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India - Karnataka - Badami Caves - Overview - 169d

Badami formerly known as Vatapi, is a town and headquarters of a taluk by the same name, in the Bagalkot district of Karnataka, India. It was the regal capital of the Badami Chalukyas from 540 to 757 AD. It is famous for its rock cut structural temples. It is located in a ravine at the foot of a rugged, red sandstone outcrop that surrounds Agastya lake. Badami has been selected as one of the heritage cities for HRIDAY - Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana scheme of Government of India.



- Dravidian architecture - Badami Chalukyas

- Hindu temple architecture - Badami Chalukya architecture

- Political history of medieval Karnataka - Badami Chalukyas

- Architecture of Karnataka - Badami Chalukya architecture

- Chalukyas of Badami



Badami is surrounded by many pre-historic places including Khyad area of Badami, Hiregudda, Sidlaphadi and Kutkankeri (Junjunpadi, Shigipadi and Anipadi), there we can see the rock shelters megalithic burial sites and paintings.




The Puranic story says the wicked asura Vatapi was killed by sage Agastya (as per Agastya-Vatapi story), the area in which the incident happened so named as Vatapi. At Aihole there was a merchant guild known as Ayyavole Ainuravaru lived in the area have reformed. As per scholar Dr. D. P. Dikshit, the first Chalukya king was Jayasimha (a feudatory lord in the Kadamba dynasty), who in 500 AD established the Chalukya kingdom. His grandson Pulakeshin Ibuilt a fort at Vatapi.



It was founded in 540 AD by Pulakeshin I (535-566 AD), an early ruler of the Chalukyas. His sons Kirtivarma I (567-598 AD) and his brother Mangalesha (598-610 AD) constructed the cave temples.Kirtivarma I strengthened Vatapi and had three sons Pulakeshin II, Vishnuvardhana and Buddhavarasa, who at his death were minors, thus making them ineligible to rule, so Kirtivarma I's brother Mangalesha took the throne and tried to establish rule, only to be killed by Pulakeshin II who ruled between 610 A.D to 642 A.D. Vatapi was the capital of the Early Chalukyas, who ruled much of Karnataka, Maharashtra, Few parts of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh between the 6th and 8th centuries. The greatest among them was Pulakeshin II (610-642 AD) who defeated many kings including the Pallavas of Kanchipuram.


The rock-cut Badami Cave Temples were sculpted mostly between the 6th and 8th centuries. 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. cave 1 is devoted to Shiva, and Caves 2 and 3 are dedicated to Vishnu, whereas cave 4 displays reliefs of Jain Tirthankaras. Deep caverns with carved images of the various incarnations of Hindu gods are strewn across the area, under boulders and in the red sandstone. From an architectural and archaeological perspective, they provide critical evidence of the early styles and stages of the southern Indian architecture.


The Pallavas under the king Narasimhavarma I seized it in 642 AD & destroyed the vatapi. Pulakeshin II's son Vikramaditya I of Chalukyas drove back Pallavas in 654 AD and led a successful attack on Kanchipuram, the capital of Pallavas. Then Rashtrakutas came to power in Karnataka including Badami around 757 AD and the town lost its importance. Later it was ruled by the Hoysalas.


Then it passed on to Vijayanagara empire, The Adil Shahis, Mughal Empire, The Savanur Nawabs (They were vassals of Nizams and Marathas), The Maratha, Hyder Ali. The Britishers made it part of the Bombay Presidency.



Badami has eighteen inscriptions, among them some inscriptions are important. The first Sanskrit inscription in old Kannada script, on a hillock dates back to 543 CE, from the period of Pulakeshin I (Vallabheswara), the second is the 578 CE cave inscription of Mangalesha in Kannada language and script and the third is the Kappe Arabhatta records, the earliest available Kannada poetry in tripadi (three line) metre. one inscription near the Bhuthanatha temple also has inscriptions dating back to the 12th century in Jain rock-cut temple dedicated to the Tirtankara Adinatha.



