Saturday, April 16, 2011

Badami - Aihole - Pattadakal Explored. Part II


Badami has lot to offer a tourist who believes in exploration. Structures dating back to the 6th century are spread across the town and you stumble upon small caves and temples structures on the periphery of the Agasthya lake.

Badami formerly known as Vatapi was the regal capital of the Badami Chalukyas from 540 to 757 AD. The Early Chalukyas chose the finely-grained and horizontally-stratified sandstone cliffs of Badami, for rock excavations, which facilitated excavation of comparatively large cave-temples and the execution of fine sculptures and intricate carvings in them.

Structures in the Badami circuit can be classified into the following:
• Stone temples
• Cave temples
• Water tanks
• Fortifications

We started our exploration with the visit to the Badami ASI museum which is located at the bottom of the cliff opposite to the hill bearing the caves. Just like any other ASI site museum, it provided a good glimpse of the site and even on the pre-historical importance of Badami area in the evolution of mankind.

Badami Caves as seen from the other side of the lake

Boothanatha Temple

Inside one of the small caves along side the lake

Sculptures on the rocks

Site map in museum gave us a good idea of the topography and we moved to the Boothanatha temple complex located at the far end of the lake. The temple complex resembled the temples at Aihole/Pattadakal and one thing that comes to your mind is how Maniratnam missed this temple for his song shoots. The temple by the lake side with its gentle image on the placid waters is a visual treat to the eyes.
Proceeding further we stumbled upon one of the many small caves which dotted the area with carvings of Ananthasyanam posture of Vishnu and a small temple structure on the top of huge boulder, not sure how they got on to it to build it. This question of how did they do it in the first place rings in your ears repeatedly when you explore the monuments of badami.
We slowly made our way along the lake to reach the Badami cave complex. You can see huge fortification walls on the both the hills flanking the lake and Tippu Sultan was one of the rulers who strengthened them.

There are 4 cave temples, Cave1 is dedicated to Shiva, Cave2 and Cave3 are dedicated to Vishnu and Cave4 is dedicated to Jain thirthankara’s. After the fall of the dynasties ruling this region these cave temples lost their glory and people started using them as shelter. In few caves you can see the effect of human habitation in terms of provisions made on the floor of caves to make rice dove paste with stone crusher and marks of local games on the floor of the caves.

The cave architecture of the Chalukya’s brings to memory the monolithic structures of Mahabalipuram of the Pallava’s which were put up in the same time period. Monolithic structures and cave temples are very hard to build as here it’s the process of material removal and any mistake will lead to abandoning of the entire complex. In the caves of Badami, work was started from top to bottom, i.e. you can see lot of carvings on the roof of the caves and the level of works comes down as you move down towards the floor of the cave.

Cave 1

This cave is dedicated to Lord Shiva as evident from the shiva sculptures on both sides of the cave. On the right is the Dancing shiva with 18 arms displaying 81 dancing positions. The sculptor who created this work must have been a trained dancer and has put his knowledge of two art forms creating a masterpiece. Inside the cave, one can Shiva and Parvati and besides them stands a person with just bones, he is Bringi Rishi who was a ardent devotee of Shiva . Parvati took the bone and flesh out him in anger and finally understanding the devotion of the rishi restored back his body.

Cave 1

Shiva with 18arms - 81 dancing positions

Shiva, Parvathi and Bringi rishi in the background


Inside the Cave temple

Richly carved ceiling


This cave belongs to the 6th century and is dedicated to Vishnu. This is is the only cave which has a protrution of the strcuture in the form of a sun/rain shade towards the front.


Carvings on the roof of the cave

Varaha Avtar retrieves Bhoomi Devi

Vamana Avtar of Vishnu


The biggest and the most beautiful cave in Badami , as per our guide this cave temple is the most beautiful one in India and even exceeds the ones at Ajanta and Ellora in its beauty. One can even see the reamins of the natural dye paintings on the roof of this cave. Built in 578AD and dedicated to Vishnu, this cave took 12 years to build. This cave contains a very rare sculptor of Vishnu in sitting position on the seshanaga called the Ananthasena. The roof of this cave is richly carved and one is made to wonder how a sculptor could have done it in lying position beneath the roof and not getting his eyes filled with stone dust. There came the answer from the guide, there is a white color transparent leaf found in this area which according to him might have been used as a eye shield when working on the roof the caves. This cave is so beutiful that at times you feel like you are inside a stone built temple rather than a cave temple.


Natural dye color paintings on the roof of the cave

Inside of the cave

Vishnu sitting on the Adisesha, in this posture he is called Ananthasena

Vijaya Narasimha, he has attained the highest state which is indicated by the lotus which has bloomed on the top of this head

Beutiful HariHara

Vamana Avatara

Inspiration of Belur sculptures


Richly Carved Pillars


This cave dedicated to the thirthankara’s of Jainism was the last one to be built. Generally the Jain temples are built away from any habitation near the water bodies. As per the guide there should have been a series of steps leading to the agasthya lake from the top of this cave.



Continuous walk and climb throught the day had made our bodies tired and we decided to settle for a quick lunch before heading for Mahakoota which was the last destination of the day. Time again for Jolaga rotis for lunch.

Mahakoota has a small pond which is fed by a spring. Guys made merry in pond and visited the underground Shiva temple which was brought to their notice by a regular visitor.

Finally it was curtains for a trip to explore the architecture of the Chalukyans, and was nothing short of a memorable trip filled with gyan and fun.

Details for a Visitor to Badami – Aihole and Pattadakal

Badami is the best location if you are planning to stay overnight as Aihole and Pattadakal are just small villages with no worthwhile tourist infrastructure. Don't expect Badami to be well organized like tourist towns of Hospet (for Hampi) or Hassan (for Belur/Halebidu) which have better facilities in place.

How to reach:
Badami is about 450kms by road and 589kms by rail from Bengaluru.

By Train: Badami has a rail head and is served by trains from Bangalore.
By Bus: Private operators like VRL and SRS have daily services to Badami from Bengaluru.
By Air: Hubli is the nearest Airport

Trains form Bengaluru take a good 12 hour as they go via Hubli, buses take the shortest route and make the journey in 10 hours.

Local trasnportation in Badami - Aihole - Pattadakal area:

Bus services to Aihole from Badami are less frequent and Pattadakal is bit ok on that front. If you are in a group its better to hire vehicle which will save lot of time. Monuments of Badami are situated at walking distance from the bus station. Mahakoota and Banashankari are a 30min drive from Badami.

Boarding and Lodging:
For food i would recommend, Hotel Shri Laxmi Vilas(08357-220077), they have a lodging facility as well which was full during our visit and we had settle for another one which was not a good experience. Food and Lodging facilities are very average in Badami.

It better to hire a guide in all the three locations as the information provided by ASI is very minimal and without explanation or details, the monuments are just group of similar looking stone structures.

Thanks for the patient reading and if you are curious to see more pics, check out @


  1. Nice and detailed blog Subbu. Good work.
    BTW after some research I found out that the image of Vishnu sitting on sesha naga is called Ananthasana and not Anathasena as we had previously thought...

  2. Hi Bharath,

    Further research lead me to the name "Vaikunda Nadhar " for Vishnu's posture of sitting on the Sesha Naga.

  3. Wonderful trip. Thanks for sharing your experience. Renowned for its sandstone cave temples, Badami (Vatapi) (Vatapi) is a delightful destination for both the religious lot and the archaeologists. Having served once as the capital to the Chalukya Dynasty, it is now a quiet town. Its sandstone cliffs attract climbers from all over the world for climbing and bouldering. Check out all best hotels in Badami also.

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