Discovering Telangana: Andalamma old Temple Peddapalli

Today I’m gonna post about that place which is least explored. And is not even in Telangana Heritage list of monuments. While we were on a road trip to Ramagundam we thought of visiting Hanuman temple but we were lost. After asking the locals for addresses we accidentally discovered this place.

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The mother art is architecture. Without an architecture of our own we have no soul of our own civilization.  -Frank Lloyd Wright

Andalamma old temple, a late medieval period temple is located in Dharmabad village of Peddapalli district.  It is located 39 KM towards East from Karimnagar.

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Great buildings that move the spirit have always been rare. In every case they are unique, poetic, products of the heart. -Arthur Erickson

It seems to be the temple and mandapa was constructed during the Qutub Shahi period when Vaishnavism was spreading in the Telangana region. There are no Idols in the temple. It was not at all maintained/worshipped since ages.

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It is secluded and is almost deserted.

This temple’s architecture is so unique and beautiful. I hope Archaeological survey of India (ASI) should take over this place and develop it into a tourist destination.20190616_145806_pic_edit_20190616211448-01.jpeg

This is one of the best get-aways for all those Karimnagarites. If you are looking for any couple shoot kind of a thing or if you are an architecture lover. Then you can visit this place…

 

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Gateway…

Nearby places to visit are:

1. Buddhist stupa
2. Ramagir fort (Built during Kakatiya regime)
3. Siva temple (Temple built of roughly dressed stone), Peddapalli
4. Siva Trikuta temple, peddapalli
5.Sri Vasavi Andal Ranganatha Swamy Temple

P.S: You can find this place on Google maps

Temple Traveling: Kapaleeswarar Temple

Kapaleeshwarar Temple, is located in chennai, Tamil nadu. The form of Shiva’s consort Parvati worshipped at this temple is called Karpagambal is from Tamil, (“Goddess of the Wish-Yielding Tree”). The temple was built around the 7th century CE in Dravidian architecture.

According to the Puranas, Shakti worshipped Shiva in the form of a peacock, giving the vernacular name Mylai (Mayilāi) to the area that developed around the temple – mayil is Tamil for “peacock”. Shiva is worshiped as Kapaleeswarar, and is represented by the lingam. His consort Parvati is depicted as Karpagambal.

The present masonry structure was built during the Vijayanagar rulers of the Tuluva Dynasty (1491–1570 CE)

Infobits:

1. Temple opens at 5.00am and closes at 12.00 p.m. and again opens at 4.00pm closes at 9.00pm

2. Direct buses to Mylapore are available from all parts of the city.

3. Local trains are available for every 15mins.

4. It is around 6kms from chennai railway station.

Badami Cave temples: ‘A fine balance of versatility and restrain’

After visiting Aihole and Bijapur, we started our journey towards Pattadakal, which was just 10 kms from Aihole. Ever since I read ‘Temples of South India’ book I was very curious and excited about these UNESCO World Heritage Sites and added it to my bucket list. Since we are travelling on our own it was quite easy for us to cover Bijapur-Aihole-Pattadakal-Badami stretch.

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Boothnath temple on the green waters of the Agastya lake…

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Temples build by Western Chalukyas invoke a sense of peace and tranquility by their systematic and symmetrical approach..

Bagalkot District of Karnataka is blessed with some amazing historical sites of Ancient Indian like Badami, Pattadakal. These places were the most important centers of Chalukyan Empire. These three places are located in the close vicinity of each other and with a bit of planning can be covered in a single day.

Places to Visit in Badami:

Badami can be best experienced simply, by a walk through the ruins. All the major attractions of Badami are located around the Agasthya Lake and sandwiched between two high mountain cliffs on its North and South. It is about 1km walk from the bus stand.

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The fort on the Northern hill-top is visible from the main road itself.

Archaeological Museum of Badami:

There is a stone statue of Nandi, Lord Shiva’s bull, at the entrance of the museum. The museum mainly comprises of pre-historic stone implements and sculptures, inscriptions etc. datable from 6th to 16th century AD.

