By Somali K Chakrabarti
Diwali, is the festive time that brings in happiness and cheer. It is also the time, for long weekends. To make good use of this long Diwali weekend, we started out on a road trip from Mumbai towards Karnataka. My endless fascination for rocks, caves and historical monuments drove us to the heritage sites of Badami and Hampi.
Starting out in the morning at 7.45 AM, we drove to Pune via Mumbai Pune Expressway and then took the National Highway NH4. By the time we reached Belgaum, it was 5.30 PM in the evening. We had decided to stop over at a hotel in Belgaum for the night.
Next day morning we took the Bachi – Raipur state highway upto Lokapur, and then hit the road to Badami. This stretch of the road passes through the countryside. It is best covered during the daylight as it can get confusing for travelers who are not familiar with the route. Relying heavily on the Google Maps we drove by. A few marigold and sunflower fields on the way presented a pretty sight.
By the noon we reached Badami. Checking in at the Karnataka State Tourism guest house, located near the caves, we had a quick lunch and headed for the caves, with pointers from the manager on the sites worth seeing. The narrow congested lanes in Badami, with cluster of houses on both sides, gave little idea of the wonderful heritage that lies behind.
On reaching the site, I was wonder struck at the sight of the majestic rocks and the caves carved out within the rocks.
The natural shape of the rocks is such that it appears that the rocks have been painted and carefully joined one on top of the other. Some rocks look as if they have been washed in a stream of colours.
Now an archaeological site, Badami was once the capital of the ancient Chalukya dynasty from the 6th to 8th century AD. During this period, the place had gained prominence when the Badami Chalukyas, attracted by the scenic beauty and grandiose hills, made Badami their capital and gave patronage to the art and architecture.
The caves excavated in rocks exhibit the craftsmanship of the period. The caves have a verandah, a pillared hall and a small sanctum sanctorum excavated into the centre of the rear wall. Life size sculptures of gods and goddesses are found in the walls of the cave, while the pedestal and ceiling are flanked by small carvings. The inscriptions in the caves indicate the royal patronage.
From the open courtyard in the front of the caves, one gets a panoramic view of Badami lake, the city and some ancient temples. Bhootnatha temple and the museum. Here’s a view of the greenish lake dominated by high red sandstone rocks on three sides.
In the museum, I came to know that the rocky land forms around Badami were also home to the prehistoric man. The rocks provided ample scope for them to develop their art, which can be seen in the form of prehistoric paintings and the pre- historic tools found in and around the area.
Many monkeys dwell in the caves so it is not advisable to carry any food stuff inside. The monkeys have an acute sense of detecting the presence of food, even when it is hidden. It was apparent when a monkey chased a group of boys and pulled out a bag of puffed rice hidden under a boy’s T- shirt.
I felt a tug on my bag and found that a monkey was trying to pull it, but somehow it went away on its own maybe sensing the absence of any food stuff inside. We offered prayer at the Banashankari temple before going back to the hotel.
Early next morning, we left Badami and headed for Hampi with stopovers at Pattadakal and Aiholi. I will cover these two in my next post.
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