The sleepy villages of Badami, Pattadakal and
Aihole were once the capital cities of the Chalukyas who ruled much of the
Deccan between the 4th and 8th centuries. They built an astonishing profusion
of temples, many of which are still in a remarkable state of preservation.
At Badami there are many cave temples, featuring rock cut sculptures of
various religious figures. Nearby, at Pattadakal and Aihole are many of
the best remaining examples of Hindu temple architecture from this early
period. The main temple at Pattadakal is the 8th century Temple of Virupaksha.
The massive columns are covered with intricate carvings illustrating various
episodes from the great Hindu epics Ramayana and Mahabharata, and showing
battle scenes, lovers and decorative motifs. This is therefore a fascinating,
little visited area, which definitely rewards the effort involved to reach.
Elephanta is an island in the harbour of Mumbai, just
10 km from the main Gateway of India monument. Here you find unique
cave temples decorated with paintings of Hindu gods and Hindu legends,
created between 450 and 750 A.D., when the island was known as Gharapuri
(Place of Caves). The Portuguese renamed the island Elephanta after
the colossal sculpted elephant near the shore when they captured Mumbai
in the middle of the 16th century from the Sultan of Gujarat. This
statue collapsed in 1814 and the British moved and reassembled the
remaining pieces at the Victoria Gardens, where it stands today. Sadly,
the Muslim, Portuguese and British rulers caused a lot of damage to
the caves but enough remains to demonstrate the skills of the craftsmen
who built them. The chief attraction is a huge cave temple with a
massive Trimurti (three-faced) Shiva sculpture where the god is depicted
as destroyer, preserver and creator.