Walking further, we reached to a beautiful lake called Agasthya Lake. This lake is surrounded by the Badami Caves, Red sandstone hills, Bhootnath Temple, small houses of Badami and the beautiful flight of steps (the ghats). The water in this lake is believed to have some healing power too. The sandstone steps (ghats) from three side of the lake make it more beautiful.

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There we are…posing for a pic

Badami in Hindu Mythology:

Legend says that there were two demon siblings in the ancient times, one is Vatapi and another one is Ilvala. The older brother Ilvala converted Vatapi in red meat and offered that to the poor souls living in the area. Unaware of the tricks, people ate that meat happily. Then, Ilvala re-converted that meat back into Vatapi who then emerges by tearing through the person’s body causing death. One day they did the same trick to the great saint Agasthya. But, the saint was able to digest the meat, thus causing death of Vatapi. This put an end to the misery of local people. These two hills in Badami to its north and south are supposed to represent the demons Ilvala and Vatapi.

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The lake between these hills was named as Agasthya Lake or Agasthya Tirtha in honour of the great saint.

Bhootnath Temple :

This temple is located at the Eastern side of the lake and is believed to be built in 5th century. These temples are dedicated to Lord Shiva. Inside the temple, there are lot of carvings on the wall.

Badami Fort and Adjacent Area: Again walking along the Agasthya Tank, we moved towards the northern hill through an access road adjacent to the museum. This hill has an amazing package to unfold for its visitors. Top of the hills are almost flat, full of shrubs and thorns, many walkable trails and houses, small water reservoir, some small temples with excellent carvings and Badami Fort. After visiting the Northern Side of the lake, we moved towards the Southern Hill, that houses the famous cave temples.As one walks along the lake,the road leads to an 18th century mosque.

Badami Caves:

Badami is famous for its four cave temples  all cut out of a monolithic (single) rock of sand stone on the precipice of a hill. First three of these temples are dedicated to Hindu gods and goddesses and the last one is basically dedicated to JainTirthankars.

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monolithic (single) rock of sand stone on the precipice of a hill.

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The four cave temples represent the secular nature of the rulers then.

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Cave Temple 1 : Moving inside, a long flight of steps took us to the first cave. This cave is dedicated to Lord Shiva. This cave temple dates back to the 5th century CE and was built by Chalukyan King Pulkesin-I. There is a carving of the cosmic dance of Nataraja depicted with eighteen arms. With these 18 arms, Lord Shiva can make 81 dance poses or mudra of Natya Shastra.

 

Cave Temple 2 : The second cave temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and his avatars (incarnations).

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The best carving in this cave is the image of Lord Vishnu in his Varaha avatar (Varaha the pig-faced, human-bodied Lord, half human-half animal). In this avatar, he rescued the Goddess Bhudevi (The Earth) from the demon Hiranyaksha.

Cave Temple 3 :  The third cave is dedicated to Vishnu, and is the best and the biggest, and it has splendid giant figures of Paravasudeva, Bhuvaraha, Harihara and Narasimha.  An inscription found here records the creation of the shrine by Mangalesha in 578AD. There are some paintings on the ceiling and the style indicates maturity but has lost its original dazzling colour.

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Lord Vishnu statue.. All the statues in this cave are engraved in a vigorous style.

Cave Temple 4 : The fourth cave is Jaina which lies a little east of cave III. The sanctum is adorned by the image of Mahavira.

Tips from my perspective:

  • It is approx. 420 kms away from Hyderabad and 500 kms away from Bengaluru.
  • Timings: Daily except Fridays through the year from 10:00 Hrs to 17:00 hrs.
  • Ticket Price: INR 5 for Indians and INR 100 for foreigners.

Mahadev Temple: ‘The Emperor of Temples’

The 12th Century Mahadeva Temple at Itagi in Koppal District with splendid sculptures is said to be one of the finest examples in the country with respect to the magnificence and decorative details. The Mahadeva Temple at Itagi was built circa 1112 CE by Mahadeva, a commander (dandanayaka) in the army of the Western Chalukya King Vikramaditya VI.  Itagi is about 22 miles (35 km) east of Gadag and 40 miles (64 km) west of Hampi.

