” is a square of 205 feet with its roof at a height of 100 feet. A 38 meter (120 feet) diameter dome has been constructed above the hall and this entire structure had taken 30 years to build.


Majestic  grandeur of Gol Gumbaj

After visiting this amazing “Gol Gumbaj” I move towards the next important place of visit here in Vijapur: the old fort. This fort has retained still, the original ramparts and the rounded towers. I climb one of the towers with the steps built there. On top I can see the famous “Malika-e- maidan” or 'Queen of a battle' gun, which has been placed there. This gun, with a diameter of about 5 feet and length of 14 feet was cast as a single casting in gunmetal in Ahamadnagar, weighing more than 55 tons. There is an engraved picture of a dragon chewing an elephant under its teeth. When Mughal emperor Aurangazeb had conquered “Vijapur,” he had fixed a plaque on the gun tower, which proudly declares that “ Not only have I won Vijapur, I have also won the Malika-e-Maidan gun.” This gun might appear very scary, however considering its diameter to length ratio, I feel that it might not have been a very effective and deadly weapon.


Malika-e Maidan Gun


Engraving on the gun


Aurangazeb's epigraph

Not very far away from the gun tower is the famous mausoleum of king Ibrahim Adil shah known as “Ibrahim Roja.” This place, surrounded by beautiful green lawns and flowers, actually comprises of two structures, a mausoleum built by the king and a Masjid or a prayer hall. The mausoleum structure has been built in a very dainty and artistic fashion. It is said that while building this structure, the king always wanted to build something comparable to the Taj Mahal. This structure has the burial spots and cemeteries of Ibrahim Adil Shah, his wife Taj Sultana and other family members.


Dainty Ibrahim Roja


Mausoleum of Adil Shah


The Masjid

Steel chain designed like earrings of queen Taj Sultana

The adjoining structure of Masjid has a huge, elaborately fabricated steel chain hung on the facade wall. It is said that this has been made as per design of an earring of the queen, Taj Sultana. The mausoleum has many decorative panels. Some of which are plans of construction of this building and the basement. No foundation trenches were dug for this building. The entire structure stands on pairs of arches placed facing opposite directions of up and down. This fact can be realized after visiting the basement.

After dainty “Ibrahim Roja,” I visit the twin towers of “Jod Gumbaj.” During invasion of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, King Sikandar Adil Shah was ruling. His prime minister or “Vazir” “ Khavas Khan” and his guru “ Abdul Kadri,” have their final resting places here. This Vazir Khavas khan, was in reality a traitor to the Adil Shah, helping Emperor Aurangzeb. After his death, Aurangzeb had built these structures as his mausoleum. However many tourists visit this place for a different reason altogether. It is believed by many, that by dedicating a piece of a thread, given special powers by a Mulla present in the mausoleum, to the cemetery, one can achieve what ever he wishes. I leave the place, as I am not much inclined to believe in such stuff.

Twin domes

A short distance away is the large sized “Jamiya Masjid” built by first Adil Shah. This structure, built over an area of 1,16000 square feet can be considered as one of the superb specimens of Islamic architecture. About 2250 large sized persons (Like famous Afzal khan killed by Maratha king, Chhatrapati Shivaji) could pay their obeisance to the Allah here at ease. The roof of the structure has been supported on number of arches. The central portion of the west side wall is decorated with quotes from the “Qur’an” and pictures of religiously important places. This spot is called as “Meherab” and a Mulla giving a sermon would stand at this place. The acoustics of this structure has been so designed that even a smallest sound generated at this place, can be heard anywhere else clearly. Many Hindu and Muslim person have helped in building and maintenance of this structure including, emperor Auranzeb, Mohamad Adil Shah and Maratha kings from Satara.

Arches of Jamia Masjid

Meherab, Jamiya Masjid

After visiting all these places of past glory, I am aware that this place must have been a glorious and a affluent city once. At present, this place, now located in one neglected corner of the Karnataka state, has become a neglected historic city. One realizes this from very poor amenities and bad roads. If better infrastructural facilities like good roads and an airport are created, this place has the potential of being developed like the tourist city of Aurangabad in Maharashtra.

I end my Deccan safari with the visit to Vijapur. For all these years, I had always connected history of Deccan with just one period of its long and checkered history; the period associated with Maratha kings beginning with Shivaji. Now along with that period, I have been able to understand in a better fashion, importance of Chalukya kings, Hampi Kingdom and all the Muslim kingdoms including Vijapur's Adil Shahi in the hisory of this land. I clearly understand now, why Kings ruling from Deccan plateau always dreamed of setting up their own independent states, while rest of India was deeply entrenched under foreign rule of Mughals based in Agra and Delhi. I feel that history of Deccan teaches us the importance of independence and this history, much neglected in the history books should be given its due place.





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