memories of family outings.....

Tuesday

Day 2 - Nursery of Styles

Pic 1. Aihole Durga( Fort) Temple
Parashurama washed his bloodied axe in the river after his genocidal agenda of revenge and the waters ran a fiery red. If the Malaprabha is still running red, it is because of the silt and slush washed into it by the recent floods. We did not have time to stop by it and cry out " Ai ! Holey !" ( oh the river !) as a mythical lady is fabled to have done, spooked by the sight of all that blood. But there were ample occasion that day for us to go "ooh ! " and "aah" repeatedly as we visited temple upon temple upon temple.....till we were so "templed" out that even the rolled up Dosa on the dinner table started looking like a fallen dwaja-sthamba !
pic 2 :Dravida Vimana

Though the riverbed has fostered settlements from paleolithic times and been a possession of ancient dynasties like Mauryas, Kadambas etc, it was only under the Western Chalukyas that it flowered fully into a place of excellence, becoming a crucible for path breaking experiments in religious architecture and decorative art. ( 6th. to 12th. Cent) It is from here that various building styles spread to other places, both north and south of the Vindhyas. It is like a text book on the history and evolution of temple building . The Aihole Artisans collected all the features prevailing at that time ( the curving roof from the north, the pillared halls from the south,the angled eaves from the East, Deccani balconies) , modified and blended them to finally evolve two distinct styles called The" Rekha Nagara Prasada" and "Dravida Vimana Shaili" which were later adopted as the signature style of The North and The South respectively. Typical of Chalukyan style was the skillful assembly of dressed stones without mortar and the absence of sculptural clutter. The sculptures were huge, seperately show cased and spread apart.

pic 3 : Pattadakal
The old kingdom of Aihole ( Ayya (or Arya) Volal = Valley of The Learned Elders) enclosed within a circular fort seems to have been a commercial center as well as a place of learning. It boasted of a Merchants Guild ( "Aiholeya Ainooravar" = "The Aihole 500") and a gentry of numerous Brahmins ( "Ayyavoleya Chaturveda Samudaya Mahajanamam"). Prosperity , inevitably, guided the kingdom towards indulgence in artistic pursuits and so began the experimentation.
pic 4 :Koshta Devata
12 kms from Aihole is Pattadakal ( or "Pattada kisuvolal" = The Red Valley of Coronations, red here indicating the standstone hills) which was used as the auspicious venue for Coronations. The architectural experiments that originated in Aihole culminated in Pattadakal. Both sites can be studied together to get a fair idea about the evolution of temple architecture. While in Aihole the specimens are scattered over the countryside and the hills, in Pattadakal the "Big 10 " are all conveniently clustered together in a single layout.
In fact i found it amusing that two magnificent dravida shaili temples called The Virupaksha ( orig. Lokeshwara) and The Mallikarjuna ( orig. Trailokeshwara) should stand so close together as to seem like they were jostling for space and prominance ! They were built by the sisters Lokamahadevi and Trailokyamahadevi respectively, who were wives of Vikramaditya II. Both temples commemorate the King's conquest of Kanchi and both resemble Kanchi's Kailasanathar Temple that had impressed the conqueror. Both temples are lavishly embellished with excellent sculptures of the highest order. Clearly a contest was on ! I wonder which lady succeeded in becoming hero Vikram's favourite wife !!!

pic 5 : Koshta Devata
I also wonder why this crowding together of temples in Pattadakal, when the Chalukyas had the whole valley at their disposal. But i am not complaining ! Aihole demanded so much hiking about, that Pattadakal's " collected" edition was more than welcome !
pic 6 : Rawanphadi Cave temple

It was interesting to discover that the "temples" in Aihole also served as dwellings for influential persons at various periods of time, as evidenced by "Gowdara Gudi" ( the chieftain's palace), Ambigara Gudi ( Boatmen's ), Neidara Gudi ( weaver's), Badigara Gudi etc. There's even one Shivalaya called the Ladkhan temple , having been used by an Islamic mendicant.
pic 7 : Bhootaganas

All stages in the evolution of temple architecture are exemplified in these two site. From the early rock cut shrines to structured flat roofed "Mantapa" style to The Bouddha Chaitya Design to Nascent Shikaras to curvilinear Rekha Nagara shikara and the multi tiered Dravida Vimana , with intermediary or montage experiments that became the innovative, hybrid Vesara Style ( adopted by the Hoysalas to stunning effect in Belur and Halebid) .

pic 8 : Mahabharata on pillar

The most widely recognised symbol of Aihole is The Durga Temple. Durga denotes the Fort, not the goddess. In fact, it is not known to whom this temple is dedicated. It is modelled on the apsidal Bouddha Chaitya design. The huge representation of valiant hindu devatas all around the corridor alternating with latticed windows is a visual treat . In the Kontigudi complex, i was charmed by the roof of The Ladkhan Temple. Though made of stone, it looked like wooden slats pinned down by radiating wooden logs !

