Badami Caves: Medieval rock cut temples, inscriptions & more!

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Last Updated on March 29, 2022 by asoulwindow

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Information about Caves of Badami

Cave temples of Badami, which are located in Karnataka in South India are waiting to be explored. I visited caves of Badami from Bangalore. What I saw mesmerized me. The powerful Chalukya Kings have left behind such beautiful art and architecture which has few parallels in the world.

Why is Badami Caves Famous?

Badami is a world-famous destination, thanks to its centuries old Hindu temples. Caves of Badami are famous the world over for their ancient Hindu and Jain temples.  The carvings seen on the walls of Caves of Badami are some of the finest in India.

This is why tourists travel from different countries to appreciate the rich ancient past of India.

Badami is also famous because despite being home to some of the earliest known Hindu and Jain temples, much of the ancient monuments in and around Badami are still in excellent condition. The temples of Badami are very well preserved as compared to the temples destroyed by barbaric Islamic invaders.

Badami Cavesare also famous for the powerful Chalukyas who once ruled here. This is why Badai is famous!

Nomenclature of Badami

Badami had many other names in the past! So, what is the old name of Badami? One of the old names of Badami was Vatapi or Vatapipuri. We have enough historical evidences to conclude that Badami was also known as Vatapipura and Vatapinagari in the past.

Where is Badami located?

Badami is located in Bagalkot district in North Central Karnataka. Located towards west of Malprabha river, Badami is a famous historical town. Badami is also located close to other historical monuments of Pattadakal, Aihole, Hampi, Belur etc.

About Chalukyas of Badami

Did you know these interesting facts about Chalukyas of Badami? Badami was the capital of Chalukyas in early medieval period. The Chalukyas reigned over large parts of Central and South India between 5th and 12th century C.E.

The Badami Chalukyas were the earliest known dynasty.

Architectural style of Badami

I have visited the larger-than-life Ellorra Caves in rural Maharashtra and can vouch that the sculptures and paintings of Cave 1 and Cave 2 have striking similarities with the ones in Ellora Caves. Much of the architecture style in Cave 1 and Cave 2 belong to the Northern Deccan architecture style.

During the early Chalukya period, the sculptors used to practise the art of temple making in the undulating fields of Aihole. The final results can be seen in the perfect architecture of carved caves of Badami.   

Most of the evolution of Badami Chalukya architecture happened between 5th and 8th century C.E. The earliest known Chalukya era temple can be traced back to 450 C.E.

The Chalukya architecture style which is also known as the Vesara style included two main styles viz.

  • Structural temples: These include temples made on plain ground.
  • Rock Cut halls or the Cave Temples

Blending the Nagara or North Indian style and Dravidian or the South Indian architectural style, the Chalukya era masterpieces of Badami, Aihole and Pattadakal are truly world class. In the caves of Badami, you can see both Hindu as well as Jain architectural styles.

Some of the Badami Chalukya style features can also be seen in the pillared architecture of the Vijayanagar Empire.

We can also easily see the elements of culture, hairstyles, jewelleries, lifestyle, dressing sense, cosmetics, warfare practised etc prevalent in the India of 6th Century C.E. Needless to say, India was far more advanced, sophisticated and aesthetic in these aspects even thousands of years ago.

When were Badami Cave Temples built?

In the cave number 3 of Badami, an important ancient inscription and signature of artists have been found by the archaeologists and historians. There has also been discovery of enough epigraphical evidences which indicate when were Badami Cave Temples built. It is concluded therefore that the cave number 3 of Badami was built on 1st November, 578 which was also a full moon day!

Cave 4

Historians and archaeologists have concluded that much of the construction in Cave 4 happened in late 7th century C.E. or 8th century C.E. Many features were added to cave 4 till as late as 11th or 12th century C.E.

Who are the famous Chalukya architects?

With their magical hands, the ancient sculptors carved the rock cut caves of Badami perfectly. The precision and scale, I observed, is just mind boggling! It is a pity that we do not know the names of all the actual workers who gave shape to the architect’s plan.

What we know is that Narasobba, Gundan Anivaritachari and Revadi Ovajja were some of the known and famous sculptors from the Chalukya era.

History of Badami Caves

Badami Caveshas had a rich and interesting history! Much of the history of Badami is associated with the Chalukyas. There were three main Chalukyas

Badami Chalukyas

This blog talks about the Badami Chalukyas.They ruledfrom mid-6th century C.E. Also known as Chalukyas of Badami, they built many temples in Badami, Pattadakal and Aihole.

Eastern Chalukyas

The Eastern Chalukyas used to rule from Vengi which was located in what is now Andhra Pradesh. The Eastern Chalukyas rose in the eastern Deccan region after Pulakeshin II passed away. The Chalukyas of Vengi hence started to rule independently.

Western Chalukyas

The Western Chalukyas used to rule from Basavakalyan. It is located in what is now Bidar in Karnataka. It was called as Kalyani in old days. They ruled till 12th century C.E. They are also called as Chalukyas of Kalyani.

Places to see in Badami

Did you know there are many other places to see in Badami beyond the 4 rock cut temples? In this comprehensive Badami guide, I will reveal all the known and secret places to see in Badami. I wish someone had written this guide before I visited, so that I could plan my Badami trip in a better way.  

Most people know about the 4 rock-cut cave temple complexes of Badami. Before I visited Badami, even I had no idea that there are many medieval era Hindu temples scattered around Badami, many of which can be accessed by a quick rickshaw/car ride or a mere walk. There are also many cave monuments, museums and other interesting places to see in and around Badami.

Cave 1 of Badami

Historical scenes and images from Hinduism populate the Cave number 1 of Badami. The first cave of Badami is a great introduction to all the ancient art on display around this temple town. I was mesmerised to see breath-taking sculptures adorning the walls of Cave 1.

Measuring 59 feet or 18 meters, I climbed the steps leading to the first caves only to be greeted by carved ganas in various mudras aka postures. Apart from the main images, which I am discussing below, the 5 columns of cave 1 are carved with foliage, floral patterns, jewellery designs and garlands.