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Western Chalukyan art speaks volumes about the taste of the Chalukyan Artisans.

The well-executed sculptures, finely crafted carvings on walls, pillars and the tower make it a good example of complete Western Chalukyan art which speaks volumes about the taste of the Chalukyan artisans. An inscription dated 1112 CE in the temple calls it “Emperor among Temples” (Devalaya Chakravarti).The temple has a special place on the tourist map of Karnataka. The monument and sculptures that adorn the walls of the temple have a rich architectural value. This temple is dedicated to Hindu God Shiva.

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Aesthetic Sense is found in this beautiful temple..

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An inscription dated 1112 CE in the temple calls it “Emperor among Temples” (Devalaya Chakravarti)

One can have a glimpse of the high-towered Mahadeva Temple and a cluster of small temples around it while travelling on Koppal-Yelburga Road. It takes a few hours to watch the remnants of the temple and the architectural skill that glitter in daylight.

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Towards the north of the Shivalinga, there are five temples, of which two are dedicated to Murthinarayana and Chandraleshwari, parents of Mahadeva. There are 13 temples with Shivalingas around the main temple.

The east-faced main temple comprises a shrine with an antechamber, a closed hall with porches on either side of it towards north and south, and openings on either side with pillared halls. The temple roof is supported by 68 carved pillars. Of them, 26 are on the floor and the rest on the stone bench surrounding the hall and carrying the sloping eaves.

The carved columns are symmetrically arranged. The slabs on the central part of the ceiling have “Makaras” which spring from the jaws of “Kirtimuka” masks.

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Sojourn in time..

The walls of the inner hall are adorned with rich sculptures. The pentagon-shaped sanctum sanctorum and its outer walls have beautiful carvings. The 15-foot high main tower of the temple has carvings and projecting cornices.

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Beautifully carved…

The Mahadeva Temple is also known for its erotic sculptures. The temple has a “puskarani (teertha)” on its front side, which is still used by the villagers.

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Puskarini..

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The pillars in this hall bear similarities to the porch pillars at the Dodda Basappa Temple at Dambal and the lathe-turned pillars (whose rounded sections are lathe-turned) at the Kasivisvesvara Temple at Lakkundi.

The Mahadeva temple is officially protected as a national monument by the Archaeological Survey of India. This Temple has a history that is older than Hampi. The temple and its surroundings have been neglected for the past few centuries. The sculptures around the temple are in shambles. Hope Karnataka government takes proper care in protecting these Chalukyan architectural wonders.

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Art historian Henry Cousens called this monument the “finest in Kannada country after Halebidu”. These Western Chalukya monuments, regional variants of existing dravida (South Indian) temples, defined the Karnata dravida tradition. 

Temple Travelling: Kadiri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy Temple

Kadiri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy Temple is located in Anantapur district in Andhra Pradesh, India. It is said that devotees who offer prayers here get relieved of their sorrows, sufferings and sins. IMG_9467

History:-
The town got its name from Khadri, in Sanskrit, meaning Indian mulberry. It is believed that Lord Shri Khadri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy came out of this tree. The main deity in this temple is Ashta Bahu Shri Narasimha who has eight hands clawing open the body of Hiranyakashipu.  This was one of the ten avatars or reincarnations of Lord Vishnu.

Kadiri

The specialty of this temple is that after the daily obeisance known as Abhishekam is performed; the Lord Narasimha is seen to be sweating despite being wiped clean by the temple priests.

Narasimha means ‘Man Lion’ as that was the form taken by Lord Vishnu to kill Hiranyakashipu who could not be killed otherwise. It is merely a mention on how truth can overcome evil despite the difficulties. He is envisioned as a half man with the torso and lower body and the face and hands, that of a lion.

