The Animal Kingdom
Badami, or Vatapi (the ally of the wind in Sanskrit), was the capital of the Chalukyan Kingdom from 540 to 757 CE. It is a small town now and a taluk (subdistrict) headquarters of the Bagalkote District of Karnataka, one of the bigger states of the present Indian Union.
According to the livestock census conducted in 2019, the district had 222,823 cattle, 234,340 buffaloes, 383,926 goats, 622,856 sheep, 20,458 pigs, and 1,703,285 poultry chickens.
For the three days I spent with friends visiting the ruins of Badami, Aihole, and Pattadakal, we probably passed by quite a few of them and must say that mutton served in the humble restaurants has a great texture and flavour. The vegetable dishes were not so great, but that was not because of the quality of the ingredients.
The current Chief Minister of Karnataka, Mr Siddaramiah, who is originally from the southern part of Karnataka and far from here, once contested elections to the state legislature from Badami and won. The reason he chose this seat was because the constituency has a sizeable section of a Kuruba community, the one that he belongs to. Kuruba (from Kuri - sheep) is the Kannada word for shepherd, the community’s traditional occupation dictated by caste. It continues to be so in this place from what we could see.
Mumbai is home to a sizeable population of Kurubas from all over Karnataka and Dangars, their counterparts in Maharashtra. In the Deonar region of Mumbai, we can still find people who live off the trade in sheep and goats.
However, when you live in a city, our relationship with the food we eat and the wool we use isn’t intimate like what exists here close to the land.
LAND AND AGE OF THE WILD BOAR
Look at the rock carvings here or the landscape around; there are few people or representations of people without an animal for company. For example, the Chalukyas used the boar as their dynastic emblem and even adopted a unique imperial title, identifying themselves with Varaha.
Since then, many kings and dynasties used the symbol on the coins in this part of Deccan, and Varaha became one of the names for money.
While we saw goats, sheep, cattle and buffaloes everywhere, the small town of Badami was the domain of the domesticated or smaller versions of the wild boar - pigs.
It’s not all divine mythological images that decorate the sandstone walls of the temples of Patadakkal Complex. It has representations of common people, too. The complex is a group of temples built over three centuries after the 6th Century CE under different kings of the Chalukyan Empire and their queens to commemorate various victories in wars and other reasons. This place was where the coronation of the Kings happened. The temple is built on a bend in the River Mallaprabha. This river is a fertile patch in the predominantly rocky and dry landscape of the Deccan.
Our guide, Mr Chandru, told us that the above images are of the common people looking through windows. These window-like designs are inspired by the Chaitya design of Buddhist temples that became popular in that age. Time has eroded the finer details, and they stand out compared to the larger, majestically carved family of mythological stories on the walls.
For a long time, this abandoned temple complex was occupied by people who cultivated the valley's rich soil. When the temples were restored, they were settled in New Patadakal, a large village around the temple.
There are a couple of functioning temples in the complex today. Most of the temples have depressions seen above in the stone that were probably used by people who lived here to grind grains or spices.
Several of the temples in what was the Badami Chaulkyas's capital territory are now between sugarcane and millet fields—protected by fences from encroachers but allowing passage for people to go about their work.