Sunday, April 5, 2015

Badami cave temples

I have this problem. If I don’t travel or venture out for few weeks I start feeling claustrophobic and my efficiency miserably dips down. It was  one such weekend when I felt the need for ‘ just go’ and to get recharged.  It was decided on Saturday to go to Badami and applied 2 days leave from work.

There I was in the town of boulders after an overnight journey by bus. Badami is a small town in Bagalkot district of North Karnataka, India. It is a typical Indian village with filthy, terrible and trash filled roads and narrow bustling alleys. Looking at the current town, it is hard to believe Badami was the capital of great Chalukya dynasty in the past. It nowhere throws any evidence but the magnificent almond colored rocky outcrop which surrounds the village in almost 270 degree. Badami gets its name due to these   almond colored surreal rock formations.

Village road next to the cave complex
Though the morning was still young the sweltering heat of Badami was hard on me. I walked a kilometer from the bus stand till I found one Ambedkar statue. Then I took a left turn. After crossing through unbelievably dirty, messy lanes, I land in the courtyard of the famed Badami caves. The place was calm without any tourist crowd.

Badami cave 1
I looked at the impressive rock structure around me and rock cut caves which were built more than 1500 years back in 6th century. The whole landscape is as if someone has uplifted the beautiful rocks from beneath the earth for the eyes of the mortals. The mighty Chalukya dynasty who ruled most part of South India had made this town as their early year’s capital and had built these caves. As per Hindu  mythology, Badami was once called as Vatapi after a demon (rakshasa) who lived here. Vatapi and Ilvala were the 2 demons troubling the sages by inviting  them for feast and Vatapi would turn into a ram and would be cooked for the feast. After sages eating the meat,  Ilvala calls out for Vatapi and he comes out killing the person. It goes on until Sage Agastya decides to teach them a lesson. He eats the meat and before Ilvala calls him out he digests him saying ‘ vatapi jirnobhava’ (Let Vatapi be digested by me).  He  also put an end to the misdeeds of Ilvala.There is a beautiful lake next to the caves called Agastaya lake.
Nataraja statue with 18 hands
As I step up to the first cave, towards the  right hand side is this beautiful Nataraja statue with 9 hands on each side of him. The combination of 9+9 hands depicts 81 posture of Bharatanatyam dance form. In the niche   next to that is the cute looking Ganesha and other statues. This cave is dedicated to Shaiva tradition having sculptures of different forms of Shiva. It has verandah and a hall full of pillars and a sanctum sanctorum. All the 4 caves are typical in this arrangement.

Natural cave
In between the first and the second cave is a natural cave. I was tempted to go there. It was full of bat’s smell but was a good location for taking pics.

Cave 2 - Vamana
After taking several steps up I move to the second cave which is dedicated for Vishnu. This has different forms of Vishnu statues. I liked the Vamana avatara where Vamana, a  form of Lord Vishnu is about to put his head on Bali Chakravarthy, a demon king  as requested by him.

Agastya lake and Bhoothnath temple
Outside the second cave, Agastya lakeshines in olive green color in the sunlight. On the other end of the lake is a divinely looking temple as if  the whole beauty of the lake lies there. Guide told me that is Bhoothnath temple. Lake is surrounded by steps and locals were washing their clothes and cattle’s taking bath.

Way to Cave 3
The third cave temple is the famous of all. This is also dedicated to the Lord Vishnu. It has gorgeous Lord Vishnu sculpture carved in the style representing Chalukya style of seating   but easily recognized as Vishnu due to his symbols – Shankha , Chakra , Adishesha and Lakshmi. I was amused to see Gandharva sculptures in the corridor which depicts couples full of love to each other. Not erotic but certainly romantic.

Infinte Swastik carved in the ceiling cave 3
Cave 3 - Iconic seated Vishnu, Badami

The last cave is dedicated to Jain Dharma, which has statues of Parshwanatha and Mahaveera and also few other theerthankaras. 
Cave 4 dedicated to Jain theerthankaras, Badami

The sight from this cave provides a better view of the lake and of the fort on the other side of the caves. The Sun was so strong as if the stones would melt. Every 5 minutes I was looking out for a shelter. 
View from the cave 4
 I stepped down amazed by the  monolithic caves and its carvings and the intelligence of the artist in creating  architectural marvels. What a great cultural heritage that  the art loving  Chalukya kings and queens  have left behind !

Travel notes   
  • Avoid Mid March ,April  and May. Summer is very harsh 
  •  Private buses are available from Banaglore to Badami .. Bus charges 500-750 . Overnight journey of 10 hours . KSRTC buses are    available up to Bagalkot. Need to catch local bus from Bagalkot to Badami
  • Tuk Tuks can be hired for moving around the place in Badami. Shared Tuk Tuks are also available 
  •  This place has very few good hotel accommodations
  • Tickets costs INR 5. It is open from 6 am to 6 pm 


  1. Always nice to see new photos from here. That Natesha angle is new, thank you. I think he only has 16 arms, I'll count again.

    1. Hi, If you observe closely you will see all the 18 arms. 2 hands are only seen holding something major portion of the hand is hidden behind other hands. Thanks

  2. Very nice detailed blog... will check out the rest....

    1. Thanks Subhadip for visiting. Hope you will like other posts as well

  3. Nice to read your post, Beautiful photos.

  4. Nice Photography, good narratives on the place by placing historical facts. Superb! In addition, illustration of a traveler on logistics, hotel, nearby places to see, taxi fare, what typical food you get, DO's and DON'ts, guide hiring, charges, local shopping items, local best speciality to look for etc., would have added flavor! Overall good...

    1. Hi Mohan. Thanks for your valuable feedback. I have already given some travel notes. But sure will add in detail :-)

  5. The sanctuaries were worked in the eleventh century by the Badami Chalukyas.
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