Kadiri

The scriptures say that Lord Vishnu, in one of his incarnations as Lord Narasimha , in his rage descended down on to earth as Ugrarupa to kill Hiranyakashipu, who wanted to avenge the death of his brother Hiranyaksha . Hiranyaksha was killed by one reincarnation of Lord Vishnu as Varaha. He took the people to task and tortured the sages and the common people for praying to Lord Vishnu. The sages appeared before Lord Vishnu to end this terror. In the meanwhile Hiranyakashipu got a boon from Lord Brahma after praying fervently for a favour. The boon was that it would be impossible for any human to kill him. Ultimately, Lord Vishnu had to reincarnate as Narasimha to kill Hiranyakashipu, as he was about to kill his own son for showing allegiance to Lord Vishnu.

It is said that Lord Narasimha emerged from the Khadri tree to act his part in killing Hiranyakashipu at this place. The temple was built by one Ranganayudu, a Palegar of Pathariapattanam.

The Rangamantapam has been ornately carved with scenes from the Ramayana and further down, the Lakshmi mantapa has depictions of the Mahabharatha. There are inscriptions on what the rulers have given to the temple. The carvings and scriptures have started fading due to the vagaries of climate and weather.IMG_9463

Infotips: The temple opens at 6:30am until 12:45pm and then it will be closed at 12:45am and  it starts at 16:30hours in the evening and continues till 20:30hours in the night. The temple remains closed from 12:45 to 4:30pm in the afternoon.

Discovering Telangana: Mannemkonda-‘The Palamoor Tirupati’

Being a Hyderabadi, I always had this two questions from people during weekends…

  • What do you guys do over your weekend?

  • Don’t we have any weekend gateways around Hyderabad?

In fact, I used to share few places which most of them are aware of it, I don’t really have many places to share to go out for a drive over the weekends from Hyderabad.

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My Beast: The car I drive say a lot about me

I could now realize the fact that most of us haven’t really explored the surreal beauty around Hyderabad. If you are nature lover, yes you have one now which is 2 hours drive from Hyderabad.

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Green is the prime color of the world, and that from which its loveliness arises. -Pedro Calderon de la Barca

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Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. -Albert Einstein

Mannemkonda is best enjoyed when the sky is overcast, which makes the 20kms journey from Mahbubnagar delightful. The varied hues of Nature and fresh air rejuvenated my senses. The secluded green valley’s surrounding the hold this temple best kept secrets.

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“Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky.” – Kahlil Gibran

Before we arrived our destination, we had several stopovers to capture the nature at its best. I felt exactly like rolling greens spread like a carpet, floating clouds jealously hugged the Hillocks alongside and a seamless path ahead dotted with beautiful nature.

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For in the true nature of things, if we rightly consider, every green tree

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“Nature itself is the best physician” – Hippocrates. “

Manyamkonda is the hill where the Lord Venkateshwara Swamy Temple is located. This place is very calm, mesmerizing, beautiful and of course a perfect destination for devotees and tourists. It is believed that this ancient temple is more than 500 years old. This temple is located in a cave which is reportedly balanced on top of the three hills. It is considered as one of the important spiritual centres in Mahbubnagar District. Here pilgrims can have a glimpse of the ancient caves where the sages were believed to have practiced penance.Hence this place was called as Munulakonda (Munulu means Saints and Konda means hill) and later as days passed by it has been referred as Mannemkonda or Manyamkonda.

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Garuda Statue

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A view from inside..

On the heart of the forest and on the hilltop, Lord Venkateshwara Swamy could be found majestically. The shrine is located on a hill which is 915 m high and at a distance of 2 Km from the village.

  One can enjoy the nature’s splendour and scenic beauty at the temple. The temple has a beautiful Rajagopuram with the images of Gods and Goddesses carved on it. Very rarely we can find Lord Venkateshwara as a “Swayambhumurthi” which means self manifested. Seeing Lord Venkateshwara in the forest, with lush greens is truly a blissful experience.

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Spending time in nature is healing energy..

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Sunsets are so beautiful that they almost seem as if we were looking through the gates of Heaven. -John Lubbock

If you are a nature lover and wanted to spend time peacefully plan for a trip to Manyamkonda. Have a nice week my dear friends!!

