The Day of Independence

Sunflowers

On the morning of August 15th, 2011 AD, Neal set out for Aihole – the cradle of Temple Architecture and Pattadakal – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The entire taluk of Badami was alive with the celebrations for Independence Day. Flags were being hoisted, speeches were being made, boars were running around eating garbage strewn on the roads, children were singing in schools and farmers were walking around in their normal attire. Except for that, it seemed like any other day.

Mahakuta Temple

Along the way, Neal saw plenty of Sunflower and Jowar fields. Neal’s first stop was the ancient Mahakuta group of temples. The temple was full of activity that day, with people moving here and there and an ox tied up elsewhere.

Pattadakal

After this, Neal was on his way to Pattadakal, located on the banks of the Malaprabha river which had all but dried up. Pattadakal was the place used for the coronation of the Chalukyas. With its curved, pyramid-like structures, the temples never ceased to amaze Neal. The Papanatha temple was dark enough to send a chill down Neal’s spine. Did I forget to mention that bats inhabited these temples?

Pattadakal

Pattadakal

Aihole

Soon, Neal was on his way to Aihole, said to be the “Cradle of Temple Architecture”. According to a legend, Aihole is the place where Parashurama washed his blood-soaked axe in the Malaprabha river due to which the entire river turned red, and Parashurama is said to have exclaimed, “Ai Hole!”(Oh! What a river!). Many sites were still being excavated here. In the not too distant future, Neal would find that he liked the Durga temple the best, owing to the fact that it lent itself perfectly to a Matrix-style clip, which can be seen below:

Click on me if you can't see the animation

Aihole

Aihole

The various geometrical carvings on the walls of the temples left Neal reeling with amazement. Neal was especially fascinated by the swastika symbol carved in stone. Walking inside these temples, Neal touched some statues and was comforted by their coldness, considering that it was extremely hot outside. Neal closed his eyes for awhile as he touched some life-size statues, and suddenly, it was as though those figures were actually alive – their touch felt so real. On the other hand, the monuments standing in the scorching heat of the Sun were too hot to touch…

Aihole

Now that Neal had finally seen a fraction of the temples excavated in this region and it was almost time to catch his train back home, it was time to say goodbye to these rocks of the past…

Sitting in an auto on its way to the train station, Neal mused over what he had seen over the last few days, and regretted not seeing the Shidlaphadi Cave. He thought about how it would have felt to be a king here, walking through all these monuments all those years ago; no electronic gadgets; no computers; no electricity; fighting battles; would it have been boring? Neal couldn’t even remember how he had been spending his time before he started using computers…Though these folks of the past were long gone; their work still remained, etched in the sands and rocks of time…

As he pondered over his thoughts, Neal’s eyes saw something. It took a moment before his brain waves registered and deciphered what Neal had seen.

“STOP! STOP! STOP!” cried Neal, as realization suddenly dawned on him. He had finally found what he had been looking for; and he had found it now when he wasn’t even looking for it. The local people had scratched their heads in bewilderment on being asked about it, and even the internet hadn’t been very helpful this time…

The auto driver had stopped, and Neal ordered him to turn around and drive, which he did. Soon, Neal came to what had literally caught his eye. He got down and stood before it. Strangely enough, the auto driver revealed to Neal that he had never noticed this sign before…Eerie, don’t you think?

Path to the Unknown

The sign said “Shidilphadi Cave”, though, according to sources online, the spelling is actually “Shidlaphadi Cave”; and there, far away, on the top of that hill stood the actual cave. No. Not the scaled model. It was the actual cave – in the non-living flesh. It was too far away to distinguish the bridge-like structure he had seen in the scaled model, but that didn’t matter. He would climb up now and examine it.

Soon, his excitement died down. It was turning dark. The rock was far away. This was an empty stretch of road, and this auto was his only mode of transport to the train station – After all, Neal was no Robinson Crusoe. Wait a minute! Train station?! That’s right…he had almost forgotten. He had to reach the station in fifteen minutes.

Torn between two choices – “To climb or not to climb, that was the question”, Neal made his decision. Since the Sun had almost set, exploring wasn’t such a great idea. Who knew what dangers lurked there? The thought was thrilling! Neal was in a dilemma, and he had to make up his mind quickly.

There are times in life when you wish that you didn’t have to make a choice, and when you are forced to make one, you always wonder what would happen had you chosen another option – the proverbial Fork in the Road. For Neal, this was the hardest decision he would ever make, and, believe it or not, he chose not to climb…

Looking back now, Neal wished he had chosen the other option. Why had he ever seen that sign? Why! Why! Why! It was at this time that Neal realized the true meaning of the proverb – Ignorance is bliss. Maybe there would be another time…or maybe there wouldn’t be. All he had were wide-angle photos of the cave from a large distance. He didn’t even have a photo of the scaled model of that cave. Even the WWW didn’t have any kind of photo.

The only consolation he got was from a quote by Orson Welles: “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.”

And with that quote, this series comes to an end. Let me leave you with this bit of information that Neal came across, from a 1956 Archaeological Review of India:

“A large cave, measuring 52 ft. x48 ft. Xl5 ft., at Shidlaphadi, with a group of rock-shelters in its rear, was found to bear occupational debris, which yielded, on a preliminary probing, microliths and some pottery. Some of the boulders lying inside the cave were seen to bear graffiti comprising such forms as bull and sword with antennae. The cave-wall had inscriptions in white over a red background, palaeo-graphically ascribable to the fifth-sixth century A.D., suggesting an occupation of the cave, possibly intermittently, from the Stone Age to Chalukyan times.” – Source: http://asi.nic.in/nmma_reviews/Indian%20Archaeology%201955-56%20%20A%20Review.pdf (Page 13)

Shidlaphadi Cave

THE END!

 

Comments
  1. babli says:

    missing karnataka man,,, cool blog you host there.. rock on 😉

  2. Parsh says:

    very meaningful

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