Bijapur is an archaeologically important destination located in the heart of the Deccan Plateau, Karnataka. It was the capital of the Adil Shahi dynasty during 14-17th century AD. Bijapur, however has a long history of different dynasties ruling it. It was with the Buddhist-Hindu rulers in in the first few centuries of Common Era. They include the Maurya, Kadamba and Chalukya empires. Around 11th-12th centuries CE, dynasties like Hoysalas, Kaktiyas and Yadavas were in charge of the Deccan regions.
Ibrahim Rauza - Tomb of Ibrahim II Adil Shah - Bijapur
Ibrahim Rauza - Tomb of Ibrahim II Adil Shah

Emperor Ashoka the Great(268 to 232 BC) is much more than a historical figure in India. He is considered as the most successful Indian Emperor, who conquered entire Indian subcontinent.  Most of the Indians have a feeling that Emperor Ashoka was a well-known figure throughout in Indian history from ancient times.  However, it comes as a surprise and mild shock when one learns that the existence of an Emperor named Ashoka was discovered only in 1915. It was the British archaeologists who found the existence of Ashoka the Great.

A little flash back, serious archaeological studies in Indian subcontinent started in 1784 with the establishment of the Asiatic society of Bengal  by Sir.William Johns.  Quite a few British army officers and government officials were enchanted by the archaeological treasures of India and they started the efforts to conserve and study it. Indian archaeology got a new life with the arrival of James Prinsep, a  English scholar, orientalist and antiquary to India in 1819.Prinsep was the editor of Journal of the Asiatic society of Bengal.

The Great Stupa of Sanchi built by Emperor  Ashoka
The Great Stupa of Sanchi built by Ashoka 

“Let’s go somewhere this weekend. What about Ramanagara?”

My husband was talking about trekking Ramadevarabetta (the mountain of God Rama) - A famous granite rock mountain near Ramanagara in Karnataka. I wasn’t very enthusiastic about a trekking. I am an archaeology person whose taste lies centuries behind. However, I was quite curious to see the place where the legendary movie Sholay was shot, especially after it was featured in this Google advertisement. 

one day trekking near Bangalore - Ramadevarabetta

In 1956, Dr.Vishnu Shridhar Wakankar, a senior Indian archaeologist was travelling by train from Bhopal to Itarsi in Madhya Pradesh. Train was passing through the dry and dusty barren lands near Bhimbetka -a remote place 60 km before Itarsi.  While casually looking through the windows, Dr. Wakankar observed a cluster of huge rocks in the distance. Dr.Wakankar was a specialist in ancient rock paintings and something clicked inside him as he saw those rocks. Quite unplanned, he alighted at the next railway station and walked his way back to that barren land where he spotted the rock clusters. He did not know that he was about to make an incredible discovery. He discovered numerous rock paintings and other artifacts which opened new era of Indian archaeology. Later his discovery was widely celebrated as the Bhimbetka Rock Shelters which is believed to be inhabited by Paleolithic men as early as 30,000 BC.

Bhimbetka rock shelters - prehistoric archaeological site, India
Entrance of the Bhimbetka rock shelters
 Photo: By Surajkumar12111 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

1. Buddha's Mahaparinirvana - AD 477

Location: Cave 26, Ajanta - Maharashtra

This 23 foot long sculpture of Buddha symbolizes the Mahaparinirvana of Buddha. He is depicted as lying serenly supported by a pillow. The devotees are depicted sitting by his side grieving in his departure from the earth. However on the top rejoicing heavenly beings are depicted. They are joyfully praising  Buddha's victory over death and attainment of Nirvana. It is a colossal sculpture showing the mastery of sculptors of ancient  India. 

10 best sculptures of ancient India- Buddha's Mahaparinirvana - Ajanta
Buddha's Mahaprinirvana - Ajanta
The Jain temple that stands aloof on the Meguti hill in Aihole village houses one of India’s foremost important inscriptions. Aihole is quite a remote village located at 35 Km from the better known Badami. However, from archaeological and historical point of view Aihole is an extremely important Landmark. The above mentioned Jain temple houses the Pulakeshin II inscription or Ravikirti inscription.

Meguti hill Jain temple - house of Aihole inscription
Jain temple on top of the Meguti hill - Aihole 
Pattadakal is a famous archaeological site in South India and also a UNESCO World heritage site. It is located at 22km from Badami, in the Bagalkote district in Karantaka. Temples at Pattadakal was built during 650-750 AD. They are the culmination of great Chalukya art and architecture. There are around 9 temples in the Pattadakal complex, which represent the evolution in Chalukya architecture.