In the Carnatic music and Hamsadhwani raga the Vatapi Ganapatim Bhaje by the composer Muthuswami Dikshitar. The idol of Vatapi Ganapati brought from Badami by Pallavas, is now in the Uthrapathiswaraswamy Temple, near Thanjavur of Tamil Nadu.


In 7th century, Vatapi Ganapati idol was brought from Badami (Vatapi - Chalukya capital) by Pallava who defeated Chalukyas.



Landmarks in Badami include cave temples, gateways, forts, inscriptions and sculptures.


- A Buddhist cave in a natural setting that can be entered only by crawling on knees.

- The Bhuhtanatha temple, a small shrine, facing the lake, constructed in 5th century.

- Badami Fort situated on top of the hill.

- Many Shivalayas including the Malegatti Shivalaya with 7th century origins.

- The Dattatreya temple.

- The Mallikarjuna temple dating back to the 11th century, built on a star shaped plan.

- a Dargah, a dome of an Islamic place of worship on the south fort side.

- Vista points on top of the North Fort for the view of the ancient town below.

- Temple of Banashankari, a Kuladevata (family deity) for many families, is located near Badami.

- Archaeological museum, that has collection of sculptures from Badami, Aihole and Pattadakal.



The Badami cave temples are a complex of four cave temples located at Badami, a town in the Bagalkot district in the north part of Karnataka, India. They are considered an example of Indian rock-cut architecture, especially Badami Chalukya architecture initiated during the 6th century. Badami was previously known as Vataapi Badami, the capital of the early Chalukya dynasty, who ruled much of Karnataka from middle of the sixth until the middle of the eighth centuries. Badami is situated on the west bank of an artificial lake filled with greenish water dammed by an earthen wall faced with stone steps. Badami is surrounded in the north and south by forts built in later times from the ramparts that crown their summits.


The Badami cave temples represent some of the earliest known experimentation of Hindu temple prototypes for later temples in the Indian peninsula. Along with Aihole, states UNESCO, their pioneering designs transformed the Malaprabha river valley into a cradle of Temple Architecture, whose ideas defined the components of later Hindu Temples elsewhere. Caves 1 to 3 feature Hindu themes of Shiva and Vishnu, while Cave 4 features Jain icons. There is also a Buddhist Cave 5 which has been converted into a Hindu temple of Vishnu. Another cave identified in 2013 has a number of carvings of Vishnu and other Hindu deities, and water is seen gushing out through the cave all the time.



The Badami cave temples are located in the Badami town in the north central part of Karnataka, India. The temples are about 110 km northeast from Hubli-Dharwad, the second largest metropolitan area of the state. Malaprabha river is 4.8 km away. Badami, also referred to as Vatapi, Vatapipuri and Vatapinagari in historical texts, and the 6th-century capital of Chalukya dynasty, is at the exit point of the ravine between two steep mountain cliffs. Four cave temples have been excavated in the escarpment of the hill to the south-east of the town above the artificial lake called Agastya Lake created by an earthen dam faced with stone steps. To the west end of this cliff, at its lowest point, is the first cave temple dedicated to Shiva, followed by a cave north east to it dedicated to Vishnu but is at a much higher level. The largest is Cave 3, mostly a Vaishnava cave, is further to the east on the northern face of the hill. The first three caves are dedicated to Hindu gods and goddesses including Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The fourth cave, dedicated to Jainism, is a short distance away.



