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. The town is known for its ancient cave temples carved out of the sandstone hills above.
Badami, formerly known as Vatapi was the capital of the early
Chalukya dynasty, from 540 to 757 AD. It is famous for its beautiful
rock-cut caves, which represent some of the earliest known examples of
Hindu temples and proves again that Karnataka is one of the most
remarkable states in India regarding archaeological treasures.
The name Vatapi has origin in the Vatapi legend of Ramayana relating to Sage Agastya. There were two demon siblings Vatapi and Ilvala. They used to kill all mendicants by tricking them in a peculiar way. The elder Ilvala would turn Vatapi into a sheep and would offer its meat to the guest. As soon as the person ate the meat, Ilvala would call out the name of Vatapi. As he had a boon that whomsoever Ilvala calls would return from even the Netherland, Vatapi would emerge ripping through the body of the person, thus killing him. Their trick worked until Sage Agastya countered them by digesting Vatapi before Ilvala could call for him, thus ending the life of Vatapi at the hands of Ilvala. Two of the hills in Badami represent the demons Vatapi and Ilvala.
It is also believed that the name Badami has come from the colour of its stone (badam -Almond).
The 4 rock-cut temples
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. Cave 1 is devoted to Shiva, Caves 2 and 3 are dedicated to Vishnu, whereas cave 4 displays reliefs of Jain Tirthankaras.
Cave 1 – Shiva
Cave temple 1 may be the oldest in Badami. It is made of red sandstone and has a hall with numerous pillars and a square shaped sanctum, which houses a lingam. To the right inside is the figure of Shiva of about five feet height with his consort Parvathi and the bull Nandi. There is a neatly carved perfect figure of Mahishasuramardini and several other rocks –cut dwarf images of kubja ganas, Nagaraja or snake king, Vidhyadhara couple, etc.
Cave 2 – Vishnu Trivikrama
The second cave has on its front two guards or ‘dwarapalakas’ holding lotus in their hands. It is dedicated to Vishnu (as Trivikrama) with one foot mastering the earth and the other the sky. Vishnu is also portrayed as Varaha and Krishna on the East and West walls of the cave. On the ceiling are engraved Ananthashayana, Bramha, Vishnu, Shiva and Asthadikpalakas.
Cave 3 – Vishnu
The third cave is also dedicated to Vishnu. It is the biggest cave and has splendid giant figures of Paravasudeva, Bhuvaraha, Harihara and Narasimha. All these statues are engraved in a vigorous style. There are some paintings on the ceiling and the style indicates maturity but has lost its original dazzling colour. The façade of the cave is nearly 70 feet wide, with carvings of ganas on the plinth.
Cave 4 – Mahavira
Cave temple 4 relates to the 6th century Jainism. The sanctum sanctorum is adorned by the image of Mahavira depicted in a sitting posture. The pedestal contains an old Kannada inscription of the 8th century A.D. 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. There is also a nice carving of the Tirthankara Parshavnatha (with a serpent at his feet).