Temples of Pattadakal: ‘Enchanting Beauty and Magnificence’

Pattadakal is located on the left bank of the Malaprabha River in Bagalkot district and is 22 km from Badami, 10kms from Aihole and 400kms from Hyderabad. It was once the capital of the Chalukya dynasty of Karnataka between the 7th and 8th centuries is the cluster of ten beautifully carved temples which represents the high point of an eclectic art which achieved a harmonious blend of architectural forms from northern(Nagara) and southern(Dravidian) India.UNESCO in 1987 included Pattadakal in its list of World Heritage sites.

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Beautiful Sunset at the Pattadakal group of Monuments.

The sculptural art of these temples is marked by classiness of the Chalukyan dynasty. Pattadakal emerges as a heavenly site with its superb architectural marvels in a picture-perfect lane.

An impressive series of nine Hindu temples, as well as a Jain sanctuary, can be seen there. One masterpiece from the group stands out – the Temple of Virupaksha.

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Sangameshwara temple, Papanatha temple and Virupaksha temple Complex, Pattadakal.

Chalukyan rulers are great patrons because of them, their artisans did experiments and innovated a new dimension in temple architecture. . It is in their period that transition from rock-cut medium to structural temples took place.

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Artist at work, Pattadakal, Karnataka.

Out of all, four temples are built in Dravidian style, four in Nagara style and Papanatha Temple illustrates a perfect blend of both styles of architecture.The important ones are discussed below in detail.

Virupaksha Temple

Virupaksha temple is the largest and grandest of all temples in Pattadakal built in 8th Century, built by Queen Lokamahadevi (Trilokya mahadevi)in 745 to commemorate her husband’s victory (Vikramaditya II) over the Pallavas of Kanchi. This temple has a sanctum, an inner passage, pillared navaranga and triple entrances from the north, east and the south porches. It has a massive gateway in front from the east and a small gate behind. There are inscriptions and imposing stone carved figures inside the stone mantapa. It has a beautiful Nandi Mandapam with a large Nandi statue gazing in the direction of the Lord. The Kailasanatha temple at Ellora was built based on the model of Virupaksha temple.

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Papanatha and Virupaksha temple, Pattadakal.

Mallikarjuna Temple

Mallikarjuna Temple is a smaller version of the Virupaksha temple and was built by Vikramadiyta’s second queen Trilokyamahadevi in 745. This temple is also was constructed by Rani Trilokyamahadevi to celebrate the victory (by Vikramaditya II) over the Pallavas. The Mallikarjuna temple was built immediately after and close to the Virupaksha temple (It has a similar plan), with a 4 storeyed vimana with a circular griva and shikhara. Mallikarjuna temple in Dravidian style. It is in close proximity with the Sanghameshvara temple in design, construction and sculpture, but smaller in size. The porch has a beautiful image of Narasimha killing Hiranyakashipu and two female idols. Here are two grand images on both the sides of the entrance to the navaranga. The eighteen pillars of the navaranga have figures pertaining to Ramayana, Mahabharatha and those representing social conditions of those days. On the ceiling are beautiful figures of Gajalakshmi and Shiva-Parvathi with Nandi. On the external walls are sculptures like Shiva, Nandi, Lakulisha, Nataraja, etc.The temple is celebrated for its artistic sculptures.

Papanatha Temple

Papanatha Temple is the only temple that has been designed on both north and south Indian styles of architecture. Containing a Nagara styled Vimanam, the temple dates back to 680 AD. Initially, the construction was started with Nagara style, but later it was switched to Dravidian style. The temple is famous for its sculptures that are imbibed from the scenes of Ramayana and Mahabharata.

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Papanatha Temple Gopura,Pattadakal.

Jain Temple

This Temple was constructed by the Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta. Built in the Dravidian style, the temple comprises really beautiful sculptures. Perhaps, it was erected either by King Amoghavarsha I or his son Krishna II in the 9th century.

Kasivisvesvara temple

It was the last to be built in early Chalukya style. This temple was built by the Rashtrakutas in the 8th century.

Kashi Visveswara temple & Galaganatha temple, Pattadakal.

Kashivisveswara and Galaganatha temples, Pattadakal.

Sangamesvara Temple

Perhaps the oldest temple in the group, Sangameshvara Temple was built by King Vijayaditya Satyashreya during 697 -733 AD. This incomplete temple appeals with its colossal structure.

