Badami, formerly known as Vatapi, is a town in the Bagalkot district of Karnataka. It was the capital of the Chalukyan Empire between 5th -8th century AD. It is believed that Badami got its’ name from the word ‘Badam’ (almond) and its’ resemblance to the red sand stone that is abundantly found in this. Badami is famous for its’ rock-cut temples and architecture.
Puranas says that two demon siblings Vatapi and Ilvala were killed by sage Agasthya. Therefore, the two hills in Badami represent Vatapi and Ilvala and the lake is sacredly called as Agasthya Theertha.
The lake and the surrounding hills in red sand-stone prove to be the perfect backdrop for the Bhootanatha temples.
The Bhootanatha temple
According to the scholars, the Chalukya kingdom was established by king Jayasimha in 500 A.D. His grandson Pulakeshi-I built the fort in Vatapi and his brother Mangalesha constructed the cave temples, for which Badami is well- known even today.
View of the cave temples from Agasthya lake.
The four rock-cut temples were constructed between 6th- 8th century A.D. The Chalikyans were believed to be secular rulers with tolerance towards all religions. The same secular nature is reflected in the cave temples too. The caves mainly represent Hinduism and Jainism. Consequently, cave 1 is dedicated to Lord Shiva, cave 2 and 3 to Vishnu and cave 4 to Jain Thirthankaras.
Boulders that welcome us as we enter the cave temples. Each cave is separated and can be reached by climbing a good number of stairs.
The first cave is dedicated to Lord Shiva as an incarnation of Nataraja (God of Dance). Here, the Nataraja has nine arms on each side thus making a total of eighty one combination of dance poses.
Shiva as an incarnation of Nataraja...in cave 1.
Cave 2 is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. In this cave temple Vishnu is also represented in his Varaha and Krishna avatars. Incidentally Varaha is also the royal insignia of the Chalukyas!
The 'Royal Guard' at the entrance of second cave.
The third cave too is dedicated to Vishnu and the carvings belong to the Shavite and Vaishnavite theme. This, indeed, is the most magnificent cave of all four with a unique pose of Vishnu seated on 'Shesha Naga'. It is considered unique as it is (probably) the only place where Vishnu has been depicted as 'sitting' on the serpent and not sleeping.
Complete view of the third cave.
The most stunning Vishnu seated on Shesha Naga inside cave 3.
Another giant figurine of Trivikrama at cave 3.
This cave is dedicated to Jainism. It is not as big as the other three but the details are equally beautiful. Numerous Jain Thirtankara images have been engraved on the walls and pillars of this cave.
The fourth cave dedicated to Jainism.
This is what lies opposite to the cave temples!