The cave temples, numbered 1 to 4 in the order of their creation, identified in the town of Badami, the capital city of the Chalukya kingdom (also known as Early Chalukyas) are dated from the late 6th century onwards. The exact dating is known only for cave 3 which is a Brahmanical temple dedicated to Vishnu. An inscription found here records the creation of the shrine by Mangalesha in Saka 500 (lunar calendar, spanning 578 to 579 CE). These inscriptions are in Kannada language, and have been the source for dating these rock cave temples to the 6th-century. The Badami caves complex are part of the UNESCO inscribed World Heritage Site under the title "Evolution of Temple Architecture – Aihole-Badami-Pattadakal" in the Malaprabha river valley which is considered a cradle of Temple Architecture, which formed the template for later Hindu temples in the region. The art work in Cave 1 and Cave 2 exhibit the northern Deccan style of 6th- and 7th-century, while those in Cave 3 show a simultaneous co-exhibition of two different ancient Indian artistic traditions – the northern Nagara and the southern Dravida styles. The Cave 3 also shows icons and reliefs in the Vesara style – a creative fusion of ideas from the two styles, as well as some of the earliest surviving historical examples of yantra-chakra motifs and colored fresco paintings in Karnataka. The first three caves feature sculpture of Hindu icons and legends focusing on Shiva and Vishnu, while Cave 4 features Jain icons and themes.



The Badami cave temples are composed of mainly four caves, all carved out of the soft Badami sandstone on a hill cliff, dated to the late 6th to 7th centuries. The planning of four caves (1 to 4) is simple. The entrance is a verandah (mukha mandapa) with stone columns and brackets, a distinctive feature of these caves, leading to a columned mandapa – main hall (also maha mandapa) and then to the small square shrine (sanctum sanctorum, garbhaghrha) cut deep into the cave. The cave temples are linked by stepped path with intermediate terraces looking over the town and lake. Cave temples are labelled 1–4 in their ascending series even though this numbering does not necessarily reflect the sequence of excavation.


The cave temples are dated to 6th to 8th century, with an inscription dated to 579 CE. The inscriptions are in old Kannada script. The architecture includes structures built in Nagara style and Dravidian style which is the first and most persistent architectural idiom to be adopted by the early chalukyas There is also the fifth natural cave temple in Badami – a Buddhist temple, a natural cave, which can be entered kneeling on all fours.



The cave is just about 18 m above the street level on the northwest part of the hill. Access is through series of steps which depict carvings of dwarfish ganas (with "bovine and equine heads") in different postures. The verandah with 21 m length with a width of 20 m in the interior, has four columns all sculpted with reliefs of the god Shiva in different dancing positions and different incarnations. The guardian dwarapalas at the entrance to the cave stand to a height of 1.879 m.


The cave portrays the Tandava-dancing Shiva, as Nataraja. The image, (1.5 m tall, has 18 arms, in a form that express the dance positions arranged in a geometric pattern, which Alice Boner states, is a time division symbolizing the cosmic wheel. Some of the arms hold objects while most express mudras (symbolic hand postures). The objects include drums, trident and axe. Some arms also have serpents coiled around them. Shiva has his son Ganesha and the bull Nandi by his side. Adjoining to the Nataraja, a wall depicts the goddess Durga, depicted slaying the buffalo-demon Mahishasura. Elsewhere, the two sons of Shiva, Ganesha and Kartikkeya, the god of war and family deity of the Chalukya dynasty are seen in one of the carved sculptures on the walls of the cave with Kartikkeya riding a peacock.


The cave also has carved sculptures of the goddesses Lakshmi and Parvati flanking Harihara, a 2.36 m high sculpture of a fused image that is half Shiva and half Vishnu. To the right, Ardhanarishvara, a composite androgynous form of Shiva and his consort Parvati, is sculpted towards the end of the walls. All the carved sculptures show ornaments worn by them, as well as borders with reliefs of various animals and birds. Lotus design is a common theme. On the ceiling are images of the Vidyadhara couples. Through a cleavage in the back side of the cave is a square sanctuary with more images carved.