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Sangameshwara Temple (was called Vijayewara) is The oldest temple in Pattadakal, built by Chalukya King Vijayaditya Satyashraya ( 696-733), it has no sukanasika.

Tips from my perspective:

  • It is open from Sunrise to Sunset.
  • Entrance Fee to the Citizens of India and visitors of SAARC (Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Maldives and Afghanistan) and BIMSTEC Countries (Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Myanmar) – Rs. 10 per head. Others: US $ 5 or Indian Rs. 250/- per head.
  • There are no Hotels available in Pattadakal. If you are planning to stay, the best option is to go to Badami where you can find a lot of options.
  • Aihole is 10kms and Badami is 22kms away from Pattadakal.

Aihole: The Cradle of the Ancient Hindu Temple Architecture

Aihoḷe is a small village in the Bagalkot district of Karnataka and located 400 kms from Hyderabad. It is known for Chalukyan architecture, with about 125 stone temples dating from 5th century CE. It was the cradle of ancient Hindu temple architecture. Experimentation with styles was undertaken by the artisans of Chalukyan Empire. The artisans worked on the rocks to create the earliest rock-cut shrines. The artisans graduated to the full-fledged Chalukya style of architecture. The early Chalukyas inherited architectural styles largely from their neighbors to the north and south of their kingdom.Iphone aihole (23)

After visiting all the must see places in Bijapur. We started to Aihole which was 110kms from Bijapur(via Nh 133/SH66) road till Ameengal was good and the last 10kms stretch was not drive friendly. Within an hour and so we’ve reached our first destination. We got surprised by seeing flocks of tourists. Then we realised that it was Sankranti/pongal (An Indian festival) Holiday season.Iphone aihole (16)

The prominent temple groups at Aihole are the Kontigudi group and the Galaganatha group of temples, although historians have divided all the temples into 22 groups. Three temples are referred to as the ‘Kontigudi group of temples’. One of these is the Lad Khan temple (the oldest at Aihole is the Lad khan temple dating back to the fifth century, named after a mendicant that lived in this temple in the 19th century, another the Huchiappayyagudi temple and the Huchiappayya math.

Durga temple: With a Curvilinear Shikhara

It is the best known of the Aihole temples and is just along the entrance to the temple complex. It is apsidal in plan, along the lines of a Buddhist chaitya, a high moulded adisthana and a tower – curvilinear shikhara. A pillared corridor runs around the temple, enveloping the shrine, the mukhamantapa and the sabhamantapa. All through the temple, there are beautiful carvings. The temple appears to be of the late 7th or early 8th century.

Lad Khan Temple consists of a shrine with two mantapas in front of it. The shrine bears a Shivalingam. The mukha mantapa in front of the sanctum has a set of 12 carved pillars. The sabhamantapa in front of the mukha mantapa has pillars arranged in such a manner as to form two concentric squares. There are also stone grids on the wall carrying floral designs. The temple was built by the Chalukya kings in the 5th century. Ladkhan Temple is to the south of the Durga temple are the temples of this group. The Ladkhan temple, so named, as a general of the name had lived here, consists of a square mantapa, a mukha mantapa and the sanctum, built against the backwall. The central square has a flat roof. In the centre Nandi is installed, and just above Nandi, there is a damaged nagara shikhara, appearing to be a later addition. The period of this structure is about 450 A.D.

We had a quick tour of all the other prominent temples of Aihole which includes Suryanarayana temple, Triyambakeshvara Group, Gowda temple, Huchimalli (gudi) temple,  Kontigudi group of temples, Rachi gudi, Gaudara gudi, Badigere, Huchappayya (gudi) temple & Museum. Because of a huge number of tourist we skipped some of the other prominent temples like Ravanaphudi temple and meguti jain temple. I made my mind at that moment that I am not done with Aihole yet. 😛

All the temple complexes have different style of construction that indeed indicates that Aihole was the place for early experiments in Chalukyan style of Architecture. This place simply took us back into the time. Aihole is not in the list of UNESCO World heritage places. It has a great potential to be included as a UNESCO World heritage site. Then we left to Pattadakal(Yet to post) which was 11kms from Aihole.

