Badami, the beautiful capital of early Chalukyas from 540 t0 757AD., nestles in a spectacular gorge surrounded by gold-rust sandstone cliffs. It is indeed a treasure house of architecture and sculpture and has some of the earliest and finest examples of rock cut caves and free standing temple architecture.
Around 4 hours by car from Hospet, the remote, modest town of Badami was established around A.D. 543 when it became the capital of the Chalukyas, one of the most powerful of the Deccan dynasties. Today its most significant attraction is the complex of cave temples (daily sunrise–sunset; ) carved into the imposing horseshoeshaped red-sandstone cliff that once formed a natural fortification at the southern end of the town. Enter the pillared interiors and you’ll discover elaborate symbolic and mystical carvings of the highest quality (not to mention a few scampering monkeys). It’s worth hiring the services of a guide to gain some understanding of the symbolism. Also worth exploring are the Bhutanatha temples, built over 4 centuries at a picturesque location at the edge of the Agastyatirtha water tank; and atop the hill, 7th-century Malegitti Shivalya Temple, unusually decorated with dwarfs, geese, and various geometric patterns. Time allowing, stop at the Archaeological Museum to see well-preserved sculpted panels depicting the life of Krishna, and the Lajja Gauri sculpture, an extraordinary fertility cult symbol. Less than 30km (19 miles) from Badami, en route to Aihole, is the small settlement of Pattadakal and its UNESCO World Heritage–listed temple complex (daily sunrise–sunset; $10), where Chalukyan temple architecture reached its zenith in the 7th and 8th centuries. Some, like Papanatha Temple built around A.D. 680, are in the northern Indo- Aryan style, while others, like the main Virupaksha Temple built 80 years later, are in the South Indian Dravidian architectural style, with tiered pyramidal rather than conical roofs. A dance festival is held at Pattadakal each January. (Note that if you’re pressed for time, the Pattadakal stop can be skipped).
Badami was once the capital of Chalukya from about 540-757AD. Squeezed between two rocky rust red sandstone hills, here are some of the earliest and exquisite examples of Dravidian temples and rock cut caves replete with carved pillars and bracket figures, all hewn out of red sandstone on the precipice of a hill. Legend has it that sage Agastya here killed the two demon siblings, Vatapi and Ilvala at Badami.
The famous four cave temples carved into a cliff on the southern side are full of splendid sculptures. The 6th century Cave-1, dedicated to Lord Shiva is the oldest and has sculpture of 18 armed Natraja, the dancing Shiva. There are also figures of Ardhanarishvara, Harihara, Nandi, Parvati and Garuda etc. Cave No. 2 is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and is simpler in design. Some of the fine sculptures here are of Varaha, the boar incarnation of Lord Vishnu and enshrines an enormous four armed figure of Lord Vishnu seated on his serpent couch. Cave 4 carved during 7th – 8th centuries is the only Jain temple in Badami.
The Nataraja Cave or Cave One, just above the entrance to the complex reached by a long flight of steps (40) has several sculpted figures dedicated to Lord Shiva. The images include Shiva and Parvati combine, Harihara, karthikeya, Mahishasuramardini, and Ardhanareeshwara. Shiva as 18 armed Nataraja striking 81 dancing poses is quite striking. Near the Nataraja is a two handed Ganesha. The carved images on the ceiling and the geometrical designs on the walls and the columns are quite impressive. There is a huge lingam in the sanctum.
The Vishnu Cave or Cave Two dedicated to Vishnu is little higher than Cave One and has some of the best sculptures. Each of the four pillars supporting the verandah is carved with the mythical lion creature, Yali. The most striking of the sculptures depicting temporal incarnations of Vishnu here is the boar headed figure of Varaha and the emblem of the Chalukya Empire. Sculptures of Trivikrama with various weapons in his eight hands and other reliefs of Vishnu decorate the cave. The ceiling has figures of soaring celestial couples and a beautifully engraved lotus motif encircled by fishes.
After stepping out of the Cave Two as you head for Paravasudeva Cave or Cave Three, a set of steps on the right lead up to the hilltop Tipu's Fort. Cave Three is also dedicated to Vishnu and a Kannada inscription dates it from 578AD. The sculptural highlights include a huge carving of majestically seated Paravasudeva sitting on the coils of the serpent, image of Varaha with four hands and friezes on the pillars. The auspicious combination of Hindu trinity of Indra (riding an elephant), Shiva (on a bull) and Brahma (on a swan) can be seen on the ceiling panels.
Jain Tirthankar Cave or Cave Four is the only Jain cave dating from the 7-8 century. It houses a statue of the seated Adinath, the first tirthankar in the sanctum and images of more than twenty other Jain tirthankars on the wall of the cave. The pillars have roaring Yalis carved on them.
Most of these monuments are well preserved and maintained by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), open from sunrise to sunset.
It is located in a natural cave near the ancient Bhutnath Lake.
Within the fort are temples, relics of a granary, a treasury and a watch tower providing an insight into the history of badami.
It houses specimens from Badami, Aivalli and Pattadkal.
Badami Tour Information
Aivalli (Aihole) (43km)
Aivalli, the ‘Cradle of Indian Temple Architecture’ on the banks of river Malprabha, was the capitalof Chalukyas between the 4th and 7th centuries. The Chalukyas experimented here with the idea of building temples and one can see temple architecture from its nascent stage to more complex edifices. There are over 140 exquisitely carved temples; most of them are dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
Temple of Durga
This 7th century shrine is the largest and finest monument of Aivalli. Its semi-circular apse surrounded by an open colonnade and remains of curvilinear sikhara are quite unique. The main figures at the shrine are Chamunda Devi trampling the buffalo demon, Narasimha and aspectsof Lord Shiva. There is a small museum behind the Durga temple, exhibiting works of Chalukyan sculptors.
Banashankari Temple (5km)
It is one of the most ancient temples of Karnataka. Harishchandra Teertha, large sacred pond in front of the shrine is a fine example of Chalukyan temple architecture.
The Shaiva pilgrim centre set amidst lush surroundings is famous for the Mahakuteshwara temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Pattadkal, the second capital of Badami Chalukyas, set on the banks of river Malaprabha is yet another grand show case of Chalukya style of architecture. The cluster of magnificent temples at the foothills has been listed by UNESCO as a ‘World Heritage Site’. Most of the shrines data back to 7th and 8th centuries, but the earliest temples were built here during 3rd and 4th centuries. These temples represent the evolution of South Indian style of temple architecture. There temples represent the evolution of South Indian style of temple architecture.
There are 10 main temples and the largest among them is the Virupaksheshvara temple. It has a huge gateway with intricate inscriptions depicting scenes from Ramayana and Mahabharta. In front of the temple is a 2.6 metres high sculpture of Nandi.