Other prominent images in the cave are Nandi, the bull, in the sculptural form of Dharmadeva, the god of justice, Bhringi, a devotee of Shiva, a female decorated goddess holding a flat object in her left hand, which are all part of Ardhanarishvara described earlier. The roof in the cave has five carved panels with the central panel depicting the serpent Shesha. The head and bust are well formed and project boldly from the centre of the coil. In another compartment a bass-relief of 0.76 m diameter has carvings of a male and female; the male is Yaksha carrying a sword and the female is Apsara with a flying veil. The succeeding panel has carvings of two small figures; and the panel at the end is carved with lotuses.



Cave 2, facing north, to the west of Cave 3, created in late 6th century AD, is almost same as cave 1 in terms of its layout and dimensions but it is dedicated primarily to Vishnu. Cave is reached by climbing 64 steps from the first cave. The cave entrance is the verandah, divided by four square pillars, which has carvings from its middle section to the top where there are yali brackets with sculptures within them. The cave is adorned with reliefs of guardians. Like the Cave 1, the cave art carved is a pantheon of Hindu divinities.


The largest relief in Cave 2 shows Vishnu as Trivikrama – with one foot on Earth and another – directed to the north. Other representations of Vishnu in this cave include Varaha (boar) where he is shown rescuing Bhudevi (symbolism for earth) from the depths of ocean, and Krishna avatars – legends found in Hindu Puranas text such as the Bhagavata Purana. Like other major murti (forms) in this and other Badami caves, the Varaha sculpture is set in a circle, the panel is an upright rectangle, states Alice Boner, whose "height is equal to the octopartite directing circle and sides are aligned to essential geometric ratios, in this case to the second vertical chord of the circle". The doorway is framed by pilasters carrying an entablature with three blocks embellished with gavaksha ornament. The entrance of the cave also has two armed guardians holding flowers rather than weapons. The end walls of the outer verandah is occupied by sculpted panels, to the right, Trivikrama; to the left, Varaha rescuing Bhudevi, with a penitent multi-headed snake (Nag) below. The adjacent side walls and ceiling have traces of colored paintwork, suggesting that the cave used to have fresco paintings. The columns show gods and battle scenes, the churning of cosmic ocean (Samudra Manthan), Gajalakshmi and figures, Brahma, Vishnu asleep on Shesha, illustrations of the birth of Krishna, Krishna's youth, Krishna with gopis and cows.


The ceiling of Cave 2 shows a wheel with sixteen fish spokes in a square frame along with swastikas and flying couples. The end bays have a flying couple and Vishnu on Garuda.[8] The main hall in the cave is 10.16 m in width, 7.188 m deep and 3.45 m high and is supported by eight square pillars in two rows. The roof of this hall has panels which have carvings. At the upper end of the wall a frieze runs all along the wall with engravings of episodes from the Krishna or Vishnu legends.


The sculptures of Cave 2, like Cave 1, are of the northern Deccan style of 6th-and 7th-century similar to that found in Ellora caves.



The Cave 3 is dedicated to Vishnu, and is the most intricately carved and the biggest. It has well carved giant figures of Trivikrama, Anantasayana, Paravasudeva, Bhuvaraha, Harihara and Narasimha. The theme on which the Cave 3 is carved is primarily Vaishnavite, however the cave also shows Harihara on its southern wall – half Vishnu and half Shiva shown fused as one, making the cave important to Shaivism studies as well. Cave 3, facing north, is 60 steps away from the Cave 2. This cave temple's veranda, 21 m in length with an interior width of 20 m, has been sculpted 15 m deep into the mountain, and an added square shrine at the end extends the cave some 3.7 m further inside. The verandah itself is 2.1 m wide and has four free standing carved pillars separating it from the hall. The cave is 4.6 m high, supported by six pillars each measuring 0.76 m square. Each column and pilaster is carved with wide and deep bases crowned by capitals which are camouflaged by brackets on three sides. Each bracket, except for one bracket, has carvings of standing human figures, under foliage in different postures, of a male and female mythological characters, along with attendant figure of a dwarf. A moulded cornice in the facia, with a dado of blocks below it (generally in 2.1 m lengths), have about thirty compartments carved with series of two fat dwarfs called ganas. The cave shows a Kama scene on one pillar, where a woman and man are in maithuna (erotic) embrace beneath a tree.