Bhutan Diaries: Tashi Delek Thimphu

It all started from having an intense plan and huge back packing of 20-25 days which included a good part of North India , a long sojourn in the Northeast India but for all of us the most exciting part was to explore “Bhutan: The Land of thunder Dragons” as it is fondly called and the dice were rolled out. Highly planned and most exciting part of our journey started on the third week of March 2015.

We took a flight from Delhi to Bagdogra in West Bengal as it is the most preferred way to reach Bhutan for Indians. Our first stopover was at the queen of hill stations called Darjeeling which was roughly 80 KM and a 3 hour drive from Bagdogra Airport. Then After reaching Darjeeling(Click here to read my posts on Darjeeling & Street foods of Darjeeling) we visited some of the must see places there and the next morning we planned to leave for Jaigaon/ Phuentsholing ,which is the gateway town to enter Bhutan.

Day 02: Darjeeling to jaigaon is a 5 hour drive about 200KM going through NH31 and overlooking the beautiful Teesta River for a part of the drive. A permit is mandatory to enter into Bhutan for Indian/Chinese citizens for others it is the routine visa procedure and they have to pay some royalty fee to the government. We had to make sure that we reach Jaigaon before 10AM as the permit office in Phuentsholing closes at 11AM and the driver was just the right guy for the task taken straight out of a fast and furious movie. We reached the Jaigaon border town around 9:40 AM then we crossed the border by foot and entered into Bhutan(Phuentsholing) then at the customs office we applied for our Bhutan permits.

We got the permit in an hour, had breakfast in a local restaurant and exchanged our Indian rupee and got some Bhutanese currency NU (Indian Rupees also works in Bhutan) and a local Tashi cell SIM card as Indian networks will not be working here and we were set for the capital city Thimphu while one of my friend GK still struggling to find the difference between Bhutan and Taiwan.:P We reserved a 6 seater taxi for Thimphu from the local taxi stand for 3500INR.Thimphu is 174 KM from Phuentsholing, a 5 hour drive from a risky yet beautiful road carved out of Mountains. As we enter the serene environment of Bhutan we are greeted with a cold breeze and a peaceful noise of the surroundings. We felt like we are in for something soothing and also exhilarating.

The highway to heaven as it is called was a masterpiece by the creator and also by the Bhutanese government as the road is neatly carved out between mountains and makes for a decent yet risky ride, surrounding the nature. The weather was pleasant and the air was so soothing, That is one of the reasons why Bhutan is called as the most peaceful & Happiest country in South Asia. As we were having this discussion the driver proved it right by revealing that he has been happily married for almost 15 years with two wives, living with both of them under one roof for these many years which was something astonishing for all of us. It is more of a tradition in Bhutan and there are many such examples.

Tashi Delek-Thimphu:

We entered Thimphu city after a 5 hour drive and what we saw was large houses with similar Bhutanese/Tibetan Architecture , clean roads, probably the cleanest we have seen.

The city had a very calm yet happening vibe. We had to complete a tough task of finding cheap and best hotels in the vicinity called as the clock tower. We found one called as tashi delek which was 950 INR per room. Please note that there are hardly any hotels offering rooms at ground/first floor and you will have to to shell out a lot more to get a room on lower floors.However we got one on the third floor and it was a never ending climb to the third floor after an almost 400 KMs long cross country drive.

Clocktower square thimphu  (5)

The capital with no Traffic lights..

Next Day of the plan was to explore the every nook and corner of Thimphu. Basically to know about the traditions and culture that represents this beautiful country. Thimphu, as I mentioned is the most populous city in Bhutan which also means that there were enough people to interact. The men were extremely welcoming, the women equally beautiful. Karthik already began to work his charm, while lalla was still finding ways to start a conversation 😛 We took two local taxi’s as all taxi’s in Thimphu city are only small 4 seaters and we were 5 and we first went to the national library of Bhutan.