The sprawling verandah of Cave one measures 70 feet x 65 feet or 21 meters x 20 meters. Some of the best and most important carvings in Cave 1 are as below:

Carving of Nataraja

One of the most beautiful and striking sculpture anywhere in Badami is the image of Nataraja. What makes it set apart is that the Nataraja Murti of Badami has 18 arms which represents various Natya Mudras or the hand gestures during dance.

This tall form of Shiva on Cave one measures a whooping 5 feet or 1.5 meters in height. 9 arms are located on the right side of Shiva’s body while other 9 arms are located on the right. Shiv Bhagwan in the Tandav Dance Mudra stands out. Each of the arms hold various objects like a Naag or snake, a Trishul or Trident, damru or drum, an axe and a flame torch.

Usually, the Nataraja form of Shiv ji is shown in a fierce form aka Ugra Tandava Natya. In this angry dance of destruction, Bholenath is shown dancing on a demon or asura. However, the demon was strangely absent on the Nataraja image of Badami. In fact, it is a happy dance which is also known as Lalitha Natya Chatur Tandava. In this form Shiv ji dances on a lotus flower.

I overhear a local tourist guide pointing to the image of Ganesh Bhagwan, son of Shiv ji. Located towards the right leg of Lord Shiva, the idol of Ganesh ji is big enough to miss even if someone not points it out. He joins his father Shiv ji in dancing. The image of Kartikeya Bhagwan, another son of Shiv Bhagwan plays Mrunthungam, a musical instrument of South India.  

Another sculpture of the sacred Nandi bull is carved towards the left leg of Shiv ji.

The mudras on display here are from Bharatnatyam, a classical dance from South India. It must not have been easy for the ancient architects to carve these sculptures. “One small mistake, and there was no option but to leave the project midway”, announced the guide. I am amazed at the precision with which the carvings were done, leaving no scope of any errors.

Carving of Mahisasura Mardini

Women were powerful and equal in India much before feminism became a topic to discuss in white nations. Thousands of years old sculpture of 4-armed image (Chaturbhuja) of Mahisasura Mardini in Badami is a proof of the same.

This carving is located towards the right side of Nataraja sculpture. Mahishasura was a demon who also happened to be the great grandson of Bhahmarishi Kashyapa and son of Mahisi was killed by Maa Durga, one of the most revered Goddesses of Sanatan Dharm. This sculpture show Durga ji killing the Asura Mahishasura.

Located nearby is the interesting carving of bull and elephant, their heads fused together. When I viewed it from the left it appeared to be like an elephant and when I changed my position and viewed the sculpture from left, it looked like a bull. Isn’t ancient Hindu architecture one of the most genius ones in the world?

Also, do not miss the sculpture of a dwarpala (guard). You can see a trishul or trident in the hand.

Carving of Harihara

Have you seen the half image of Shiv Bhagwan fused with another half image of Bhagwan Vishnu? I saw one of the finest versions in Badami Caves. The 7.75 feet or 2.36 meters tall statue of Harihara is located inside the veranda of Cave 1.

Sculptures of Maa Parvati and Lakshami ji give company to Lord Harihara. The other Harihara sculpture I saw was in the nearby temple clusters of Pattadakal.

Carving of Ardhanareshwara

Ardhanareshwara is the combined image of Shiv ji and Maa Parvati. The Ardhanareshwara image is located in Cave 1. I stopped in my tracks as I appreciated the unique sculpture. The part which represents Shiv bhagwan depicts him wearing earrings and holding snakes in his hands. A moon sits pretty on his head aka mukuta. On the other hand, the part which represents Maa Parvati shows her holding a tray full of precious jewels.

Talking of Shiv ji, how can the sacred Nandi ji be far behind? The sculpture of the skeletal Bhringi is also carved nearby. It amazes me to observe that ancient Indians possessed the knowledge of internal human anatomy! I was easily able to see that the artisans had boldly carved images of human skull, bones on limbs and ribs in fine details. They sure knew what they were doing!

Other members from the family of Shiv Bhagwan are also sculpted nearby. While his elder son Kartikeya ji can be seen riding a peacock, his younger son Ganesh ji also greets you from one of the walls inside Cave 1. Kartikeya ji is the God of war and the family deity of the great Chalukya rulers.

I crane my neck to admire the breath-taking sculptures on the ceilings of the Cave 1. The sculpture of flying couples flanking the Nagaraja is unmissable. It stands out with its architectural brilliance. The head and the bust are carved very well.

Erotic Mithuna scenes, couple in courtship and sculptures of Vidyadhara couples can also be seen on the ceilings if you pause and observe. Better still, hire a local guide, who will explain you all the details. As is common in all Shiv temples, Nandi ji in Cave 1 faces the sacred Garbha Griha which houses Shivling.

The carving of Yaksha (male), toting a sword and Apsara (female) in a veil also stands out. This unique bas relief measures 2.5 feet or 0.76 metres in diameter. As is common with new and old Hindu temples, I saw recurrent theme of Lotus flowers dotting the temple walls. Carved ornamental designs, motifs of birds and animals are also a common theme in Badami temples.  

Soul Window Observations

Much before the whites invented the term ‘better half’ Hindus were practising it. Much of the world, including the so called ‘first world countries’ think they invented gender equality’, when in reality the cerebral land of India acknowledged the importance of women centuries ago. Gender equality was and still is a naturally practised phenomenon in India.

The Badami Chalukyas, no wonder, carved an image of Ardhanareshwara to send across a message to their subjects that women and men are treated as equal in their empire. They wanted to promote gender equality, mutual respect and harmony in their medieval society.

This was also a time when women were treated as doormat in much of Islamic nations and western world. Neither men nor women were considered superior in the rule of Chalukyas.

Not only do women have the right to express themselves in India but also are eligible with a discussion, or better still, argue with the male members of their family.

Forget the comical bra burning or anti bra movement of the west, Hindu women in South India didn’t even wear bra. In fact, they roamed topless, as I saw in one of the pictures at the Mattancherry Palace near Fort Kochi in Kerala.

Cave 2 of Badami: Vishnu Cave

The Cave 2 of Badami temples is devoted to the much-revered Vishnu Bhagwan. While Cave 2 is not as large as Cave 1, but it is equally impressive with its architecture. Built in late 6th of early 7th century C.E., the Cave 2 of Badami is located 64 steps above Cave 1.

Yes, you need to take some easy steps to reach the Cave 2. It was easy for me but might pose a problem for the elderly and differently abled.

The floor plan of Cave 2 has many similarities with that of Cave 1 and it is still different. Much like Cave 1, scenes from Hindu history are depicted on the pillars of the Cave 2. Sculpted Dwarpalas or the temple guards welcome me with flowers as I stepped inside the main entrance of Cave 2. Ganas or the dwarfs with noticeable facial expressions adorn the pillars nearby.

I also noticed patches of paints in many hues on the ceilings and walls of the Cave 2, indicating that in its original form, fresco paintings must have embellished the cave in many colours. There are 8 square shaped sturdy pillars that support the main verandah of Cave 2. The pillars are carved in 2 rows. As was common in ancient India, these were carved out of monolithic stones.

As I entered the carvings on the ceilings of Cave 2 vied for my attention. A wheel with 16 fish spokes, housed in a square shaped frame had me impressed! The sculpture of Vishnu ji on Garuda and a flying couple also stood out!

You can see Lord Vishnu in his various avatars in Cave 2. The main relief in Cave 2 is that of the Vishnu Bhagwan in his Trivikrama form. It stands out because it is also the largest sculpture in Cave number 2. The dwarf avatar of Vishnu ji known as Vamana can also be seen. It shows the stage just when he morphs into the Trivikrama form. The image of boar-like Varaha avatar of Vishnu ji rescuing Bhudevi or the mother Earth from the great depths of cosmic ocean also adorns the walls. Naga or the snake with many heads is also sculpted below.

What’s more? Episodes from sacred Hindu scriptures Bhagwat Purana were also carved by the ancient artists in the friezes inside the temple. Do not miss the carving of Samudra Manthan or the cosmic ocean churning! I had seen a massive modern sculpture of Samudra Manthan at the Bangkok airport in Thailand as well!

And when we aretalking about Vishnu ji, how can we not talk about his 8th avatar, Shri Krishna!One of the sculptures here depicts him playing flute while another shows the birth of Bhagwan Shri Krishna. Vishnu ji sleeping on Shesha is also an important carving here. Another carving depicts Brahma ji!

The other prominent carvings of Cave 2 include flying couples, Gajalakshami (Lakshmi ji with elephants) and the pious Swastika symbols.

Overwhelmed, I sit on the floor of the huge main hall which measures 33.33 feet or 10.16 metres wide, 23.5 feet or 7.18 metres deep and 11.33 feet or 3.45 metres tall. I looked around soaking in the ambiance and appreciating the architectural genius of ancient Hindus as the monkeys goofed around, oblivious of all that flowed under the bridge since the times of Chalukyas!

Also read: Biggest Vishnu Temple of the world: Srirangam

Soul Window Thoughts!

When the backward (in many fields) West fails to understand how Indians did what they did thousands of years ago, they credit the ancient Hindu architecture to the aliens. In their minds, humans are incapable of building such structures. Little did they know that culturally and spiritually advanced Indians created masterpieces when much of the world was figuring out how to live life.

Cave 3 of Badami: Vishnu ji cave

Much like the Cave 2, Cave 3 of Badami is also dedicated to Vishnu Bhagwan. What makes it special is that is the largest of all the 4 caves temples of Badami. Cave 3 of Badami is also home to some of the most impressive sculptures of Vishnu ji and his various avatars.

Some of the various forms and avatars of Vishnu ji depicted in Cave 3 are

  • Harihara: Fusion of Shiv ji and Vishnu ji
  • Narsimha: Boar like 4th avatar of Vishnu ji.
  • Varaha: Boar like 3rd avatar of Vishnu ji.He is shown rescuing earth!
  • Vishnu ji with 8 arms, in standing posture.
  • Vishnu ji seated on Shesh Naag, the multi headed snake God.
  • Vishnu ji in Trivikrama Vamana avatar.

The giant figures on the walls and the deftly carved friezes are some of the best ones in the world. The sculptures of Narasimha, Varaha, Trivikrama, Vasudeva, Harihara and Anantasayana are the most important sculptures of Cave 3.

Cave 3 is mostly Vaishnavite, however, the presence of the Harihara statue makes it an important place for Shaivite pilgrims as well. The statue of Harihara, which is a fusion of Shiv ji and Vishnu ji can be seen on the southern wall of Cave 3 of Badami rock cut temples. The roof of the cave temple is 15 feet or 4.6 metres tall.

Fresco Paintings & murals of Cave 3

Much like Cave 2, vestiges of fresco paintings on the ceilings of Cave 3 can still be seen. “The faded and damaged fresco paintings of Cave 3 must have looked spell binding in its original form”, I whispered to myself!

These paintings are one of the most important features of Badami rock cut cave temples. After all, I was looking at one of the earliest known preserved ancient fresco paintings in India. Such surviving evidences of ancient Indian art is rare and must be preserved by both Government and people.

The mural of Brahma ji on his savari or vahana Hansa aka swan is the most noticeable. Another mural depicts the wedding of Hindu deities Shiv ji and Parvati ji. Gods and Goddesses from the Hindu pantheon surround the revered couple.

It reminded me of the rare murals I saw in Brihadeeswarar Temple in Thanjavur. Do read my mammoth blog on the mysterious temple.

I also noticed the sculpture of Yaksha, holding a sword and a shield on the roof of the front aisle. Another flying female figure is located on the other side. True to various Hindu architecture styles, the pious lotus designs are also present on the panels.

Pillars of Badami Cave 3

There are 6 pillars inside the veranda. The pillars of the veranda have been decorated with various intricate carvings. Sculptures of human figures in various postures pose under foliage in one bracket. Sculptures of two ganas or dwarves is also located here.

Other features of Badami Cave 3

The floor of the Cave 3 has a lotus medallion carved. It is located right under the mural of Brahma ji as mentioned above. You can also spot many other reliefs on the ceiling such as Indra Dev, Varuna, Agni Dev and so on.  You can also see a carving of Vidhyadharas or the super natural beings on the back wall.

Other images which can be seen in Cave 3 are those of Shiv ji, Kama and Dikpalas or the cardinal guardians.

I had to take 60 more steps from Cave 2 in order to arrive at Cave 3. The North facing veranda of Cave 3 measures a whooping 70 feet or 80 metres in length. The interior width of the Cave 2’s veranda is 65 feet or 20 metres. Depth of the cave from the entrance is 48 feet or 15 metres.

I was also surprised to see several Kama scenes. These are sculpted in the pillar brackets. The man and women in the Mithuna embrace or courtship is the most noticeable one.

Soul Window Observations

I have seen ancient erotic sculptures in not just Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh but also in the Hindu temples of Bhaktapur in Nepal, Aghoreshvara temple in Ikkeri in Karnataka, Virupaksha temple in Hampi, Konark Sun temple and Lingraj temple in Odisha etc. You can read my detailed blogs on these offbeat destinations.

Cave 4 of Badami: Jain cave

The Cave number 4 of Badami, to my surprise, are the most unique cave because it is Jain and not Hindu. Devoted to the major Tirthankaras of Jain religion, it is the smallest of all the rock cut cave temples of Badami. The Jain caves were also the last temples to be carved out of the 4 cave temples of Badami.

The Hindus have always been secular and tolerant of other religions. This is evident as the construction of Jain caves of Badami was sponsored by Hindu Kings.

Similarities between Cave 4 and temples of nearby Aihole and the Jain caves of Ellora in north Maharashtra have also been observed. I have been to both the places and can vouch for several similar features of these temples.

Much like how I was gobsmacked on seeing the brilliant sculptures of Ellora, I was amazed to see numerous motifs and detailed carvings on the rock-solid walls of Cave 4. The main carvings in Cave 4 include Jain Tirthankaras such as Lord Mahavira, Lord Parshavanatha, Bahubali and others.

The much smaller images of the famous and sacred 24 Jain Tirthankaras are carved painstakingly on the walls as well as the inner pillars.

Much like the colossal Bahubali statue I saw in Shravanbelagola in Karnataka, the Bahubali statue in Badami also had vines wrapped around his legs. This standing meditating posture is known as Kayotsarga.

I found the sculpture of Parshavanath the most dramatic, what with five hooded Cobra snakes sculpture protecting his head. Parshavanatha is also seen in a standing posture. Lord Mahavira, on the other hand is depicted as sitting on a lion throne. Surrounding him are seen heads of Makara, sardulas and attendants holding chauri or fan!

Sculpture of Indrabhuti Gautama accompanied by 4 snakes, Brahmi and Sundari is also worth noticing the details of. Carvings of Padmavati, Yakshas and Yakshis are other features that you can see in Cave 4 of Badami.

Also worth mentioning is the image of Mahavira in the sanctum. He has been depicted as resting on a pedestal in the Paryankasana or the lotus posture. Another small image of Jakkavé is shown next to the image of Lord Mahavira with folded hands.

Three lions are carved beneath the seat of Lord Mahavira. A prabhamandala or halo is carved above his head. A mukkodé or 3 umbrellas above each other is carved at the top of prabhamandala.

A medieval inscription in Kannada script from the 12th century C.E. has been found here. It marks the death of Jakkave. Jakkavé was a revered Jain nun who achieved Moksha or salvation by practising Sallekhana. It is a Jain practise which aids the believers in lessening human passions by adhering to holy vows.

I stepped on the small stairs that led to the garbhagriha or sanctum sanctorum from the veranda. The small veranda of Cave 4 measures 31 feet or 9.4 metres in length. The veranda is 16 feet or 4.9 metres deep and just 6.5 feet or 2 metres wide. The main hall or garbhagriha is 6 feet or 2 metres deep and 25.5 feet or 7.8 metres wide.

Agastya Lake, Badami

Kids played around in the Agastya water tank and monkeys goofed around as I walked towards the Bhootnatha temples for a free heritage walk tour. For local people the area around the tank also doubles up as a picnic spot.

This huge tank is located at walking distance from all the major attractions of Badami such as the museum, Bhoootnath temples, old inscriptions and the rock cut temples.

It is said that the therapeutic water of this huge lake has curative properties. The Agastya Lake dates back to 5th century C.E. Bhootnath temple complex is located at the eastern bank of the Agastya Lake. Many tourists wait at the Jain cave during sun set to enjoy the breath-taking bird’s eye views over the lake during the golden hour!

Agastya Lake is also known as Agastya tank as it is also a Hindu pilgrimage. Hindus firmly believe that taking a holy dip in Agastya water tank rids them of all sins.

Badami Inscription or Kappe Arabhatta Inscription

Just when I was heading towards Bhutanath temple complex via Agastya lake, I came across a huge boulder which carries the famous Badami Inscription or Kappe Arabhatta Inscription. I have seen many medieval inscriptions across temples of India but this was a bit different. The Kappe Arabhatta’s inscription found in Badami is in the tripadi form. Did you know that it has the first Kannada poem in ತ್ರಿಪದಿ tripadi metre?

Dating back to 7th century C.E., the Badami Inscription on this memorial rock is a must-see place in Badami. The original Kappe Arabhatta poem is written in both Kannada as well as Sanskrit. The Badami inscription is in Kannada.

The unique thing I noticed about the Badami Inscription was the floral design above which the inscriptions were carved. This was a departure from the other medieval inscriptions I saw in Meguti Jain temple of Aihole and Pattadakal Group of temples.

Bhootnath temple Badami

Bhutanathatemple Badami is one of the free things to do in Badami. Located towards the east of Agastya Lake, the Bhutanatha group of temples were constructed between the 7th and 12th century C.E. Some of the earliest examples of structural temples in South India can be seen here.

Bhutanatha temple can be classified into two groups:

East Bhutanatha group

Also known as the Bhutanatha main group, these temples were built in 7th and 8th-century C.E. Dravida architecture style is prominent here. These temples were built by the Badami Chalukya architects. These sandstone temples, most of which are devoted to Shiv Bhagwan, is an offbeat place to visit in Badami.

The Lingayats had installed a Shivalinga in the garbhagriha of the main temple here on a later date. These are some lesser-known facts about Badami.

I noticed figures of Ganga Maa and Yamuna ji flanking either side of the entrance of the main temple here. While Ganga ji is shown riding makara, Yamuna ji rides the tortoise. The intricate lotus carvings and colossal pillar are also must-see.

North Bhutanatha group

Also known as the Mallikarjuna group of temples, these Hindu shrines were built later in 11th and 12th century C.E. Nagara architecture style is prominent here. These temples as well as the Yellamma temple, which is located nearby were built by the Kalyani Chalukya architects.

We can see artwork related to both Vaishnavism and Shaivite tradition in this group. The temples were earlier Vaishnavite, remained in disuse for some time and later turned to Shaivite temples. The tiered pyramid structure represents the Nagara style here.

Rock cut carvings behind Bhutanatha Temples

I walked towards the back of Bhutanatha group of temples to discover some of the finest rock cut carvings of the deities from the Hindu pantheon. These were some of the most beautiful carvings of Shiv Bhagwan, Ganesh ji, Varaha Avatar, Narsimha Avatar and many other Gods. Despite being exposed to elements since centuries, the carvings are still so sharp and not eroded by harsh weather conditions.

The Dashavatar of Vishnu Bhagan can also be seen carved on the walls here. A carving of the Trimurti of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesha – the creator, preserver and destroyer of Earth also caught my attention. A carving of Maa Durga killing the demon Mahishasura is also located next to this carving.

Carvings of a Shivling in a miniature temple alongside carving of Nandi ji on the back wall of Bhutanatha Temple also stands out. I noticed some big square holes made above the carvings. I am not sure what they were used for but it is likely that the holes supported the scaffoldings which were used by the artists for carving. You will find both Vaishnavite as well as Shaivite carvings here.

Vishnu Temple

Located right behind the above-mentioned carvings is a small Vishnu temple in the shadow of a colossal sandstone boulder. Situated right next to the pristine lake, it has a picturesque setting. The small door of the Vishnu Temple is decorated with beautifully carved borders. It is a hidden gem of Badami.

Kostraya Cave

Moving ahead, I stumbled upon a hidden gem known as Kostraya Cave. It is located right opposite the small Vishnu Temple I mentioned above. I had literally lied down on floor to see what lies inside this cave. I was stunned with what I saw. I am not sure if those were Buddhist or Jain idols. But the dim evening light which escaped inside the cave did adda surreal touch to this offbeat cave.

Yallama Temple

This is also a must-see place is Badami. It is located near the Bhutanatha Temples. Do not miss this lesser-known place.

Badami Archaeological Museum

Some of the best discoveries have been displayed at the Badami Archaeological Museum. I was awestruck to see several medieval displays in the museum. Established in 1982, the Badami Archaeological Museum boasts of numerous medieval inscriptions, architectural gems and sculptures which were excavated in and around Badami.

Some of the notable displays at the museum of Badami include

  • Nandi ji
  • Bhairavi
  • Matrikās
  • Lajja-gauri
  • Bhairava ji
  • Kirtimukha
  • Jaina image
  • Tripurantaka
  • Nataraja idol
  • Erotic figures
  • Vishnu ji as Narasimha
  • Shiv ji represented as Kalari
  • Makaratorana-carved on either side
  • Bhāgavata or Krishnalilā scenes

The Badami Archaeological Museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The museum is closed on Fridays. I found the Badami museum to be well maintained and clean. The museum is one of the top places to visit in Badami.

Banashankari Amma Temple

Also known as Banashankari Temple, Shakambhari, Vanashankari, Banashankari Devi Mandir or simply Banashankari, it is a major place to see near all the places of interest in Badami. Located in the Tilakaaranya forest of Cholachagudda near Badami, this temple is devoted to Shaktipeeth Shakambhari Devi or Shakambhari ji, who is an incarnation of Parvati Maa.

Idols of Ganesha Bhagwan, Bhima, Bhramari and Shatakshi are also worshipped here. It is one of the top places to see near Badami rock cut temples.

If you visit Badami in the month of January and February, then you can also attend the festival here known as the Banashankari jatre.

Expect grand Rath Yatras, cultural programs, music, dance and boat festival. Many tourists who go on Badami tour miss this unheard-of place due to lack of awareness.

Also read: Shaktipeeth of Pavagarh, Gujarat

Mahakuta group of temples

Located in Mahakuta village in Bagalkot district, Mahakuta temple complex is a must-visit place when in Badami Caves. Constructed in 6th or 7th century C.E., it resembles the architecture followed in the Hindu temples of the nearby Aihole. Built by the Kings of the early Chalukya dynasty, important 7th century inscriptions have been found here.

Much like the experimental temples of Pattadakal, you can also see temples built in both South India style Dravida architecture and North India style Nagara architecture in Mahakuta.

On a hot day, expect to see dozens of male kids jumping in and out of the Mahakuta temple tank.

Some of the best features of Mahakuta group of temples include the

  • Vishnu temple in Nagara style
  • Temple with Kadamba superstructure
  • Rare Panchamukha Linga: Five faced Shivlinga facing each direction. One is located at the top.  
  • Mahakuteshwara temple
  • Sangameshwara temple
  • Depiction of Ardhanareeshvara
  • Vishnu Pushkarni or the Mahakuta temple tank!
  • Papavinasha Tirtha or the tank of ablutions.
  • Ancient Kannada inscriptions
  • 7th century inscription of Vinapoti.

The Mahakuta pillar inscription, which dates back between 595 to 602 C.E. helps us know what we know about Mahakuta temples. The inscription mentions a grant which was made by Durlabhadevi. She was the queen of Pulakeshin I and mother of King Mangalesha. We also know about the early Chalukya era monuments, military expeditions by Chalukyas, Chalukyan lineage and their victories.

I had noticed a similar pillar with inscription in the temple complex of Pattadakal as well. I have written about it in great detail in the blog on Pattadakal.

You can easily reach Mahakuta temple by an easy trek. If it is too hot, simply hire a rickshaw who charges very low and drops you at the entrance of the Mahakuta group of temples from anywhere in Badami. Mahakuta temple complex is located 8 kilometres away from Badami town.

Malegitti Shivalaya Fort and Temple

Located slightly away from the Agasthya Lake and Badami cave temples, the Malegitti Shivalaya Fort and Temple is perched atop a separate hillock. Upper Shivalaya (which is a Vaishnava temple), Lower Shivalaya and Mallegitti Sivalaya, which is in a better state of preservation, is located here. These structural temples are built in the early Chalukyan architectural style.

Episodes from Hindu epics Ramayana and Mahabharat can be seen here. Artwork associated with Shiva Bhagwan, Vishnu ji and Devi can be observed here. This lesser-known place near Badami Cavesis not to be missed.

The well-preserved cravings of Malegitti Shivalaya, stands as a brilliant specimen of early Dravida architecture, which was prevalent in Badami. Malegitti Shivalaya is in a better state of preservation as compared to the upper Shivalaya and lower Shivalaya.

Located on an isolated boulder, the Malegitti Shivalaya dates back to early 7th century C.E.

Interestingly, it is a rare Hindu temple which despite being a Shiva temple, displays artwork of both Shaivism and Vaishnavism with equal prominence. I can-not think of many temples who do that!

Apart from Shiva ji and Vishnu ji, the other carvings here are those of Narasimha Bhagwan, Brahma ji, Surya Bhagwan, Tandavesvara Shiva Bhagwan, Ganesha Bhagwan, Kartikeya Bhagwan, Durga Mata, Ganga Maa, Vinadhara ji, Bhuvaraha ji, Trivikrama ji and Umasahita ji. Do you know that there are lost dome shaped stone granaries and cannons also located near the Shivalayas of Badami?

Destruction by Islamic Invaders

As per George Michell, the temples of Badami were partly destroyed by the Islamic plunderers and invaders who controlled Delhi then. To my uneducated eyes, the 2 freestanding, multi-storeyed mandapas located here, do not seem to connect to any temple, which is odd. Needless to they, what remains now are the ruins of a lost temple, destroyed by small time Islamic plunderers.

Upper Shivalaya

The upper Shivalaya is situated at the summit of north fort. It is located towards the northeast direction of the Lower Shivalaya. Though it is called as Upper Shivalaya, it actually is a Vaishnava Temple.

Much of what existed here once has been damaged, including the exquisite artwork. The upper Shivalaya was constructed around 7th century C.E.

Some of the prominent Vaishnava carvings on the wall of upper Shivalaya include

  • Episodes from Ramayana
  • Birth of Lord Krishna
  • Childhood of Shri Krishna
  • Infant Krishna ji sucking breasts of demon Putana
  • Krishna ji lifting Govardhan Parbat
  • Narasimha Bhagwan disemboweling his victim

Also read: I have done Govardhan Parikrama near Mathura, Barsana, Nandgaon, Gokul and Vrindavan. Do read my detailed travel blog on the Braj Bhoomi on A Soul Window – the number one travel blog website of India.

Lower Shivalaya

Located on a rocky terrace, the Lower Shivalaya is a must visit place in Badami. This partly ruined temple speaks volumes of its glorious past. The Lower Shivalaya was constructed around 7th century C.E. The outer walls of the temples have been lost to Islamic attacks unfortunately. This unexplored place is located away from the crowds.

Excursions from Badami

The below mentioned historic destinations near Badami are must-see places.

  • Pattadakal
  • Aihole
  • Belur
  • Hampi
  • Halebidu
  • Shravanbelagola

Festival of Badami

Chalukya Festival

Try to time your visit to Badami during the Chalukya Festival. This annual festival which usually happens in the month of February is a must attend event. This festival which celebrates cultural and heritage spans over 2-3 days. The schedule and date of the Chalukya Festival differs each year.

Some of the highlights of the Chalukya Festival are classical Indian dance and music, temple processions, art exhibition, wrestling matches, sports events, stunt shows and Dollu Kunitha or the rhythmic beating of drums.

Banashankari festival

This is another festival unique to Badami. You must try to attend it. It is one of the top things to do in Badami.

Souvenirs Shopping Guide to Badami

There is not much you can shop in Badami. It is a very small place. That said, you can still pick many interesting products and souvenirs from Badami. Some of the best things you can buy in Badami are listed as below:

  • Paintings
  • Inlay work
  • Handicrafts
  • Metallic lamps
  • Sandalwood oil
  • Lambani jewellery
  • Rosewood carvings
  • Scents and perfumes
  • Hand-made jewellery
  • Sandalwood artefacts
  • Guledgudda Handlooms
  • Handlooms from Bijapur
  • Decoration piece of carved wood

However, be warned that despite being a tourist friendly destination, Badami doesn’t have much of an infrastructure. You must not expect big showrooms and shopping arenas in Badami. There are no luxury malls in Badami. Most of the shops in Badami are small ones and therefore easy to miss. Keep your eyes peeled or better still ask a local in case you are not able to find shopping options in Badami.

ATM in Badami

ATM is not a problem in Badami as it is a reasonably urban town.

Vegan and Vegetarian Food in Badami

I did not have much luck finding the elusive Uttar Kannada vegetarian food in either Murudeshwar, Gokarna or Pattadakal, Badami and Aihole circuit. However, a traveller couple Swapnil Soni and Rashmi Soni who I met in Badami showed me pictures of the Uttara Kannada food they had near Mahakuta temples. So, you must ask around if you want to eat the vegan and vegetarian food that is unique to North Karnataka.

