Saturday, 19 November 2016

A Recovery At Omkareshwar


7 am on a cool October morning; inside a bus heading from Khandwa to Indore, I was sitting next to the driver, eyes on the road, with a ticket up to Omkareshwar Road Station. Also, I was shivering. not so much from the cool air, but more from weakness and an imminent fever. The toll of a heavy work week was already showing on my body and mind and all I wanted to do at that moment was to curl up and sleep; if only the driver would stop honking.

The Omkareshwar Temple and the Narmada

Omkareshwar - the abode of divinity on the banks of the Narmada - one of the twelve Jyotirlingas - was where I was headed. This was my first foray in to the state of Madhya Pradesh; and as far as beginnings go, mine had not been a good one.


A Little About Omkareshwar

The temple town of Omkareshwar is largely split into two sections: the town proper on the southern bank of the Narmada and the river-island of Mandhata which houses the main Omkareshwar Temple. The other important temple of Mamleshwar is located in the town proper. Two bridges span the river connecting the island to the town and are overlooked by the huge dam to the east. Below the bridges small boats ferry tourists across the river and are an important means of commuting to the various ghats and temples.

Omkareshwar proper as seen from Mandhata island

The main sections of the temple town are amassed with pilgrims and tourists. Yet there are enough quiet spots to laze, relax and watch the river do its thing.


Getting In

Omkareshwar is connected to the Khandwa-Indore road through the fork at Mortakka. This is also the location of the Omkareshwar Road railway station on the Akola-Khandwa-Mhow meter-gauge line. A less than 2 hour ride from Khandwa, passing through Sanawad, got me to this place, at the fork going to Omkareshwar proper.

On the map
A bus waited - empty, it would wait till it was full before it departed. No other public transport was headed that way, so it was a long wait. I was hungry. There was poha-jalebi, the standard MP breakfast, waiting for me on the other side of the road, but my weakness meant I could not risk a bad meal. I decided to wait till I reach Omkareshwar. That happened an hour later, when I tumbled out of the packed bus.


In Search Of A Bed

I then walked about 3kms to and through Omkareshwar (over both bridges), looking for a place to crash. A solo Indian male traveler is not an exciting commodity for the conservative sections of the society - many dharamshalas cater to the accommodation needs of specific societal communities - which I found out after being denied entry at a few places. The cheap guest houses love us though, as I found out soon after, as I moved from one ramshackle place to the other looking for a decent (sic) place at a bargain. Finally, I found one such place.

A makeshift Ganesha temple along the way

It was 11am, I was without breakfast, I was weak, the room did not have a bathroom door, the room had two windows, the room had a workable bed, I didn't care. I took a bath, shivered like a malaria patient, cursed my insistence on this trip, cursed my existence at this place, cursed the silly long walk, dried up and slept.

I felt a bit fresher when I woke at about 1pm, but weaker and the fever had caught on. I filled one of my two water bottles with ORS and took a swig. Went out to the balcony and called out to the manager cum bellboy to get me some light lunch. I put off further exploring and went to sleep again.


The Evening Stroll

Feeling better in the evening at about 5pm, I decided to take a stroll. The first stop was the Omkareshwar Temple across the bridge where the darshan was quick.

Ruined colunms - probably of the original temple

These all lie unattended to a side

Roaming through the lanes of Mandhata island, I then came down to the ghats of the Narmada. A boatman was waiting for his pack of tourists to return and with them agreed to take me across to the other bank for a princely sum of Rs. 10.

My ride on the Narmada

The temples, akhadas and ghats of Mandhata

 On the steps of the ghats

The old Mamleshwar temple was next and the climb up the stairs left me a bit exhausted. The temple had a flow of pilgrims, yet gave a peaceful vibe. Quite a few ruined sculptures are strewn about the compound here.

Sculptures on the wall of the Mamleshwar Temple

Devis and other figures

A lost Trimurti

Mandhata had settled to a peaceful rhythm under the watch of the setting sun and I roamed around taking a swig of my ORS, until I too, finally, settled down by the banks of the river as the cool breeze goofed around in the twilight.

A small aarti of the Narmada in the evening

 The lights of the Omkareshwar Temple and reflections in the Narmada

An early and light dinner ensued, after which I promptly went off to sleep, with plans to trek on the small hill behind the Omkareshwar Temple to see the giant Shiva statue that beckoned from my room window.


The Quick Hike

The next morning was much better. I woke up well after sunrise and with swigs of my ORS made my way up the mountain steps to the Shiva statue. The path there rounds up the island to come back to the Omkareshwar Temple. The old path is given away in many places and is not very safe. I returned after goofing about with a few squirrels there.

The Shiva statue - you cant miss it from anywhere in Omkareshwar

So much love :D


A Promise To Return

I checked out of Omkareshwar by 10am. I was out at the bus stop awaiting departure of my ride to Maheshwar. Very soon, I was on the road; this time feeling much better than yesterday. I've a feeling I'd be back soon.


