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Deccan Herald » Spectrum » Detailed Story
Badami: Chalukyans' magical transformation
Badami may have once been full of lifeless stones, but the captivating monuments strewn around the town suggests the magical transformation brought to this land by the dexterous Chalukyans, AZMATHULLA SHARIFF tells us.
During the reign of the Chalukyas, the Badami region assumed greater importance by virtue of its natural fortifications. While River Mallaprabha acted as the impenetrable fortress of water, or Jala Durga as it was known, the town's steep mountains or Giri Durga offered protection from the enemies.

Not only did the Chalukyans make the most of the natural defense, they also transformed it into the architectural hub of their empire. The 6th century lake found at the foot of Badami caves, is named after Agastha Rishi, the first Aryan to visit the south, has both the natural and artificial qualities. Around its once limpid waters, flights of steps and barricade were built.

The stones tell a story

Badami may have once been full of lifeless stones, but the captivating monuments strewn around the town suggests the magical transformation brought to this land by the dexterous Chalukyans. In the canons of Indian arts, the Chalukyas have a special place, as they produced a fine blend of southern and northern sculptural styles in places like Pattadakal.

King Pulekeshi I, the first ruler of the Chalukya dynasty, built a fort in Badami without altering the place's natural settings. Inscriptions dated 543 AD, considered the oldest, give a detailed account of the fort. Though the inscription is written in Kannada script, the content is Sanskrit. The fort itself however, isn't accessible either from the top of the mountain or from the ground.

Apart from Badami, the fort at Ihole has similar features and was built around the same time. Together, these forts were among the earliest built in the State.

Perhaps the Chalukyans are best known for the cave architecture they developed around Badami and Ihole, which they adapted from the South Indian tradition.

Monolithic caves

Of the two places, Badami houses some of the biggest monolithic caves in the State like the third temple, which is 70 ft in length. Pillars inside the temple are cut in clinical precision and designs denote flowers and geometrical figures. Evidences reveal, Mangalesha, uncle of Pulekeshi II, constructed the cave temple in 578 AD.

Each cave here indicates the architecture gradually evolved into perfection during the Chalukyan dynasty. Sculptures here also tell the empire had given equal importance to all existing faiths of its time: Shaivism, Vaishnavism, Buddhism and Jainism.

Temples galore

Temples to Surya, Durga, Bagavathi and Gajanana shows that even small sects existed within Hinduism were not excluded. Dr Sheelakanth Pattar, a local scholar says for the first time carvings portraying scenes from the epics (Mahabaratha) are done in the temples (seen above the pillars and on the walls).

Malegithi Shivalaya (Garland makers temple), Upper Shivalaya, Lower Shivalaya, Jambu Linga temple, Bhutanatha temple (Badami and Gowdara Gudi), Meguthi (Ravi Kirthi), Hucch Malli temples, Durga temple, Lad Khan temple, Surya Narayana Temple (Ihole) and Sangameshwara, Galaganatha, Mallikarjuna and Virupaksha (Pattadakal), are some of the temples built by the Chalukyas.

Vesara or Chalukya style, as the architectural genre is known, is denoted buy the fine blending of simple and complex designs. It is obvious from the temples the master craftsmen of the time experimented with several designs and patterns, before perfecting their art.

The Virupaksha temple in Patadakal seem to be the most complete work of the craftsmen, as it has some of the rich and complex designs in the genre. By virtue of its beauty, this temple is regarded as the best in the sub-continent.

ASI initiatives

Initiatives by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) such as replacing the fallen steps around the Agastha Teertha, desilting the tank, reconstructing the fort's massive bastion wall and restoring landscapes around the temple have raised hopes of Badami receiving the world heritage status.

In addition, ASI is also carrying out restoration of Kappe Ara Bhatta inscriptions in Kannada and developing the lawns of Malegiti Sivalaya. It is also building a museum with exhibits from the Chalukya dynasty.
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