Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Cave Temples of Badami

We had a delicious breakfast of avalakki husli and idly at Bijapur, our driver Ramesh did a good driving job for the next two hours. We passed 3.5Km long Kolhar bridge on Krishna river which looked as though we were crossing an ocean. We bypassed Bagalkot and deviated left at Kerur on NH218 towards Badami. Badami a.k.a Vatapi is one of the taluk headquarters in Bagalkot district, the town as such is not that impressive. There are well marked signboards that lead to the landmark of Badami, everybody's destination, the Cave Temples. The entrance tickets cost Rs. 5 for Indians with an additional Rs.25 for digital cameras.

Badami is most famous for its Cave Temples which are located among the mountains inside the town. The two mountains in Badami symbolize the demons Vatapi and Ilvala. Legend has it there were two demon siblings Vatapi and Ilvala, who killed many sages by their trick. Agasthya muni, the sage, killed Vatapi by consuming and digesting him thereby bringing an end to their evil doing.

The temples were carved by the great Chalukyas, the singularity of which is it's sheer construction. These ain't no ordinary temples, they are formed by cutting through the rocky mountains.

There are four cave temples numbered 1 to 4 as shown in the above diagram. The first cave is dedicated to Lord Shiva, at the entrance on the right side, is a beautifully detailed red coloured panel of Shiva in his dancing gesture with Nandi to his right and Ganesha on drums to his left. Facing this panel is the statue of Shaiva guardian holding Shiva's Trishula (trident). Also there is a carving of the couple Shiva-and-Parvathi inside the temple. The stone columns are embellished with carvings of floral patterns and garlands.

One has to climb few well-laid steps to reach from one cave temple to another. The second and third caves are dedicated for Lord Vishnu. Five stone steps lead to the second cave which has various incarnations of Lord Vishnu. The lower part of the front facade has a strip of dancing dwarfs . There are four pillars at the entrance which is constructed with a 16:9 aspect ratio. There is a relief of Varaha Avatara (the boar form) rescuing Bhu devi and a continuous-narrative of Bali's defeat by Vamana (the dwarf human form) on top of a dancing dwarfs frieze. Next to cave 2 is an open shallow cavern with few marred reliefs.

The largest, the most detailed and the most elegant cave is the cave 3 which has a spacious courtyard in the front. The lower front facade has dancing dwarfs which are grouped into couples unlike the continuous layout of cave 2 or 1. The square pillars are gigantic and the carvings on them are very detailed and intricate. There are reliefs showing Trivikrama avatara of Vishnu which is similar to the Vamana continuous-narrative in the cave 2, Vishnu seated on the serpent Shesha and a gigantic standing Narasimha avatara (the lion form) The pillars in this cave temple still bear the lines of the rocks and are very beautifully cut. This cave has both square as well as circular pillars, the circular pillars are patterned by vertical parallel lines.

The 4th and the final cave is the smallest and contain reliefs and sculptures belonging to Jainism. There are reliefs of Parshvanath & Gommateshwara the two main Tirthankaras and also tiny statuettes of 24 Tirthankaras and Mahavira, the final Tirthankara. Though its the smallest cave, I liked this cave a lot for its tiny yet elegant artifacts. The view of the tank and the Bhuthanatha temple and Mallikarjuna temple along its bank is splendid from the courtyard in front of the cave.

One has to beware of the monkey menace in the area. It's not too uncommon seeing people screaming while monkeys snatch fruits and water bottles fearlessly. There is even a board warning of this menace. Badami is usually crowded on weekends especially by the kids of the nearby schools as a part of their educational excursions. There are many other interesting places in Badami to visit, but we didn't have enough time. This link contains useful information about Badami. It definitely gives a feeling of great pride to be Kannadiga, after having visiting such a remarkable historical place.

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