© One Of The Road

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Aihole - Let's Build Temples


Anyone who has any sort of interest in ancient and medieval temple architecture in India should definitely visit Aihole. The small village by the banks of the Malprabha contains, to my present knowledge, the most profuse distribution of ancient temples and shrines. The monuments - as with the famous ones in Badami and Pattadakal - are all attributed to the Chalukya dynasty. These monuments have a lesser artistic value compared to Badami and Pattadakal, however, the importance is undiminished since this is the place where the Chalukyan architects started, experimented, practiced and mastered their art. Aihole proudly bears the title of the 'Cradle Of Chalukyan Architecture'

The beautiful Durga Basadi (Temple) of Aihole

The monuments of Aihole are segregated as complexes based on geographic clusters. We start with the main complex that houses the Durga Temple and the Ladkhan Temple


The Durga Temple

This temple, located in the main complex, is the most important and one the most visually appealing monuments at Aihole. The temple - contrary to what the name sounds like - has nothing to do with the Goddess Durga. The name is derived from its proximity to the erstwhile Aihole Fort (Fort = Durg in Kannada and Marathi).

 The rear side of the Durga Basadi

The temple has a unique elliptical plan (apsidal) and is immensely beautiful with carvings along the external pillars and the intervening walls. The ceiling is supported by beautiful arches - a technique redeployed at the Badami caves. The ceiling features impressive artistry too.

 The arches support the intricate ceiling

 Door-frame of the sanctum

Sheshnag adorns the ceiling

The main sanctum is enveloped by a closed ambulatory path which is connected to the inner hall. The inner hall is surrounded by an outer ambulatory path along the pillars.
 Varaha with the Earth

The Devi - Mahishasurmardini

The front view of the Durga Temple

The arrangement of the external pillars reminded me of pictures of the Indian Parliament building in New Delhi.


The Lad Khan Temple

This is known to be one of the oldest temples at Aihole. The temple has a simple square plan with a small cuboid room-like spire on the upper storey. The temple - originally worshiping Shiva - was taken up by a certain Genera Lad Khan as residence, thus giving it the present name. This temple is also located in the main complex.

 The Lad Khan Temple as seen from the Durga Temple

 The Lad Khan Temple - side view

 The Lad Khan Temple - front view

 The Nandi inside the Lad Khan Temple

Garuda on the door-frame holding tails of serpents

The ornamental windows of Lad Khan Temple


The Main Complex - Other Monuments

Other monuments inside the main complex include the ASI museum (and washroom), a step-well of minor artistry and other temples - Garudagudi and Suryanarayangudi. The ASI has done a very peculiar job of erecting information plates here. The ones which bear the actual temple information are located near the far wall of the complex, though in line with the concerned monument. The plates close to the monument, however, bear the standard mark that the monument is protected. ASI and common sense rarely mingle.

A minor gateway/shrine neat Durga Temple

Garudagudi temple

Step-well in the complex

Suryanarayanagudi Temple


Ambigerigudi Complex

This bunch of monuments is located opposite the main complex. The name literally means 'fisherman's temple'. The name is derived from the earlier settlement of fishermen in this area. The monuments here are very simple.

Ambigerigudi complex


Huchchimalli Complex

This complex has one intricately done shivalaya, one small shrine and one step-well. The step-well is mostly inornate, but features some scenes from the daily lives of the people.

The Huchchimalli Temple

Elephant hunt scenes on the step-well


Ravanaphadi Cave

This one again is one of the signature pieces of Aihole and a direct precursor of the ones at Badami. The central cave has a large shivling with the surrounding walls decorated by shaiva sculptures.

 The Ravanaphadi Cave Complex

The main cave and shivling

The Mahishmardini

The Nataraja


Mallikarjuna Complex

The complex is a set of five shrines and a stepped tank. The main Mallikarjuna Temple is a simple yet elegant structure. The entrance is between two columns - probably of an erstwhile gate. The other main monuments here are the white pagoda and the black pagoda.

 The entry to the complex

The Mallikarjuna Temple

The tank in the complex ...
... Jain temple visible on the hilltop (background)

The white and black pagodas


Huchchappayana Math Complex

This complex has two monuments - a temple and an inornate math.

The outside of the temple

A carving of (probably) Kartikeya

The complex


Some Randomness

Aihole has so many small complexes in the middle of residential zones that many are often missed out. We saw one such complex and set out to explore with the help of a local kid as a guide. The temples were a part of the Ganga complex (if I recall correctly) and some of them were in active worship.

Random unmarked temples in Aihole

Temples in disrepair

Temples with active worship

A sculpture - non identified


Getting In

Aihole is located about 33km east of Badami and 11km east of Pattadakal. Local bus service runs from Badami at intervals of one hour or more. The monuments are scattered throughout the village and a rickshaw might be a good option to cover the place.

We, like most tourists, hired a rickshaw from Badami to cover both Pattadakal and Aihole.


Signing Out

We did not cover Aihole in its entirety. Some monuments - like the Jain temples - are located up the hill, while a lot others are located in the middle of a cluster of houses. The lack of food and accommodation options also makes it difficult to spend a lot of time here.

The road passes next to the Aihole Fort

 All streets have temple views here.

This small village is as yet undeveloped and might be leaking quite a bit of its tourism potential. Surprisingly, the development here should have been a guaranteed aspect considering the proximity of important sites like Badami and Pattadakal. Lets hope for the best.


Other Places on the Karnataka Chalukyan Trail

Lakkundi || Gadag || Hooli || Badami (Monuments and Caves) || Pattadakal


© One Of The Road