Cave 3 also shows fresco paintings on the ceiling, but some of these are faded, broken and unclear. These are among the earliest known and surviving evidence of fresco painting in Indian art.[14] The Hindu god Brahma is seen in one of the murals, while the wedding of Shiva and Parvati, attended by various Hindu deities, is the theme of another. There is a lotus medallion on the floor underneath the mural of four armed Brahma. The sculpture is well preserved, and a large number of Vishnu's reliefs including standing Vishnu with 8 arms, Vishnu seated on a hooded serpent called Sesha or Ananta on the eastern side of the verandha, Vishnu as Narasimha (half human – half lion), Varaha fully armed, a boar incarnation of Vishnu in the back wall of the cave, Harihara (a syncretic sculpture of Vishnu and Shiva), and Trivikrama avatars. The back wall also has carvings of Vidhyadaras holding offerings to Varaha, and adjoining this is an inscription dated 579 AD with the name Mangalis inscribed on it. At one end of the pilaster there is a sculpture of the fourth incarnation of Vishnu as Vamana shown with eight arms called Ashtabhuja decorated with various types of weapons. A crescent moon is crafted above his face, crown of Vishnu decorates his head and is flanked by Varaha and two other figures and below on his right is his attendant Garuda. The images in front of Vamana are three figures of Bali and his wife with Shukra, his councilor. Reliefs stand 4 metres tall. The culture and clothing embedded in the sixth century is visible in the art sculpted in this cave. The roof in the verandha has seven panels created by cross beams, each is painted in circular compartments with images of Shiva, Vishnu, Indra, Brahma, Kama and so forth with smaller images of Dikpalas (cardinal guardians) with geometric mosaics filling the gaps at the corners.


The front aisle's roof has panels with murals in the center of male and female figurines flying in the clouds; the male figure is yaksha holding a sword and a shield. Decoration of lotus blooms are also seen on the panels. The roof in the hall is divided into nine panels slightly above the level of the ceiling. The central panel here depicts a deva mounted on a ram – conjectured as Agni. Images of Brahma and Varuna are also painted in the central panels while the floating figures are seen in the balance panels.



The Cave 4, to the east of Cave 3, excavated around 650 AD, is located higher than other caves. It is dedicated to revered figures of Jainism and was constructed last among all the caves. It also features detailed carvings and diverse range of motifs. The cave has five bayed entrance with four square columns with brackets and capitals, and to the back of this verandah is a hall with two standalone and two joined pillars. The first aisle is a verandah 9.4 m in length, 2.0 m wide and extends to 4.9 m deep. From the hall, steps lead to the sanctum sanctorum, which is 7.8 m wide extending to a depth of 1.8 m. On the back part of this, Mahavira is represented, sitting on lion throne, flanked by bas-reliefs of attendants with chauri (fans), sardulas and makara's heads. The end walls have Parshvanath (about 2.3 m tall) with his head decorated to represent protection and reverence by a multi-headed cobra, Indrabhuti Gautama covered by four snakes and Bahubali are seen; Bahubali is present to the left of Gautama shown with his lower legs surrounded by snakes along with his daughters Brahmi and Sundari. The sanctum, which is adorned by the image of Mahavira, has pedestal which contains an old Kannada inscription of the 12th century A.D. which registers the death of one Jakkave. Many Jaina Tirthankara images have been engraved in the inner pillars and walls. In addition, there are some idols of Yakshas, Yakshis, Padmavati and other Tirthankaras. Some scholars also assign the cave to the 8th century.



It is a natural cave of small dimensions, undated, is approached by crawling as it has a narrow opening. Inside, there is a carved statue seated over a sculpted throne with reliefs showing people holding chauris (fans), tree, elephants and lions in an attacking mode. The face of this statue was reasonably intact till about 1995, and is now damaged and missing. There are several theories as to who the statue represents.