pic 9 : deco. on pilaster
The ( monolithic) stone lattice windows seen in most temples are marvellous creations. Such great variety in design . Some even look like macrame knots ! How many days would a sculptor have spent on each jaali ? Imponderable !

pic 10 : below the eaves (a kapota hara panel)

Ceiling decorations are mostly The Lotus Pond Motif or the Rashi Chakra with the Navagrahas. The walls and pillars of the later temples are profusely covered with bas relief panels narrating mythological stories among which the most repeated are Samudramanthan, Narasimha's story, Varaha's valour and Shiva's Gajasamhara Lila . Surprisingly, very little from Ramayana. Kubera's portrait is found in all temples . So also the Saptamatrikas. The border- filler birds, elephants or bhootaganas ( under the eaves and around the plinth) are executed in a variety of styles, poses and activities to cut monotony .One feature i found unusual in these shrines is the depiction of river goddesses at the base panels of the sanctum doorways ; i have not seen this in temples elsewhere.

pic 11 :Dwara Bandha ( door frame)
Generally, the craftsmen who actually create the wonderful temples go unnamed and unsung. But, it was heartening to discover here that the names of many of the architects and artisans are recorded in inscriptions on walls, with citations of titles and honours bestowed upon them by their appreciative patrons. Gundachari, Sarvasiddhi, Revadi Ovajja, Chengannayya, Baladevayya, Deva Arya : JayaHey to you, guys !

pic 12 : Rawanphadi Chamunda

All the Koshta Devatas , the eye-candy ladies and the dwarapalas are sculpted with great attention to detail and none look "stony". Their expressions are full of life and their body language , dynamic. In the Virupaksha temple, one hall is populated with a dozen playful couples all of whom sport different hairstyles ; a veritable fashion parade there !
pic 13 :Rekhanagara shikara
Towards evening, we drove to a hoary, holy place called Mahakoota, an important pilgrimage center in this region. Situated on the flank of a wooded hill, the fairly huge, fort like enclosure contains a dozen early Chalukyan shrines of different styles dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma and Surya. Green, shady and cool. Also quiet, except for birdcalls.The pavilions look incredibly ancient . Even the trees are thick and gnarled with great age.Old and new sculptures of Veerabhadra and lovely Naga stones are lined up by the side of paved walkways under a canopy of short stooping trees. A Ganesha with damaged belly sits behind the principal Nandi . Perhaps it was the fading light of dusk or the chill drizzle or the somber stone arches of the outer corridor, or all of that, it felt a bit eerie while walking the grounds, around the pond.
But the main shrine, a huge one, was lovely. The pujari waved a lamp for us to see the presiding lingam, adorned with red flowers and silver ornaments. A beautiful, comforting sight. The pond "Vishnu Pushkarini, with the "go-mukha" spouts, looked as old as Time itself ! The water, though, fed by a perennial spring, was reasonably clean. This place is reported to have yielded two valuable inscriptions about the Chalukyas.

pic 14 : Lotus Pond motif ( Ceiling)
Just before returning to the hotel room at Badami town, we dropped into Banashankari. A grand, month long Jatre ( mela) was to begin the next day. Preparations were going on in full swing. The Chariot was getting decorated. Hundreds of stalls had sprung up : snacks , glass bangles ,utensils, cattle needs, pictures of Gods and movie stars. Touring theatres. Acrobats tents. Godmen and astrologers. Loud music. Hundreds of people from all villages and towns in the district, arriving in style, in colourful oxcarts, to pitch camp on the open grounds around the ancient Pushkarini ( which has a spacious covered corridor running all around it, to be used as a dorm by pilgrims.). The tall curvilinear roofs of the oxcarts had me musing : "Rekha Nagara Shikara ". Same silhouette ! The temple itself is very pretty with Maratha style deepasthambas and the petite bejewelled goddess , so charming. Banashankari was the Guardian of Chalukyan warriors who revered her as Shakambari Gowri .

So, how many temples today ? Calculated and recorded in notebook. Surfeit ? No. Had more Chalukyan temples been offered for dessert, i'd have accepted without second thought.
History is narcotic.

off to the Jatre !

( All photographs by nephew, Shravan)

14 comments:

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

I may sound like a broken record each time but I'll start with describing this once again as FantastiI too have fond memories of this place but not with the great detail that you have given and the anecdotes. I enjoyed how you described things, eye candy ladies in stone and all. I also remembered the Vimana discussion!

YOSEE said...

Thank you for the unfailing encouragement ! As the posts were done right after unpacking after the trip,it was possible to record many details.
As for the "vimanas", the mystery endures !

avdi said...

I am wowed by your detailed description. The sculptures were not 'stony' eh.. much better than many of our pretty but untalented heroines.

Rolled up dosa reminded you of temple stambha -- haha !

Good work by Shravan, the pictures enliven the post.

YOSEE said...

Agreed, most of our celluloid beauties are plastic dolls ! Whereas these sculptures each have a 'character' of her own !
Thank you, Avdi, i'll pass on your compliments to Shravan.

JC said...

