Badami cave temples

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Badami caves
BADAMI (4).jpg
The Badami caves and Agasthya theertha tank
Location Badami, Karnataka.
Discovery 6th Century
Difficulty Easy
View of Yellamma and Malegitti Shivalaya temples from Badami caves

The Badami cave temples are a complex of 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.Badami previously known as Vapati Badami, the capital of the Early Chalukyas, who ruled much of Karnataka from middle of 6th until the middle of 8th centuries is suitated on the west bank of artificial lake filed 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.[1]

Temple caves[edit]

Plan of Badami Cave

The Badami cave temples are composed of four caves, all carved out of the soft Badami sandstone on a hill cliff in the late 6th to 7th centuries.[2] The planning of four caves 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.[3] The Cave temples are linked by stepped path with intermediate terraces that offer spectacular views across 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[1]

The cave temples date back to 600 and 700 CE. The architecture includes structures built in Nagara Style, developed in northern India in 5th-6th Centuries imported from pallavas during refuge and Dravidian style which is the first and most persistent architectural idiom to be adopted by the early chalukyas[1] Important part of historical heritage at Badami cave temples are inscriptions in old Kannada script. There is also the fifth natural cave temple in Badami – a Buddhist temple in natural cave which can be entered kneeling on all fours.[4]

Cave 1[edit]

Entrance to Cave 1

The cave 1 portrays Lord Shiva in his very beautiful incarnation of Nataraja. Lord Shiva in this incarnation has 18 arms. Some of the arms have weapons while some of the arms depict beautiful dance postures. The weapons include drums, trident, axe etc. Some arms also have serpents coiled around them. Lord Shiva has his son Ganesha and the bull Nandi by his side. They also are in beautiful postures. The two sons of Shiva, Ganesha and Kartikkeya are seen riding a peacock in one of the carved sculptures on the walls of the cave. Adjoining to the Nataraja, a wall also depicts the adorable goddess Mahishasuramardini. She has been shown in an angry incarnation killing a buffalo with a trident.

The entrance of the cave is like a verandah. The verandah having four columns is very beautifully sculpted with mindblowing images of Lord Shiva in different dancing positions and different incarnations.The cave also has carved sculptures of the goddesses Lakhsmi and Parvati to the left of Lord Shiva. To the left, there is also acarved sculpture of Harihar having an axe and a serpent in hand. To the right, Ardhanarishvara sculpted on the end of the walls. All the carved sculptures have beautiful ornaments worn by them,including the animals and birds. The ornaments have designs with lotus carved on them. There is also an image of the Vidyadhara couple on the ceiling,meaning they are flying in the air. Beautiful swords are also carved on the walls. The ceiling also depicts Nagaraja, the king of the snakes. The Nagaraja is surrounded by a lot of other serpents coiled around him.There are sections in the cave which are orthogonal in shape. The bands in those sections are decorated with jewellery and garlands. The view is fantastic. There is a cleavage in the back side of the cave. It led to the formation of a square sanctuary having beautiful images carved on it.

The cave 1 is very beautiful as it describes Lord Shiva and his family.Lord Shiva in his Nataraja avatar, known to be the goddess of dance, is very eye catching.The cave has beautiful bays and pilasters. The system of using columns gives the cave a foliant look.The cave being on a hill cliff gives an excellent view of the town.All the figures of the gods and goddesses are very excellently carved. The cave also has many human figures doing different actions which are neatly carved.[1]

Cave 2[edit]

Cave 2 is created in late 6th century AD, is almost same as cave 1 in terms of its layout and dimensions but it is consecrated to Vishnu who is shown here as Trivikrama – with one foot on Earth and another – directed to the north. Vishnu in this temple is represented also as Varaha (boar) and Krishna avatars. Cave is reached by climbing 64 steps from the first cave. Entrance is adorned with reliefs of guardians.[5]


The entrance of the cave 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 nag below. The adjacent side walls have smooth surfaces with traces of paintwork. The columns shows gods and battle scenes, the churning of cosmic ocean, Gajalakshmi and figures, Brahma and figures, Vishnu asleep on Shesha, illustrate the birth of Krishna, Krishna’s youth, Krishna with gopis and cows. The ceiling 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.


The doorway is framed by pilasters carrying an entablature with three blocks embellished with gavaksha ornament.[6]

Cave 3[edit]

Entrance to Cave 3

The theme on which the cave 3 is based on is Shaivite and Vaishnavite.[7] The third cave is dedicated to Vishnu, and is the best and the biggest, and it has splendid giant figures of Trivikrama, Shankaranarayana, Anantasayana, Paravasudeva, Bhuvaraha, Harihara and Narasimha. All these statues are engraved in a vigorous style. An inscription found here records the creation of the shrine by Mangalesha in 578 CE. Chalukya king Mangalesha in 578 CE. Mangalesa was on the throne from 597 to 609 AD. It is common that Indian cave temples were patronised by influential members of royal families. These inscriptions are in Kannada language.[7] The age of cave temple is known with certainty with the inscriptions on the rock in this cave.[8]


Rock-cut temple has north – south orientation providing maximum amount of sunlight in winter. The hall and the verandah dig up to 14.5 m deep into the mountain and the shrine extends the cave some 4 m more inside. The Hall goes up to 4 m high.