The first theory states that it is a Buddha relief, in a sitting posture. Those holding the chauris are Bodhisattvas flanking the Buddha, states this theory, and that the cave has been converted to a Hindu shrine of Vishnu, in later years, as seen from the white religious markings painted on the face of the Buddha as the 9th incarnation of Vishnu. Shetti suggests that the cave was not converted, but from the start represented a tribute to Mayamoha of the Hindu Puranas, or Buddhavatara Vishnu, its style suggesting it was likely carved in or before 8th century CE.


The second theory, found in colonial era texts such as one by John Murray, suggested that the main image carved in the smallest fifth cave is that of Jaina figure.


The third theory, by Henry Cousens as well as A. Sundara, and based by local legends, states that the statue is of an ancient king because the statue's photo, when its face was not damaged, lacked Ushnisha lump that typically goes with Buddha's image. Further, the statue has unusual non-Buddha ornaments such as rings for fingers, necklace and chest-band, it wears a Hindu Yajnopavita thread, and its head is stylistically closer to a Jina head than a Buddha head. These features suggest that the statue may be of a king represented with features of various traditions. The date and identity of the main statue in Cave 5, states Bolon, remains enigmatic.



In 2013, Manjunath Sullolli reported the discovery of another cave with 27 rock carvings, about 500 metres from the four caves, from which water gushes year round. It depicts Vishnu and other Hindu deities, and features inscription in Devanagari script. The dating of these carvings is unknown.



On the north hill, there are three temples, of which Malegitti-Shivalaya is perhaps the oldest temple and also the finest in Badami, and has a Dravidian tower. Out of the two inscriptions found here, one states that Aryaminchi upadhyaya, as the sculptor who got this temple constructed and the other dated 1543 speaks of the erection of a bastion during the Vijayanagara rule. The lower Shivalaya has a Dravidian tower, and only the sanctum remains now.


Jambhulinga temple, situated in the town, is presumably the oldest known trikutachala temple in Karnataka. An inscription dated 699 ascribes construction of this temple to Vinayavathi mother of Emperor Vijayaditya.


The place also has Agasthya Tirtha, temples of Goddess Yellamma, Mallikarjuna, Datttreya and Virupaksha. Bhuthanatha group of temples are most important in Badami.



Badami fort lies east of the Bhuthnatha temple, atop a cliff right opposite the Badami cave temples. The entrance to this temple is right through the Badami museum. It is a steep climb with many view points and dotted with little shrines. The path is laid with neatly cut stone, the same that adores all the architecture around.



The name Vatapi has origin in the Vatapi legend of Ramayana relating to Sage Agastya.There were two demon siblings Vatapi and Ilvala. They used to kill all mendicants by tricking them in a peculiar way. The elder Ilvala would turn Vatapi into a ram and would offer its meat to the guest. As soon as the person ate the meat, Ilvala would call out the name of Vatapi. As he had a boon that whomsoever Ilvala calls would return from even the netherland, Vatapi would emerge ripping through the body of the person, thus killing him. Their trick worked until Sage Agastya countered them by digesting Vatapi before Ilvala could call for him, thus ending the life of Vatapi at the hands of Ilvala. Two of the hills in Badami represent the demons Vatapi and Ilvala.


It is also believed that name Badami has come from colour of its stone (badam - Almond).



The main language is Kannada. The local population wears traditional Indian cotton wear.



Badami is located at 15.92°N 75.68°E. It has an average elevation of 586 metres. It is located at the mouth of a ravine between two rocky hills and surrounds Agastya tirtha water reservoir on the three other sides. The total area of the town is 10.3 square kilometers.


It is located 30 kilometers from Bagalkot, 128 kilometers from Bijapur, 132 kilometers from Hubli, 46 kilometers from Aihole, another ancient town, and 589 kilometers from Bangalore, the state capital.



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Taken on January 20, 2014