Wednesday, July 20, 2005


Badami is the type of town I like. It has only one main street (you cannot get lost), and within one hundred metres of the bus station you can locate a decent guesthouse and a good selection of restaurants. Food and board aside, the reason to see Badami is to marvel at the caves cut into the hill.

You climb fifty steps and before you is an entire temple carved out of solid rock. It is sculpture in reverse and inside out. There was no guide avaiable to take me through the place, so I'm a little ignorant about how the stone carvers achieved their fabulous work.

A space larger than the average Australian two-storey home carved out of a mountain. Very impressive. I can't really describe it. I'm unable to compare it with anything else I've seen to date, except for a couple of small temples in Mamallapuram. The artisans didn't build up from the ground, they just chipped away at the side of the massive rock face, moving inwards and creating doorways, lintels, brackets, celing and floor panels, all without a trace of mortar. Not a single join.

It reminded me of building sand castles as a kid. After finally collecting enough shells to decorate the fortified wall, you decide to add crenellations. These collapse. Unperturbed, you begin to build a little bridge over the moat, and as you excavate the hole to allow the water to flow, this collapses too. A touch irked, you commence a tunnel through the castle's ground floor. The entire structure breaks down. Exasperated, you also smash your sister's sand castle and return to collecting washed up jellyfish.

Actually, not sure where I was going with that ... lost my train of thought. I'm blaming it on the elevated concentration of heavy metals in the atmosphere.

There are four caves in Badami with varying degreees of decoration. They overlook an enormous green tank the size of a the Sydney Cricket Ground where women go about the daily chore of washing clothes. A few temples lie scattered about the base of the artificial lake. But guess what? I spot a fort on the other side of the hill.

I never tire of forts. This one was in a state of disrepair, but has the saving grace of a dramatic setting. You need to climb through a succession of narrow chasms, the rock face towering high above you with enough room for perhaps two people to walk side by side. Down for a bit, then through a doorway in the rock, down again to a clearing. Up a rocky outcrop, and the fort is yours to behold. It's good to be the king ...

The architect who designed this little number stronghold has my respect. He created all this without the help of Lego models; quite an achievement. It's just a shame that I was up here all alone (as usual) with no one to play with. I felt a little silly running about the place by meself - it's very hard to be the emperor, soldier and prisoner all at the same time.

Luckily a few imaginary friends came to my rescue. We had a great afternoon.

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