A Mukherjee World View


On to Pattadakal

It was now only lunchtime, and we had seen all there is to see in Badami. Our sketchily outlined plan had us spending a day and a night in Badami, visiting Pattadakal and Aihole the next day, and returning to Badami to catch the evening bus (for which we had, as yet, no tickets) back.

But now we decided to head for Pattadakal straight after lunch, and perhaps on to Aihole for the night. Pattadakal, LP warned us, had no place to stay, but Aihole was equipped with a rest house -- though we were not greatly inspired to confidence in this, after seeing the state of the KSTDC rest house in Badami.

Pattadakal then. Twenty-two km and a 45-minute bus ride away. Our trusty guide said that buses from Pattadakal to Badami could be had later than buses from Aihole to Badami, which stopped at 4 p m. It didn't say much about buses from Pattadakal to Aihole. Enquiries revealed that there was a 4 p m bus, but since it was already 3.30, we were unlikely to catch it. We decided to investigate first, and plan later. Not always a wise idea.

Pattadakal is really no more than a couple of shacks on a road. There must be a village, but from here, the central bus stop and the entry to the monumental enclosure, it is not evident. It is a world heritage center, mind you. Manicured lawns, neatly laid pathways, ever-present security, lengthy explanatory notes for each monument, drinking water and toilets are all provided.

Despite the manicured lawns, I found this enclosure a most delightful place. The ruins are in reasonably good shape, the crowds are conspicuous by their absence, and there is quiet, greenery, and sunlight surrounding the temples. Pattadakal and Aihole are both historically important - Aihole more so - as the playground of the first Hindu temple architects. Here they experimented with shapes, plans, ideas. From here evolved the various types of shikaras; perhaps even the erotic sculptures of Khajuraho were born here, for there are a few of these to be found here.

It is an exciting thought. And the evidence is clear. There are temples with pyramidal shikaras, and the typical south-Indian curving shikaras, and some with no shikharas at all, though that may not be the way they were built. There are several small, simple temples, and two large, imposing ones - The Malikarjuna and Virupaksha Temples. The Virupaksha is a practicing temple, and the Nandi facing it is obscured with all the paraphernalia of puja, so there is not much to admire. The Virupaksha temple is absolutely beautiful inside, with lots of small, delicate sculpture adorning the columns, which in many temples are mostly bare or only mildly carved. Virupaksha also had some gaps in the ceiling. I like to think it was made that way, though I could be wrong. So there was soft light filtering in, and a few diyas in the sanctum sanctorum, giving a delicately mysterious aura to the place. In the perambulatory around the sanctorum, the windows in the corners had plastic stretched across, breaking the daylight into soft colours. There were also tubelights! Thank god they weren't on. Also, luckily, there was no on else there, and no pujari so I could linger at my leisure.

Pattadakal is a place which seems to invite lingering. We spent a lazy couple of hours, me exploring every temple inside out, while Amit was content just to sit in the shade and watch the stillness. The tiny Jambulinga, with its circular medallion in the shikhara, Galaganath with the wide, corridor around it, the elaborate Virupaksha and Malikarjuna and the headless Nandi draped in brilliant sunshine outside the Sangameshwara - each temple had its own speciality, its own allure. We headed for Papanath Temple last, since it is slightly removed, in a separate though adjoining enclosure. After all we had seen, this one was unremarkable.

No Bed for the Night?

It was close to six when we returned to the bus stop, and renewed our enquiries about buses to Aihole. From the varied replies we got, two conclusions were inescapable: Nobody was too sure of bus routes and timings; and it was going to be chancy getting a bus to anywhere at this hour, let alone Aihole in particular. It seems that buses from Pattadakal to Aihole originated in Badami, and our earlier research there had indicated that the last bus to Aihole (also the only bus after 6) would leave Badami at 7.45, and reach Aihole (44 km) around 9.30. Which meant we would have to wait here till 8.30 to catch that bus. This looked like a rather scary proposition. What if we didn't catch the bus? What if the rest house in Badami weren't functional (our Lonely Planet was already a year old)? Sleeping on the pavement didn't seem like a very alluring prospect, and we weren't even carrying our sleeping bags.

We waited. Finally a bus came. It wasn't going to Aihole. It was going to Gudur. We waited some more. Another bus came. It wasn't going to Aihole either. It was going to Badami, which was good enough for us. We hopped aboard, and were almost the sole occupants for much of the way. Back in Badami, back to Mookambika. We got a room, lay down and promptly fell asleep. Awoke barely in time for a bath and dinner, and then sank thankfully into deepest slumber.

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