We’ve no idea that it is closed on weekends. So we just clicked pictures from the outside and moved to Zorig chusum, a government backed institute in providing education in embroidery, sculpture, painting, weaving, carving, etc to aspiring students to provide them with skills to boost their employment opportunities in the future.The school had an annual orientation going on as it was good to see an assembly of school kids after we were last part of it a decade back. Wow!!A decade!! i just realized. Time flies.

Closer to the school was National folk heritage museum which was an exhibition of the heritage of Bhutan, Also depicting how ancient Bhutanese used to live. We were out after a short visit to the place, which was an education of Bhutanese history, culture and traditions and took a taxi to the most famous tourist place of Thimphu called National memorial chorten. Believed to be built in memory of the former Queen’s brother the place is right in the center of the city and is mostly visited by old monks for their prayers and to relax.

Little did we knew, that the next place we were going to was this spectacular. It was the giant buddha dordenma golden statue, which is not yet completed from the inside. Upon completion this will be one of the largest buddha statues in the world.

Geographically it is perfectly located. The statue will be visible from a very long distance as we can see the Buddha shining in gold and also overlooking the whole city of thimphu from the top of the cliff. The place is hugely spacious and also windy and we moved on to spend some quality time at the place.

Thimphu city overview (4)

Thimphu City view..

If you go to a different country make sure you see its animal species.That is what we did next.The takin preserve was the place which houses the national animal of Bhutan, Takin. You can see a lot of them here and you can cover this place in quick time as it is only a conservatory for Takins.

Then we paid our visit to a small Buddhist monastery called Zilukha nunnery.The nunnery is located in Zilukha, Thimphu overlooking Tashichodzong and is a few minutes drive from Zoo.t was built in 1976 by the 16th emanation of Thangtong Gyalpo, Drubthob Rikey Jadrel. Currently, the nunnery is home to about 60 nuns.

 

After the whirlwind tour of these places without a break , we had to do the most important part of the day, FOOD!!!! And what better than some local Bhutanese food. We went to a restaurant called as “Ama” on the same street of our hotel as ordered Thupka, kewa datshi, Ema datshi, Thai rice, Chicken chilly, Veg crispy, Veg fried rice. (To know more about food click here..) All this for an astonishing N.U 900. That was the best part of Bhutan, It doesn’t burn a hole in your pocket when it comes to food. We spent the rest of the evening wandering on the streets of thimphu.

Thimphu city (3)

Tashichoedzong_fortress of the auspicious religion. This Dzong is the seat of government.

While GK and lalla were at their usual “loving” antics and a couple of us decided to hit a local hangout spot called vivacity and then back to the hotel as we had to be early for a long yet exciting, exhilarating, extravagant day of exploring waiting for us tomorrow.

Next day morning we had a walking tour of the city and had fun meeting new people there. Then I went to watch a competition on the archery field. Archery is Bhutan’s national sport and is played all year round. 2 painted targets 30cm large and 120cm high are placed at each end. The bows and arrows are made of special kind of bamboo, the target is 120 metre away. Team members encourage their archer on the other side of the field. They stand really close from the target. Each team usually consist of 11 members. The first team to reach 33 points wins the match. The method of scoring is complicated as if an arrow lands within an arrow’s length of the target even without hitting it, it also counts. Every time an archer hits the target his team members will perform a kind of victory dance on the field. It was very entertaining as all players were wearing the Gho, the national costume.

We almost killed the day just by exploring the city by walk and getting familiar with the buses, culture and meeting new people and also paid our visit to Postoffice at last we went to the weekend market. We were in Thimphu for 5 days and every day we used to discover new things about this lovely city.

TIPS from my perspective:

  • Please make sure you carry your passport/original voter Id, driving license, two passport size photographs along with you to apply for a permit.
  • I would suggest to take a hotel near Clock tower square.
  • National Folk Heritage Museum is open from Mon to Friday 10:30am to 4:30 pm Saturday: 10:30am to 1pm and on Sunday 11:30am to 3:30pm. Entrance fee is 150N.u
  • Don’t miss Buddha dordenma, Zoo & National Memorial Chorten.
  • If you want to experience nightlife of Thimphu, I would suggest you to go Vivo city.