Ancient capital towns of dynasties in Karnataka – 11

Stepwell in Aihole, Photo of temples in Aihole, Temples in Aihole

India is a land of many cultures and every dynasty has left its mark on it . In Karnataka alone, I traced about ten dynasties and kingdoms and my love for ruins and heritage has taken me to a few of them. In the last post on ancient capital towns of dynasties in Karnataka, we visited Talakadu, the capital of the Gangas,  Srirangapatna of Tipu and his father Hyder Ali,  Mysore of the Wodeyars, Madikeri of the Haleri Kings and Dwaasamudra of the Hoysalas which are some of the heritage sites in Karnataka

Read – Ancient capital towns of dynasties in Karnataka – 1 

Today, we visit the most famous and popular tourist destination in Karnataka , Hampi and Anegundi, besides the Chalukyan towns of Badami, Aihole and Pattadakkal, out of which Hampi and Pattadakal are part of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Karnataka


The capital of the Vijaynagar Empire, Hampi, I believe cannot be explored in one lifetime. I have been here at least half a dozen times and yet, I feel I have barely seen anything beyond the tourist circuit. The story of Hampi takes me to Anegundi, the mother kingdom and the mythical Kishkinda of Ramayana where it all began.  Two brothers, Harihara and Bukka, whom we have probably studied as Hakka and Bukka escaped from Anegundi as it was under the control of the Delhi Sultan, Muhammad Bin Tughlaq. On the banks of the Tungabhadra, they met a seer, Vidyaranya from the Sringeri Shankaracharya Mutt who guided them to build a  town here called Vijaynagar . The brothers with a small army went on to defeat the Sultan and the rest of course is history.  But how did Vijaynagar become Hampi ? Read on here about one of my favourite heritage sites in Karnataka

Read – The story of Hampi 

Read – Tales and trails from Hampi

Hampi, Vijaynagar

One of the many sculptures in Hampi

I visited Hampi for the first time in 1995 when I was a student and then I have been going there repeatedly  and in  one of the many trips I decided to head to Anegundi, where it all began. An old fort, temples, ancient palaces greeted me as I went exploring this historic town and one of the heritage sites in Karnataka.

Read – Anegundi – Relics of the past 


Gates of Anegundi


The ancient capital town of the Chalukyas , Badami is famous for its rock cut cave temples, the structural temples besides the fort and museum. My earliest memory of Badami was in 1995 when I visited it as a student and I went walking around the streets looking for a bell that was worn by cows around their necks. I visited Badami again a couple of years ago along with Aihole and Pattadakal and was completely taken in by these monuments which were built centuries ago.

Badami Caves, Badami

People entering Badami Caves

Badami or Vatapi as it was called was founded by Pulekeshi 1 who built the fort and the caves were constructed by his sons,  Kirtivarman 1 and Mangalesha but the greatest ruler was Pulekeshi 11 who engaged in constant wars with the Pallavas.  Vatapi is immortalised in a classical Carnatic song dedicated to Ganesha, as “ Vatapi Ganapathim Bhaje “ . Legends say that the sculpture of Ganesha was brought from Vatapi by the Pallavas who defeated the Chalukyas in one of the battles and it is now in Thanjavur. But the myth around the name “ Vatapi” takes us down to the Puranic era where, the sage Agasthya killed the Asura or demon Vatapi by devouring and digesting him.

Read here – The caves of Badami

Badami Caves

A woman looks down from the caves

However personally for me it was Aihole which was breathtaking amidst all the heritage sites in Karnataka. Out of the 125 temples here , we start with the Durga temple. The temple built between the 7th-8th centuries by the Chalukyas . Ironically it is not dedicated to Goddess Durga,  but takes the name after “Durg” or fortress which may have referred to the proximity of the fort that was around . Built in a fusion of Dravidian and Nagara styles of architecture, the temple’s apsidal design is also referred to as “Gajaprasta” referring to the shape of an elephant’s back. But it was not just the shrines. Walking around the streets, I would be lost in a monument here and there. Sometimes old homes jostled with space with a cave temple. The village seemed to morph into this little site filled with monuments that were built centuries ago. It was simply overwhelming. You did not need to know the story or the history , but just being there was a great feeling.

Aihole Durga temple , Chalukyan Architecture, Aihole photo, Skywatch

Aihole – Durga Temple

Get a visual high on Aihole with these virtual trips

Temples of Aihole – A photofeature – 1

Temples of Aihole – A photofeature – 2

If you visit Badami and Aihole, then you cannot leave without heading to Pattadankal, one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Karnataka. What fascinated me about Pattadankal was the fact that queens here commemorate their husbands’ victories by building tempes.

Read – Pattadakal, where queens built temples

The connection with Pallavas and Kanchipuram has been around since the beginning and apparently the largest temple here – Virupaksha was inspired by the Kanchipuram Kailasanatha Temple

Mallikarjuna temple, Pattadakal

Mallikarjuna temple – built by another queen

The list does not end here. I have visited Malked of the Rashtrakutas and Bijapur of the Adil Shahi Dynasty. But I still need to visit Banavasi of the Kadambas, Bidar and Belgaum.  Can you add anymore towns to this list that have been lost in the eons of time ?

Also read – Malkhed or Manyakheta of the Rashtrakutas

Read – Eleven monuments in Bijapur that you must not miss




Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *