Rich heritage of Badami

Badami, capital of Badami Chalukyas

Agastya lake at Badami

Badami, formerly known as Vatapi, is a taluka place in the Bagalkot district of KarnatakaFamous for its rock cut structural cave temples, it was the regal capital of the Badami Chalukya dynasty from AD 540 to 757.  It is located in a ravine at the foot of a rugged, red sandstone outcrop that surrounds Agastya lake. This lake is named after sage Agastya. Banashankari devi temple nearby was the tutelary deity of the Chalukya kings of Badami Chalukya dynasty.

Another view of Agastya lake at Badami near Badami cave temples


The Puranas state the wicked asura Vatapi was killed by sage Agastya, and it refers to this area as Vatapi and Agastya Tirtha. In the Ramayana, Agastya and Lopamudra are described as living in Dandaka forest, on the southern slopes of Vindhya mountains. Rama praises Agastya as the one who can do what gods find impossible. He is described as the sage who used his Dharma powers to kill demons Vatapi and Ilwala after they had jointly misled and destroyed 9,000 men.

Red sandstone formations at Badami

In the Mahabharata, sage Agastya is described in the epic as a sage with enormous powers of ingestion and digestion. Agastya, in the legends of Mahabharata, kills the demons Vatapi and Ilvala much the same mythical way as in the Ramayana.

Badami Chalukya dynasty

Textures on sandstone at Badami

Badami Chalukyas was founded in AD 540 by Pulakeshin I (AD 535–566), an early Chalukya king, is generally regarded as the founder of the Early Chalukya line. His sons Kirtivarman I (AD 567–598) and his brother Mangalesha (AD 598–610) constructed the cave temples. Kirtivarman I strengthened Vatapi. He had three sons Pulakeshin II, Vishnuvardhana and Buddhavarasa, who at his death were minors, thus making them ineligible to rule.  As a result, Kirtivarman I‘s brother Mangalesha took the throne and tried to establish his rule. He was killed by Badami Chalukya king Pulakeshin II who ruled between AD 610 to 642. Vatapi was the capital of the Early Chalukyas. They ruled much of Karnataka, Maharashtra, parts of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh between the 6th and 8th centuries. The greatest among them was Pulakeshin II (AD 610–642) who defeated many kings including the Pallavas of Kanchipuram.

Badami Cave Temples

The rock cut cave temples, numbered 1 to 4 in the order of their creation were sculpted mostly between the 6th and 8th centuriesThe Badami Caves complex is part of a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site candidate under the title “Evolution of Temple Architecture – Aihole-Badami-Pattadakal” in the Malaprabha river valley, considered a cradle of temple architecture that formed the model for later Hindu temples in the region. The first three caves feature sculptures of Hindu icons and legends focusing on Shiva and Vishnu, while Cave 4 features Jain icons and themes.

The Badami cave temples are carved out of soft Badami sandstone on a hill cliff. The plan of each of the four caves (1 to 4) includes an entrance with a verandah (mukha mandapa) supported by stone columns and brackets, a distinctive feature of these caves, leading to a columned mandapa, or main hall (also maha mandapa), and then to the small, square shrine (sanctum sanctorumgarbha ghriya) cut deep inside the cave. The cave temples are linked by a stepped path with intermediate terraces overlooking the town and lake. 

Relief sculpture of Nataraja or Dancing Shiva in Cave 1 at Badami

Cave 1 features Tandava-dancing Shiva as Nataraja on the rock face to the right of entrance. The eighteen arms express Natya mudras (symbolic hand gestures), with some holding objects such as drums, a flame torch, a serpent, a trident and an axe. Shiva has his son Ganesha and the bull Nandi by his side. On the left of the entrance of Cave 1 is a two-handed Shaiva dvarapala who holds a trident, and below him is a bull-elephant fused image where they share a head; seen from left it is an elephant and from right a bull.

Shaiva dvarapala at the entrance of Cave 1 at Badami Caves

Cave 3 is earliest dated Hindu temple in the Deccan region. It is the largest cave in the complex and is dedicated to Vishnu.

Vishnu seated on hooded serpent Shesha in Cave 3 at Badami caves.tif

Railway Station at Badami

Badami railway station at night

On a rainy night in Badami, we had a great view of the railway station from the nearby railway crossing. We had found out the time when the night train would arrive and had selected a nice vantage point near the railway crossing. This point offered us a great night view of the railway station. We braved the rain and waited for the train to arrive. It looked a little odd to the operator at the railway crossing gate and the few passing vehicles that we were waiting at the gate on a dark rainy night. 

Night train has arrived at Badami railway station

On way to Pattadakal

Sunflower fields

Sunflower fields dotted the road with hardly any traffic. The road trip was enjoyable with several stops on the way to see the sunflower fields up close.

Tamarind tree and sunflower fields

Published by

Milind Vishwas Sathe

Milind Vishwas Sathe is the founder of Art India Foundation, a non profit organisation, which runs "Khula Aasmaan" as its flagship project. Khula Aasmaan is a platform for creative expression by children. Khula Aasmaan is free. Milind also runs Indiaart Gallery, the art portal and New Media Ventures which is a consulting firm in the area of digital strategy. He is an avid photographer and a blogger. His active interests include travel, photography, cycling, history, media and social transformation projects. View all posts by Milind Vishwas Sathe

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