Wonderful description! I would need to read it many times to get the full impact, particularly to rach the beautiful state of mind of the kings just a few centuries ago who apparently had lot of time on hand to devote to 'spirituality'. Of course, The Gita also conveys the only realisation of 'purpose of man': To reach the formless god as well as with forms...

The 'vimanas' thus convey to 'me' as the means to attain a higher spiritual level by the entire populace and not only the king(s) as in the 'west', say in Egypt, where pyramids (meaning 'fire within') appear to have been constructed for the Pharaohs and their favourite servants...

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

JC, the pyramids of Egypt were not "vimanas" and was abandoned by later dynasties and Egypts iconic dynasties when they were buried in the Valley of Kings (KV as we'd call the area). Caves in the KV could spiritually conduct Pharoah to the underworld where he would be judged before passing on to heavenly life. Therefore Pyramids, which were easy targets for grave robbers in ancient Egypt was abandoned and was never considered the only means for conveyance of the soul, in ancient Egypt.

JC said...

Yes Capt. Anup, typical Pyramid shapes or their variations - as found today even in Egypt and at some other places in South America, Mexico, etc. - perhaps can be said to be the oldest remanants of man-made structures on earth, thanks to the mysterious 'Nature'.

And earlier also elsewhere I had pointed out how the typical pyramid shape indicates generation of some energy within the structure, irrespective of material used...which could remind one of the believable 'soul' or 'atma' that is believed to exist within each animal form...

Also, there are indications that pyramid shapes might have come up all over the world at some given point in time but, perhaps, natural climatic conditions helped preserve the ones in Egypt in relatively better conditions...

'India' being one of the oldest civilisations perhaps one can see the evolved forms of pyramids, and other shapes, as 'vimanas', are found used in temples since time immemorial - thanks to acceptance of Sanataan Dharm by 'Indians', or particularly 'Hindus' and adoption of 'vastu shastra'...

In the present, without having any background knowledge, ie, merely copying the rituals performed by the 'wise ancients' that believably were passed on through generations, and maybe got refined at some intermediate stage also, say during the vedic era...

Hindu belief indciates return of Satyug from time to time, over 1000 times in one day of Brahma (of over 4 billion years)...

JC said...

Regarding evolution of humans the example of sikhs comes to 'my' mind...Assam, in north-east India, was once ruled by Ahom Kings for 6 centuries at the time when 'tantricism' was at its peak in that region. They had adopted 'Hinduism'...

As per historical stories, it was for the first time that Moghul army of sikhs, under Aurangzheb, managed to cross over the mighty River Brahmaputra and reached Dhubri, thanks to Guru Tegh Bahadur who walked in front of the army and with his superior spiritual power defeated the Assamese washerwoman, an expert in 'black magic' who single handed had kept powerful armies at bay!...

It was then easy for the Sikh army to march unhindered and reach Nowgaon where a big Gurudwara exists in the present also...

The sikhs in Assam, as I saw in the early eighties, live just like other Hindus or Muslim Assamese and speak Assamese like them...And, they are much more orthodox than their counterparts in the North, where the preswent day generatin has seen much more rapid change in their life-styles over the years in the meantime, while they remained virtually frozen in time in their day-to-day life...

The sikhs who go from the north to Assam are pleased to see the local Sikhs, and naturally talk to them in Punjabi, but obviously feel disappointed...

Although my landlord was a Muslim, one of my neighbours in Gauhati (city named Guwahati now) was a Sikh gentleman. Looking at his Assamese wife, even I initially thought he was a 'Punjabi' (of course, his martial ancestors had belonged to that state) who had married a local woman!

LG said...

that is a nice piece of history. Loved reading it. Dosa looked like dwaja stambha..LOL it reminds me of tired Akash in Thailand who kept screaming at every round stone as Buddha! ahahhaa..Waiting to see your jaatre pics ;) Temple pictures are beautiful!

Guhan said...

amazingly detailed write up amma, Its amazing how you remember so much :-)
The pictures are amazing, great work by appu for sure :-)

YOSEE said...

Lakshmi : Thanx.
LOL ! I can empathise with Akash. The tourist trail in Thailand is inundated with Buddhas !

YOSEE said...

Guhan : Thank you. But, hardly "amazing" memory, considering we have just returned from there !

Dinakar KR said...

I'm sure Guhan will remember me having visited Aihole, Badami and Pattadakal some years ago while we had a break from our schedule at Ilkal. One one leg of that journey, we were sitting on the roof of a van that I think took us to Aihole from Ilkal. It was as much a thrill as it was risky, but then there was a secured spare tyre up there to hold on to! Nice places to visit. Nice description too. The colour of the rocks at Badami esp. is red and unique.

YOSEE said...

Dinakar : Yes, I know about that thrilling "off beat" journey you made from Ilkal, because Guha was recounting it in great detail during our visit ! He had also got me a set of Postcards from Aihole from that trip. And I had been planning a trip ever since I saw those ! So, I'd say this trip was "Janma saapalya" :-)!

Thanks for dropping by.