Temple: Badami cave temples
Badami, located in the Bagalkot district of North Karnataka, was the capital of the Chalukya Dynasty. It is situated at the mouth of a beautiful ravine, flanked on either side by beautiful sandstone hills.
The Badami Cave Temples – Overview
The Badami cave temples are a set of four temples carved out of soft sandstone. They belong to the Chalukya Period. Of the four caves, three are dedicated to Hindu Gods, and the fourth is a Jain Temple.
The Badami Cave Temples – History
The Badami cave temples are an early example of the Chalukya style of architecture. It was during the early Chalukyan period that temple architectural styles were evolved.
Many new temple building styles were introduced, of which constructing rock-cut cave temples was one type. The Badami cave temples are an example of this type of evolving architecture. It is one of the most beautiful examples of early South Indian temple architecture.
Founded in 540 A.D. by Pulikesi I, Badami served as the capital of the Chalukyas. The Chalukyas ruled most of Karnataka, before the Rashtrakutas. These temples mark the emergence of the Chalukya style of temple architecture, which is a nice blend of the North Indian Nagara style and the South Indian Dravidian style.
The Badami Cave Temples – Architecture
Badami is famous for its four cave temples – all carved out of sand stone on the precipice of a hill. They all share the same plan – a veranda with columns and brackets leading to a main hall, the pillared maha mandapa which in turn leads to the small sanctum which houses the sculpture.
Legend has it there were two demon siblings Vatapi and Ilvala, who had a trick by which they could kill and make a meal of mendicants passing by. Their tricks worked until Agastya muni came by and counter-tricked them and brought an end to Vatapi’s life. Two of the hills in Badami are supposed to represent the demons Ilvalan and Vatapi.
The four cave temples represent the secular nature of the rulers then, with tolerance and a religious following that inclines towards Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.
The First Cave
The first temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. You would have to climb about 40 steps to reach it. Built around 578 AD, this is believed to be the earliest of the four temples. This cave depicts Shiva in his dancing form – as Nataraja depicted with eighteen arms. There are no less than 81 different dancing poses of Nataraja depicted in this cave.
The first cave has gigantic carvings of Ardhanareeswara and Harira manifestations of Shiva in bas relief.There are also reliefs of Ganapati, Shanmukha and Mahishasuramardhini, and may be the oldest in Badami. It is made of red sandstone and has a hall with numerous pillars and a square shaped sanctum hollowed in the control back wall.
The Second Cave
This cave temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Here he is depicted in the magnificent Trivikrama form, where he is measuring the earth with one foot, and the sky with the other, with a third food resting on the head of Mahabali.
It is reached through a flight of 64 stairs from the first one. On its ceiling, are carvings of Vishnu on Garuda and several other scenes from the puranas.
The Third Cave
The third rock cut temple is reached from the 2nd temple through a flight of 60 steps. It is a 100 feet deep cave, with inscriptions dating this Vishnu temple to 578 CE during, the period of Kiritivarma Chalukya.
This temple is also dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Here he is represented in various forms – as Vamana, the dwarf, as Trivikrama, an enormous entity measuring the world; as Narasimha, the man-lion; and as Varaha, lifting up Mother Earth from the sea. It also has a wonderful statue of Vishnu sitting on the serpent Adisesha.
The cave also has carved images of the Narasimha and Trivikrama avataras of Vishnu. There are also murals depicting the divine marriage of Shiva and Parvati.
The Fourth Cave
Cave temple 4 relates to 6th century Jainism, dedicated to the Lord Mahavira . He is depicted in a unique sitting posture. This is considered to be latest of the four temples, and it was built about 100 years after the other three temples.
There is a carving of the Tirthankara Parshavnatha (with a serpent at his feet).
The archaeological museum of Badami has Nandi, Lord Shiva’s bull, at its entrance. This museum is closed on Fridays. It houses superb examples of local sculptures, including the remarkable Lajja-Gauri images of fertility cult, which flourished in the era.
Fairs & Festivals in Badami
A number of annual temple festivals are held in towns near Badami. The annual temple festival, held at Banashankari, in the month of January-February is worth visiting; so are the Virupaksha Temple Car Festival and Mallikarjuna Temple Festival held in Pattadakal during March-April.
The Badami Cave Temples – Facts
There are other places to visit, very near the temple including:
- The Badami Fort – The Badami fort is located two kilometers from the town. Besides its other attractions like the huge granary and an underground chamber, it houses one of the oldest Shiva temples in the region – Malegitti Shiva.Perched on top of the hill is the fort with the Upper and Lower Shivalayas.
The Upper Shivalaya, built by Pulakesan II, a devotee of Lord Vishnu is marked by sculpted tales from mythology on its outer walls. Look for the lion and elephant heads atop the temple steps. The Lower Shivalaya was raised to Lord Ganesh. To its north a 16th century cannon looks down on the township. The watchtower, a little further on, is believed to date to the 14th century.
- The Agasthya Tirtha – This is a lake situated at the foot of the hill that houses the cave temples. It is famous because the water in the lake is believed to have great healing powers.
How to Get to Badami Cave Temples
The Badami Cave temples are extremely famous and they attract a lot of tourists. Badami is well connected through many bus routes. The town also has a railway station. Belgaum, located at a distance of 150 km from Badami, houses the nearest airport.