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Aihole

We arose planning to catch the first bus to Aihole. We had been told it would leave at 7.30 a m, but on reaching the bus stand, we were told it would leave only at 8.30. In the event, when we finally located and boarded it, it left around eight. We reached Aihole after a rather hair-raising drive along narrow country lanes where the snappy twigs of hedges lining the road threatened to flay our faces every inch of the way.

Aihole. Larger and dustier than Pattadakal, smaller and dustier than Badami. Ruins scattered here and there at random. We wanted to hop off the bus at the first ruin, but were told to wait for a while until we came to the main enclosure. Apart from this one enclosure, there is no presence of the Archaeological Survey of India in Aihole. Unlike Pattadakal, there are no onsite explanations. No brochures, no maps, no naming or marking of temples. There is a board saying these, these and these groups of temples are important, but no way to identify which they are. The Durga temple, almost oblong in shape, we identified from pictures. It is a very lovely temple, with an airy verandah around it. The other temples in this enclosure are more broken down than those at Pattadakal. Even the museum was ill-kempt, with many of its treasures simply placed around outside the building.

We walked around some of the other temples in the village, but were pursued by a group of village children. Besides, they were ruined, and they were being taken over by the locals. The one rock-cut temple here was very nice. Smaller than those at Badami, it was seemingly unfinished, since one huge cavity had not been worked upon at all, but the finished part had a lovely Nataraj and some other nice sculptures.

After only a couple of hours we were at a loss. There were some other well-maintained enclosures along the road, but they were securely shut. It was a Sunday. Why keep monuments shut on Sunday?

We returned to city center - a magnificent banyan tree which spread itself benignly over the corner of the main intersection in town. Here most of the village and all its dogs had gathered, to sit on the platform which encircled the huge trunk of this archetypal village tree.

Here we sat too, awhile. Our investigations had revealed that we had been extremely wise not to venture to spend the night here. The rest house was all but deserted and enquiries about meals had brought the answer that, since no one was staying there, the rest house was not in a state of readiness to dish up food.

We were not the only tourists at Aihole. Others did come, but they came and went in cars. Meanwhile we waited for a bus, sitting at the stalls lining the road (the banyan tree was on the wrong side of the road). We waited for two hours and more. One bus came, but it wasn't going to Badami. Another bus came, finally, and it would go to Badami, but it was going in the wrong direction. It would first go 9 km down the road, then turn around. On these roads that might take an hour. We were hungry. Cold drinks, biscuits and catnaps whiled away the time. We had hoped to stop in Pattadakal for a while on the way back, but it was close to 3 p m when we finally boarded the bus, and we couldn't afford to stop. Besides, we were too hungry.

We reached Badami after 4, and made lunch (if you can call it that) our priority. If we had shown some initiative, we could have managed a quick trip to the caves. Our bus back wasn't till eight. But we took the easy way out by returning to our room and disgracefully falling asleep.

Luckily we did awaken in time to catch our bus.

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