On the top of the porch door of Ajanta cave 17, there is a much celebrated painting of eight seating Buddhas. They represent the Buddhas of the past, present and the future. One thing that strikes an observant visitor is the difference between the first five Buddhas and the next three.  The first group of Buddhas have a different style of Halos, thrones and style of robes. However the striking difference between the first group and the second is the skin tone of Buddhas. Four Buddhas starting from the left has dark skin tone – almost black. The fifth Buddha has a grayish complexion.  However the last three Buddhas have fairer complexion. Why this kind of a disparity? What did the ancient painters of Ajanta wanted to convey by depicting the first group of Buddhas as dark skinned? Was it a symbolism? Some Ajanta guides explain that the change in color (from dark to light) represents the evolution of Buddha across his various existences. That is, from darkness to higher enlightenment. However, this explanation leaves us at a difficult juncture. Do we have to believe that the great ancient artists of Ajanta also shared the classic Indian obsession with fair complexion? Were Ajanta artists - whom we consider as the torch bearers of Indian cultural renaissance- really thought dark skin is inferior to fair one?

Famous Ajanta  archaeologist and historian Walter M Spink provides an alternate theory. According to him, the Ajanta artists did not have any such notion that when skin gets fairer, the person gets better. In fact they did not even associated merits with any particular skin color. According to Spink, all the eight Buddhas were initially painted in lighter shades. The first four Buddhas on the left turned dark due to the oxidization of the pigment that the painter used. Then the question arises, how the Buddhas on the right side still exist fair complexioned?  

One of my favorite destinations in south India is Hampi. The old city has a charm that keeps attracting you like a magnet. Hampi becomes particularly lively during the time of yearly festival Hampi Utsav.  Hampi Utsav is a grand scale festival celebrating the beauty and legacy of Hampi. There are major dance and music festivals to look for. Ministry of Karnataka plans for a grandeur festival on 3rd, 4th and 5th of November 2016.

Hampi Utsav itself is a great event to look for, but his year it gets more grand with the sky tours. It is through a Whatsapp group that I came to know about the "Hampi By Sky" program conducted by Chipsan Aviation Pvt Ltd. For me it sounded like a great idea. It would be a great experience for all those who would explore the amazing landscape and temples of Hampi from the skies. As they say, the perspective gets better and better as you go up!

The “Hazara Rama” temple is one of the principle monuments in the Royal enclosure of Hampi. It is situated between the Royal residential enclosure and the ceremonial enclosure.  It is believed to be built in 15th century under the Royal patronage of King Devaraya I. The temple is dedicated to Lord Rama. The name ‘Hazara Rama’ means ‘Thousand Ramas’. The name “Hazara Rama” might probably have come from the extensive carvings from the legend Ramayana on the walls of this temple.

Front view of Hazara Rama temple - Hampi
Front view of Hazara Rama temple - Hampi

Table of Contents

  1. Aihole - Origin and History 
  2. Aihole inscription in the Meguti Hill Jain temple
  3. Durga Temple complex - Aihole
    1. Sapta Matrikas - Durga Temple complex, Aihole
    2. Surya Narayana and the famous idol of Sun God
    3. Lad Khan Temple - The oldest temple of Aihole (AD450)
    4. Gaudargudi - A “Dravida” style of temple of Aihole
    5. Huchi Malli Temple - The temple of 'insane Malli'
  4. Ravan Phadi cave - Houses one of the master pieces of Indian sculpture
  5. How to reach Aihole?
  6. How to explore Aihole?
  7. Is there any option to eat or stay?

Aihole - Origin and History 

The vast region below the Meguti hill in Aihole is the valley of the Malaprabha river. The river Malaprabha is described in the ancient Indian legends as the place where Parasurama washed his axe. Parasurama did a holocaust of the Kshatriyas to avenge the death of his father Jamadagni. After his anger was quenched, Parasurama came down to river Malaprabha to wash his axe, which was drenched in the blood of the Kshatriyas. The river turned red instantly. When the saw the blood red river, the local women who was taking a bath at the river shouted “Ayyo Hole” (means “Wow, the River!) The agricultural village came to be known as “Aihole” later on.

Places to see in Aihole - Durga Temple