So, what did I eat here? I checked out many restaurants in the main market of Badami, near its bus stand. I got the regular fares such as Masala Dosa, Uttapama, Vegetarian South Indian meals (Thali) etc. It was not as delicious as its counterparts in Bengaluru, but it was still good. All these dishes are vegan and vegetarian. Vegan may watch out for curd in coconut chutneys and ghee in some dishes. You can always request to make a vegan version.

Also note that there are not many luxury restaurants located in Badami. Basic restaurants of Badami are popular though. Do not expect much of an ambiance in restaurants of Badami.

Badami Mango

When in Badami, you must also eat Badami Mango in summer. These are some of the most famous mangoes of India. It is a high-quality mango with a thin pale-yellow skin. The insides of this mango are soft to touch. It is also known as Karnataka’s Alphonso Mango due to its distinct sweet taste.

Also read: First Dushehri Mango tree of world

Solo Trip Tips for Badami

Badami is an ideal place for both male and female solo travel. Badami is an easy to visit destination from Bangalore. Easy connectivity via bus and train also makes it apt for solo budget travel.

Backpacking Budget Trip Tips for Badami

Badami is a low-cost destination. Even if you are loaded with money, there is not much you can spend on. This makes Badami ideal for solo backpacker. The only money I spent in Badami were on

Low Budget Expenses in Badami

  • Entrance ticket to Badami Caves: negligeable cost for Indians.
  • Entrance ticket to Badami Museum: negligeable cost for Indians
  • Bus fare from Aihole: negligeable cost for all
  • Sleeper Class Train fare to Bangalore: negligeable cost for all
  • Local vegetarian Food: very low cost
  • Hotel: found a very cheap one near bus stand

Apart from these you can also spend on local tourist guide or a rickshaw to Mahakuta Caves, in case you don’t want to walk much. Another backpacking budget trip tip for Badami is that you must eat at places where locals eat. Most of these super cheap restaurants are concentrated near the bus stand of Badami. I also saved money on water by asking the serving staff in restaurant to refill my water bottle.

There is no entrance fee for Bhootnath temple and Agastya Lake! Both of these points of attractions in Badami are free to visit. Doesn’t that make India a world class destination? There are so many well-maintained heritage sites in India which are absolutely free to visit for both Indians as well as foreigners.

Another tip for backpacking in Badami is that I walked all the way from my hotel near the Badami bus stand to Badami caves. More than saving money on rickshaw, I wanted to feel the pulse of the place. To reach the cave temples, I strolled through slum areas, observing local lifestyle and culture.

Once I was done with Badami caves, I walked all the way to Bhootnath group of temples and the impressive Badami archeological museum. You can choose to walk or hire a rickshaw. However, I want to warn that I was tired from all the walking by late afternoon. So, if you want to pack in more places in a day, you can take a local rickshaw which costs very less.

Luxury travel Tips for Badami

Do not expect ultra-luxurious facilities in Badami. Having said that, you can still manage to travel in comfort in Badami because of availability of several options of accommodation, vehicles etc.

Is Badami safe to visit?

As per my experience, most of famous South Indian destinations anyways are one of the most friendly and safe places for travel in the world. As a brown Indian male, however, I never felt unsafe anywhere in India.

Irrespective of whether you are a male or female solo traveller on a shoestring budget, you can easily take a train or bus to Badami from Bangalore, the capital of Karnataka. Both buses and trains drop you in busy and safe areas.

Where to stay in Badami?

There are not many luxury hotels near Badami Caves. Having said that, you can still get good mid-level hotels in Badami. I saw some hotels near the bus stand and the rooms were decent if not luxurious. Given that it can get hot even in winters in Badami, I would suggest that you book air-conditioned rooms.

Where did I stay in Badami?

Since I visited Badami as a solo budget backpacker, I had booked a non-AC room at a shoestring budget. The room was spacious, had dressing table and running water in washroom. It was located at walking distance from Badami bus stand and Badami cave temples.

What to wear in Badami?

Temperatures in Badami never dip to a level where you have to wear woolen clothes. Simple cotton clothing is perfect for all seasons in Badami.

Since all the places to visit in Badami Caves are religious, you are expected to dress decently and respectfully. When I visit temples, I always wear slippers or slip-on shoes so that I do not have to tie and untie the laces frequently.

Timings of Badami Caves

Badami cave temples, the archaeological museum of Badami and other tourist attractions here are open from 9.00 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. Some places of interest such as Agastya tank and Bhootnath temple are open 24 hours in a day.

These are also free places to visit in Badami. You can easily take free walking tours in these points of attractions. Plan you holiday in Badami now.

Best Time to visit Badami Caves?

It is a frequently asked question about Badami Caves. Here is a guide on best season to visit Badami Caves.

Summer in Badami

Summers are very harsh in Karnataka and elsewhere in India. Avoid the months of April, May and June if you do not want to be roasted alive. I have personally never travelled anywhere in South India as I have heard stories from others who live here. It is just too hot in Karnataka in summers.

Winter in Badami

I visited Badami on 30th September. Though it was very pleasant early morning but it stated to get very sunny and hot by noon. No wonder, I downed many glasses of fresh lemon juice as I walked from one place to see in Badami to another. It can be very tiring when you are walking in September end or October beginning.

However, if you hire a rickshaw, you can save yourself from avoidable fatigue. November, December, January, February and March are other winter months when the weather in South India is pleasant. However, do not expect freezing weather like the winters of Sikkim, North East India or North India. You should thus time your Badami vacation in winters.

Monsoon in Badami

It is NOT impossible to visit Badami in monsoon. I have been to many nearby places in Karnataka such as Belur, Halebidu and Hampi in the rainy month of August. The weather was breezy, slightly cold and it rained very sporadically.

In fact, it rained for just a few minutes only in Halebidu. Belur, Hampi and Shravanbelagola in August were dry when I visited. So, since it is the same geographic area, August in Badami, Pattadakal and Aihole is also a good idea. July and August are the only rainiest months in Karnataka. It might rain slightly in other months such as September and October but chances are rare.