Cave 3 is 60 steps away from the cave 2. The temple with its gigantic façade of 21 m wide is adorned of six hefty columns in a row. Below the columns there is a frieze consisting of 30 smaller reliefs of ganas.

Splendid embellishments are encompassed in the entire cave, including paintings on ceiling. Four-armed Brahma is the focal point of the murals .There happens to be a lotus medallion on the floor underneath the mural of Brahma – place to beseech.

Large number of Vishnu’s reliefs including standing Vishnu, Vishnu with a serpent, Vishnu as Narasimha (half human – half lion), Varaha, Harihara and Trivikrama avatars epitomize the immensity of vastly admired Indian art. Reliefs stand 4 m tall.

The culture and clothing embedded in the sixth century is clearly visible in the art sculpted in cave 3.[7]

There are some paintings on the ceiling and the style indicates maturity but has lost its original dazzling colour. The bracket figures on the piers here are some of the finest.

Cave 4[edit]

The fourth cave is Jaina which is constructed lastly among all the caves.It is only jain monument of early chalukya period in badami town and it was made in late 6th-7th century.The cave is not as large as the other cave. It is beautiful and rich with decoration.[9] It is located higher than other caves.[10] It is not as beautiful as the other three caves.It has five bayed entrance with square columns which make it more beautiful and attractive at base. The first aisle(a passage between buildings) is treated as verandah.The end walls have Parshvanath(right) represented using painting, his head is covered by a metal piece of multi cobra hoods and bahubali is left to him with his lower legs surrounded by snakes . His two sisters Brahmi and sundari is here with him.[11]

On the back part of wall, Mahavira is painted on it.This painting shows Mahavira as a savior. He is sitting on lion throne.[12]

The sanctum is adorned by the image of Mahavira. The pedestal contains an old Kannada inscription of the 12th century A.D. which registers the death of one Jakkave. Scores of Jaina Thirthankara images have been engraved in the inner pillars and walls. In addition to it, there are some idols of Bahubali, Yakshas and Yakshis. Other carvings here are of Padmavathi & other Thirthankaras. Some scholars assign the cave to the 8th century.

A steep climb up some steps cut in a crevice between Cave II and III leads to the southern part of Badami Fort and to an old gun placed there by Tippu Sultan.

Cave 5[edit]

It is a natural cave of small dimensions with a Buddha statue carved inside.[citation needed]

Gallery[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Michell, George (2014). Temple Architecture and Art of the Early Chalukyas. India : Niyogi Books. p. 37. ISBN 978-93-83098-33-0.
  2. ^ "Cave 1 Badami, 575 A.D. – 585 A.D.". Archived from the original on 30 March 2007. Retrieved 2007-04-10. 
  3. ^ Thapar, Binda (2004). Introduction to Indian Architecture. Singapore: Periplus Editions. p. 45. ISBN 0-7946-0011-5. 
  4. ^ "Badami Cave Temples – four ancient rock cut temples". Wondermondo. Retrieved 2010-03-28. 
  5. ^ http://www.wondermondo.com/Countries/As/India/Karnataka/Badami.htm
  6. ^ Michell, George (2014). Temple Architecture and Art of the Early Chalukyas. India : Niyogi Books. p. 45. ISBN 978-93-83098-33-0.
  7. ^ a b c Michell, George (2014). Temple Architecture and Art of the Early Chalukyas. India : Niyogi Books. p. 50. ISBN 978-93-83098-33-0.
  8. ^ Burgess, James (1880). The Cave Temples of India (1880 ed.). Waterloo Place: W.H.Allen & co. p. 406. 
  9. ^ http://www.art-and-archaeology.com/india/badami/cave403.html
  10. ^ http://www.wondermondo.com/Countries/As/India/Karnataka/Badami.htm
  11. ^ Michell, George (2014). Temple Architecture and Art of the Early Chalukyas. India : Niyogi Books. p. 60. ISBN 978-93-83098-33-0.
  12. ^ Michell, George (2014). Temple Architecture and Art of the Early Chalukyas. India : Niyogi Books. p. 60. ISBN 978-93-83098-33-0.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 15°55′06″N 75°41′06″E / 15.91833°N 75.68500°E / 15.91833; 75.68500