Badami (bAdAmi, ¨ΑzΑ«Δ) is one of the most celebrated sculptural and architectural sites of the country. It is located in the Badami talluk of Bagalakote district in North Karnataka at a distance of about 120 kilometers from Bijapaur. Aihole and Pattadakallu two more places depicting the sculptural grandeur of Badami Chalukya dynasty are located near by. This town nestles between two hills which are linked by mythology to the demons ‘vAtApi’ and ‘ilvala’. The word Badami is derived from ‘vAtApi’. The town lies to the west of a lovely lake called ‘agastya sarOvara’.

Badami has a long history stretching back to the beginnings of the Christian era. Ptolemy the well known Greek geographer refers to this place as early as 150 A.D.(Badiamaioi) Some pieces of pottery and some evidences of foundations of ancient buildings found towards the northern direction of the lake indicate the existence of pre historic civilizations dating back to pre Christian era. Four caves located in a vast field towards the north of the hills contain colored wall paintings which are speculated as belonging to the pre Christian period. Another cave contains paintings in black and white as well as pure black possibly belonging to the stone ages. Earthen utensils, stone instruments and weapons belonging to the Old Stone Age and the new Stone Age were excavated from the banks of the Malaprabha River , in ‘cOLA guDDa and nandikEshvara’. These evidences point towards an uninterrupted history right up to the pinnacle of the Badami Chalukya dynasty in the interval between the sixth and eighth centuries.

The fame of Badami now rests on four caves towards the west of the lake. They are located at four different levels connected by a series of steps. Each one of these caves contain a rectangular verandah, a spacious meeting hall and a sanctum sanctorum. They are dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu, Vishnu and Jainism in that order. The first cave dedicated to Shiva contains an extra room. There is a natural cave between the second and the third caves which contains a bas relief of Padmapani Buddha surrounded by pictures of benediction.

One reaches the first cave after climbing about forty steps from the ground level. It contains a Shivalinga. The sculpture of Nataraja with eighteen arms immersed in his cosmic dance is well known. Nataraja is shown in eighty one different postures. The cave houses the statues of Ardhanareeshvara and Harihareshvara also. These are symbolic of the oneness of Shiva and Vishnu as also the principles of man and woman. Bass relifs of Mahishasuramardini, Ganapathi and Shanmukha seated on a peacock are etched on the walls of this cave. The sculptures depicting the wedding of Shiva and Parvathi on the beams and the sculpture of Gajalakshmi on the roof are charming. The pillars are decorated with small carvings of Narasimha, Garuda, Prahlada, a sage and an amorous couple.

The second cave dedicated to Vishnu does not have any statue in the sanctum sanctorum. After a couple of door keepers (dwarapalaka) we come across huge statues of Bhuvaraha and Vamana both incarnations of Vishnu. One finds all along the lintel miniature carvings of episodes from the different incarnations of Vishnu and various Gods such as Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva and Gajalakashmi.

Still going higher up one comes across the third cave.(578 A.D.) This is the most spacious cave among the four and it is devoted to various avatars of Vishnu. Sculptures depicting mythological events and characters are found along with scenes taken out of every day life. The facade of the cave is nearly 70 feet wide; on the plinth one can see the carvings of ganas. The sheer artistry and sculptural genius makes it this cave the highlight of Deccani art. It gives a virtual insight into the art and culture of the 6th century like costumes, jewelry hairstyle lifestyle etc. The other attractions to be looked carefully in this cave are the high relief of Vishnu with a serpent, Vishnu as Narasimha (Vishnu as Man-Lion) Varaha, Harihara (Shiva Vishnu) and Vishnu as Trivikrama. This cave contains a few coloured paintings making use of organic dyes. Many of them exquisite but are in a dilapadated condition. This cave contains a Sanskrit inscription situated in side the cave and another in Kannada out side the cave. Both of them are concerned with the donations made by Mangaleesha a brother of the emperor Keerthivarma.

The fourth cave is dedicated to sculptures related to Jainism. It contains a relief of a dwarf (Kubera?) a Gandharva couple on the ceiling and a Teerthankara with his disciple towards the left. All these artefacts are found at the verandah in the entrance. In the main hall one finds sculpted forms of Bahubali and Suparshvanatha Teerthankara on opposing walls. The relifs of Mahaveera Teerthankara, Matanga Yaksha, Siddhayini Yakshi, and Padmavathi Yakshi are aslo found in different parts of this cave. A huge icon of Mahaveera Teerthankara adorns the back wall of the sanctum sanctorum.

All these caves have certain things in common. “Early Chalukya sculpture tends to be "classical" in its realism, fullness of modeling, and chasteness of ornamentation; in these respects it has more in common with its predecessors (the Guptas) than with its contemporaries (the Pallavas) and successors. Architecturally, both northern and southern features can be seen, sometimes on the same temple. Huntington, p.337, identifies a set of common features which include: mortarless assembly; temple dimensions that are relatively low, long, and narrow; the use of flat roofs over many-columned halls; richly-carved ceiling panels; and sculptural combinations that consist of just a few major images rather than many smaller ones.”

In addition to these caves Badami is renowned also for the temples that were built during different facets of its history. The hill at the north has three temples all dedicated to Shiva called Malegitti Shiva temple, upper Shiva temple and lower Shiva temple. Melegitti temple was built in the later part of the seventh century and the other two were built later perhaps during the early part of the sixth century. All of them are noteworthy for catholic attitude depicted by equal consideration given to Shaiva and Vaishnava motifs. The stories from Ramayana and Bhagavata are sculpted alongside the icons of Nataraja and Shiva.

The Jambulinga temple within the town was originally a Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva temple. This is the first ‘Trikutachala’ (trikUTAcala) temple found in Karnataka. This was built in the seventh century. It contains three inscriptions. One finds a number of small temples on all sides of the ‘Agastyateertha’ lake. These were built during the rule of different dynasties from the seventh century right up to the seventeenth century.

Many inscriptions are found in different parts of Badami. A Sanskrit inscription found on a rock on the way to the fort installed by Pallava Narasimhavarma-1 in 642 A.D. and Kappe Arabhattana Shasana containing the first use of the Tripadi meter in Kannada, (Seventh century) are among the more important ones among them.

There is an archaeological museum established by the Archaeological Survey of India in Badami. It contains a model of a natural cave with pre historic relics and a copy of a colour painting picked from the third cave. A collection of statues scattered around in Pattadakallu is preserved here.

This brief introduction to Badami one of the most important tourist sites in the country needs to be supplemented by the wealth of material available in the web as also in the print media.



1.      Bass reliefs of Badami RD Banerji - 1928 - Govt. of India , Central Publication Branch

2.      Badami Jain caves

3.      Badami Caves In Karnataka, Famous Rockcut Badami Caves, Historical ...

4. PR Srinivasan - Archaeology of Karnataka, 1978 - Prasaranga, University of Mysore

5. A History of Karnataka: From Pre-history to Unification PB Desai - 1970 – Kannada Research Institute, Karnatak University


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