The state of Karnataka is endowed with several historical monuments, religious places, and historical places that have been standing still for centuries showcasing the rich and glorious past of the country and outstanding skills of the craftsman. One such place is the small town of Badami which was once the capital of Chalukya dynasty who ruled the place from 540 AD to 757 AD and has a marvelous piece of historic and religious significance in its lap. Exploring the stunning Badami Caves which the Chalukyas left behind is a treat to the eyes and great way to enhance our knowledge of religious history.
The magnificent Badami Caves are nestled deep in the rugged hilly terrain of Bagalkot district of northern Karnataka. The small town of Badami in the Bagalkot district of Karnataka attracts an influx of tourists from across the globe who come here to witness the architectural wonder of Badami Cave, a complex of Hindu and Jain temples. The cave temples are enclosed by a man-made Agastya Lake and are a fine depiction of the Badami Chalukya architecture and Indian rock-cut architecture. The caves are best admired during sunset when the dipping sun captures the rust-red tint of the sandstone making it even more spectacular to witness.
Badami was once the capital city of the Chalukya dynasty. According to historical texts, the capital town of Chalukya dynasty possessed several names such as Vatapi, Vatapipura, and Vatapinagari and is nestled at the end point of a valley between some exorbitant mountains of red sandstones. Corresponding to the ‘Puranas’ (Hindu scriptures), the town got its name from the wicked demon Vatapi who, with his brother Ilava, had tricked and killed over 9000 people. The place was then saved by the legendary sage Agastya who killed the demon using his dharmic powers.
The Chalukya dynasty was founded by Pulakeshi I in 540 CE and he, being the king, chose Vatapi (now Badami) as his capital city because it was protected from three sides by rugged sandstone cliffs. During the 6th to 8th centuries, the Chalukyas rules the state of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Maharashtra. The construction of the Badami Caves was done by Kirtivarman and Mangalesha, Pulakeshi I’s sons.
The temples of the Badami Caves were built by the Chalukya kings Kirtivarman and Mangalesha between the 6th and the 8th centuries and are numbered 1 to 4 according to their conception. However, the exact date of formation is only known for the third cave which is 578/579 CE, lunar calendar, that King Mangalesha dedicated to Lord Vishnu in Saka 500. The inscription inside the temple that tells its inception date, is also the proof that the cave temple is the oldest firmly dated Hindu cave temple in India.
The cave temples are constructed out of the monolithic red sandstone mountain into a steep cliff face, above a man-made lake called Agastya Theertha. All are linked by over 200 steps carved into the mountains which have intermediate terraces at the conjunction that overlooks the beautiful landscape of Badami and the lake below. The temples from 1 to 3 are dedicated to Hindu gods while the 4th temple is devoted to Mahavira, the founder of Jainism.
The architecture of all the four temples is similar. Each temple has an entrance with a mukhmantapa (verandah) that is supported by intricately carved columns and brackets. The verandah leads to the mahamantapa (main hall) which then leads to the garbhagriha (a shrine with an idol of deity). These stunning cave temples are the specimen of the Nagara and Dravidian styles of architecture with sculptures and artwork in the Deccan, Nagara, Dravida, and Vesara styles.
Badami caves is open to visitors between 6 AM and 6 PM every day, on all days of the week.
An entry fee of INR 20 per head is applicable here for every Indian national (adult) visitor and SAARC or BIMSTEC citizens; and for other foreign citizens (adult), the entrance fee applicable is INR 250 per head
Badami can be reached by air, rail, or road.
Situated in Badami town in the north-central part of Karnataka, the Badami Caves houses rock-cut temples from the 6th and 7th centuries from the time of the Chaulakya dynasty and reflects the grandeur of Indian architecture and crafts manship. The Chaulakya Kind Mangalesa (598-610 AD) was responsible for the construction of these 4 cave temples from which three are Brahmanical depicting Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, and the fourth one is Jain.