How many days to spend in Badami caves?

What can I do in 1 day in Badami? One day is enough for sightseeing in Badami caves. I had arrived in Badami from Pattadakal and Aihole just before sunset. So, I could not see anything in Badami except for some ruins in far distance. I started early the next morning. I was able to see the Badami caves, museum, Agastya tank and Bhutnath temple by afternoon.

What can I do in 2 days in Badami? Badami in one day is entirely possible and easy. However, if you do not want to rush and tire yourself, you can visit Badami in 2 days, on a relaxed pace.

If you want you can pack in some of the other places which are off the beaten track such as Mahakuta temples, Mallikarjuna Temple, Malegitti Shivalaya Fort and Temple, Lower Shivalaya and Upper Shivala.

Soul Window Travel Tips on Badami

These are some of the best unusual places to see in Badami and are often overshadowed by the cave temples. You need 2 days in Badami if you include these hidden gems.

UPSC exams

Commonly asked question in the UPSC Civil Services Preliminary Exam for for IAS, IFS, PCS have been answered here. All you wanted to know about Badami cave temples have been explained in great details in this article. It is the most comprehensive article on Badami. Much research has gone in writing this information packed guide on Badami.

Toilet facility in Badami

Clean toilet facility is available near the rock cut cave temples of Badami. These are pay and use toilets.

Photography Tips for Badami Caves

Since I had arrived in Badami when the sun was preparing to set, my first view of Badami Caveswas ethereal. Shining in the reflected light of a setting sun, the rocks of Badami shines bright. It looked like a painting on stones.

This is why you must try to take your best shots of the canyon-like crevices in Badami in the golden hour of the day which is the time around sun rise and sun set. This is when you get to click best pictures of Badami.

How to reach Badami

I visited Badami as a weekend destination from Bengaluru via sleeper class train. Badami also makes for an easy weekend getaway from Mysuru. It is a top thing to do with family and kids.

It is very easy to reach Badami Cavesfrom Bangalore or even from the nearby attractions such as Pattadakal and Aihole.

Below is an exhaustive guide on the modes of transport you can take to reach Badami. You will not not find this information in the traditional guide books.

Train

I had taken a sleeper class train from Bengaluru to Badami Railway Station. The sleeper class trains in South India are very clean (compared to other routes), comfortable and super cheap. I had taken the train at night and arrived at Badami railway junction the next morning. It is the cheapest and most comfortable way to reach Badami from Bangalore. The other nearest railway station is at Hubli.

Bus

You can simply catch a direct bus from Pattadakal and Aihole like I did. In case you miss the direct bus, the frequency of which is not great, you can find a connecting bus. I was clueless, so I asked a local person in Aihole about the bus to Badami. He was so helpful, he helped me find the bus and left only after the bus started for Badami. You can catch a bus to Badami from Bangalore as well.

By road

While a road trip from Bangalore, whether self-drive or hired, can be tiring, it is a good idea to hire a cab to see all the nearby historical places such as Aihole, Pattadakal, Badami, Hampi, Belur, Halebidu, Shravanbelagola etc. 

This is a great idea if you want comfort and optimal usage of time. It will cost more than public transport but it makes sense to hire cab especially if money is not an issue or if you are traveling in groups. If traveling with friends, there is also the benefit of splitting the costs.

By air

Nearest airport from Badami is at Belgaum. You can take a hired cab or public bus to reach Badami from Belgaum. Some people also take a flight to Bangalore and later take a train from Bangalore to Badami. The Bangalore International Airport is connected with many places in Europe, Americas, Middle East and Asia.

Distances from Badami

Distance of Pattadakal from Badami is 22 kilometres and it takes 30 minutes via SH14.

Distance of Aihole from Badami is 35 kilometres and it takes 45 minutes via SH14.

Distance of Hubli from Badami is 105 kilometres and it atakes 2 hours and 20 minutes via NH52.

Distance of Hospet from Badami is 128 kilometres and it takes 3 hours via NH50 and NH367

Distance of Hampi from Badami is 140 kilometres and it takes 3 hours and 30 minutes via NH50.

Distance of Belgaum from Badami is 146 kilometres and it takes 3 hours and 30 minutes via SH 14 and Bachi Raichur highway and Bagalkot Belgaum road.

Distance of Shivamogga from Badami is 312 kilometres and it takes 6 hours via NH48 and NH52.

Distance of Halebidu from Badami is 406 kilometres and it takes 8 hours via NH48.

Distance of Belur from Badami is 426 kilometres and it takes 8 hours via NH48.

Distance of Shravanbelagola from Badami is 443 kilometres and it takes 9 hours via NH50.

Distance of Bangalore from Badami is 448 kilometres and it takes 8 hours and 30 minutes via NH50 and NH48

Distance of Mysore from Badami is 533 kilometres and it takes 10 hours via NH50.

Distance of Chennai from Badami is 801 kilometres and it takes 14 hours and 20 minutes via NH48

Local Transport for sightseeing in Badami

Badami may not have facilities of big cities but it is still a bustling town. Expect auto rickshaws as the most common mode of public transport in Badami.

Conclusion: Why visit Badami?

Badami caves are a must-visit place in North Karnataka. With rich history dating back from the Chalukya period, there are so many medieval historical sites to see in Badami. The best part is all the must-see places of Badami are located at walking distance from each other, making it an apt destination for solo budget travelers. In a nutshell, Badami is one of the top places to see in Karnataka.

Soul Window Observations

I have visited almost all the world-famous tourist destinations of Karnataka. And despite my incessant travels since 2008, I am still discovering new gems such as Badami, Pattadakal and Aihole. To add, there is still so much left to be seen in not only Karnataka but entire India.

There are many off the beaten track hidden gems in Karnataka waiting to be explored. As they say, even several lifetimes are not enough to experience the magic called Incredible India!

The view from my Soul Window is as old as time!

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