Badami, located in the Bagalkot district of North Karnataka, was the capital of the Chalukya Dynasty. It is situated at the mouth of a beautiful ravine, flanked on either side by beautiful sandstone hills.
The Badami Cave Temples - Architecture
Badami is famous for its four cave temples - all carved out of sand stone on the precipice of a hill. They all share the same plan - a veranda with columns and brackets leading to a main hall, the pillared maha mandapa which in turn leads to the small sanctum which houses the sculpture.
Legend has it there were two demon siblings Vatapi and Ilvala, who had a trick by which they could kill and make a meal of mendicants passing by. Their tricks worked until Agastya muni came by and counter-tricked them and brought an end to Vatapi's life. Two of the hills in Badami are supposed to represent the demons Ilvalan and Vatapi.
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.
The First Cave
The first temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. You would have to climb about 40 steps to reach it. Built around 578 AD, this is believed to be the earliest of the four temples. This cave depicts Shiva in his dancing form – as Nataraja depicted with eighteen arms. There are no less than 81 different dancing poses of Nataraja depicted in this cave. The first cave has gigantic carvings of Ardhanareeswara and Harira manifestations of Shiva in bas relief.
There are also reliefs of Ganapati, Shanmukha and Mahishasuramardhini, and may be the oldest in Badami. It is made of red sandstone and has a hall with numerous pillars and a square shaped sanctum hollowed in the control back wall.
The Second Cave
This cave temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Here he is depicted in the magnificent Trivikrama form, where he is measuring the earth with one foot, and the sky with the other, with a third food resting on the head of Mahabali.
It is reached through a flight of 64 stairs from the first one. On its ceiling, are carvings of Vishnu on Garuda and several other scenes from the puranas.
The Third Cave
The third rock cut temple is reached from the 2nd temple through a flight of 60 steps. It is a 100 feet deep cave, with inscriptions dating this Vishnu temple to 578 CE during, the period of Kiritivarma Chalukya.
This temple is also dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Here he is represented in various forms – as Vamana, the dwarf, as Trivikrama, an enormous entity measuring the world; as Narasimha, the man-lion; and as Varaha, lifting up Mother Earth from the sea. It also has a wonderful statue of Vishnu sitting on the serpent Adisesha.
The cave also has carved images of the Narasimha and Trivikrama avataras of Vishnu. There are also murals depicting the divine marriage of Shiva and Parvati.
The Fourth Cave
Cave temple 4 relates to 6th century Jainism, dedicated to the Lord Mahavira . He is depicted in a unique sitting posture. This is considered to be latest of the four temples, and it was built about 100 years after the other three temples. There is a carving of the Tirthankara Parshavnatha (with a serpent at his feet).
Badami, the one time capital of the Chalukyas , is noted several temples, some structural & other rock-cut, of the 6th & 7th Centuries. The foundations of Badami, or Vatapi as it was called, were laid by Pulakeshi I (535 - 566 AD) his son Kirtivarman, the Ist (567 - 598 AD), beautified the town with temples & other buildings
Mangalesha (598 - 610 AD) brother of Kiritavarman I completed the construction of the cave temples & endowed the temples with the village on the occasion of the installation of the image of Vishnu. The greatest ruler of the dynasty was Pulakeshi II (610-642 AD) who among others defeated the Pallava King Mahendra Verman I. The Pallava later captured & destroyed Badami to avenge their defeat Badami was also in the possession of the Vijayanagar Kings, The Adil Shahis, The Savanur Nawabs, The Marathas, Hyder Ali & finally the British who made it part of the Bombay Presidency.