Badami: Stories sculpted in stone 👑

Badami – view of the North Fort from the South Fort

Badami (formerly Vatapi) was the capital of the Chalukyas who ruled the land between the 6th -8th century CE. The major monuments of interest in Badami are the 4 cave temples with their beautiful sculptures dating back to those periods. The lake in the middle called the Agastya lake divides the area into the South Fort and the opposite North Fort; the cave temples are situated in the South Fort. We had only 2 hours to spare and could cover only the cave temples. You need another 2 hours or more to walk and cover the North Fort.

The South Fort with the 1st of the 4 cave temples in Badami dedicated to Shiva
Badami: The North Fort, seen opposite to the South Fort

The 4 cave temples are located in succession. This was the earliest form of temple architecture dating back to 6th century. All the four forms of temple architecture can be seen at Mahabalipuram👉Magical monuments of Mahabalipuram✨. They were impressive !!

The first cave temple is dedicated to Shiva, the second and third to Vishnu and the last one is a Jain temple.

The 2nd cave temple in Badami dedicated to Vishnu
The 3rd cave temple in Badami dedicated to Vishnu

All the carvings along the walls and pillars are still in good condition. There were paintings too, but perished with time. The guide’s stories brought to life the stone carvings !! Without the stories you wouldn’t know what you are looking at and it’s significance.

The 4th cave temple in Badami dedicated to Jainism

The domed structure typical of Muslim architecture is a tomb built by the Bijapur rulers when they captured Badami centuries later.

Domed Tomb built by Malik Abdul Aziz in memory of his wife

While you are in Badami, it’s good to know a bit about the Chalukyan rulers of Badami (535-757 AD). Pulakeshin I is the founder of the Chalukya dynasty. He had two sons – Kirttivarman I and Mangalesha and Kirttivarman I succeeded the father on the throne. The brothers are credited with the commissioning of the cave temples says our guide.

Kirttivarman I was succeeded by his son Pulakeshin II (610-642 AD) who famously defeated the most powerful ruler of north India at that time, Harshavardhana or Harsha of Kanauj in the Battle of Narmada. Pulakeshin II was the most famous among the Chalukyan rulers says RK Narayan in his book the Emerald Route. “His empire extended from the Vindhyas (parallel to the Narmada river in the north) to the Kaveri in south and from east to west coast.”

Pulakeshin II’s fame made the Chinese Buddhist traveller Hiuen Tsang who visited in India between 629 and 645 AD make a stop at Badami and recored it’s magnificence. “The kingdom was 1930 km in circumference and the capital was 10 km in circumference. The people he says – tall and proud, sensitive and friendly, but vengeful when injured and loyal to their king.”

“More than their conquests and historical importance, the Chalukyan contribution to the development of art and architecture are of lasting value.” says RK Narayan. No study of history is complete without mention of the magnificent cave temples of the Chalukyas that still stand today !!

But Pulakeshin II was defeated and killed by the Pallava king Narasimhavarman I who ruled further south (Tamil Nadu) and with this the Pallavas ruled Badami for more than a decade.

Several years later the Chalukyan ruler Vikramaditya I overthrew the Pallavas. After a series of rulers thereafter, the Chalukyas lost power to the Rashtrakutas and Badami lost the status as a capital. The power center shifted further north with the invasion of Delhi sultans, the Vijayanagara emperors, the Adil Shahi Sultans, Marathas and last the British.

“The reddish tinge on the tall sandstone rock cliffs surrounding the place draws a parallel to the Grand Canyon in Arizona, US.” says Basavaraj

Two more historic towns namely Pattadakal and Aihole complete the historic monuments built by the Chalukayas. It’s great if you can cover all the three towns sequentially. But they need a separate itinerary.

Each cave temple has many sculptures along the walls, pillars, ceiling, floor; our guide Basavaraj was pointing out each one and narrating their stories, sometimes trying to link the past with the present. “The reddish tinge on the tall sandstone rock cliffs surrounding the place draws a parallel to the Grand Canyon in Arizona, US.” says Basavaraj.

“While they could have built them with less labour on the plains, they chose to hew the rocks to house the Gods in caves and provide them thus, an indestructible shelter.” says RK Narayan

To conclude these words be RK Narayan sums up the Chalukyan cave temples beautifully ” The hillside has been excavated and the temples built. While they could have built them with less labour on the plains, they chose to hew the rocks to house the Gods in caves and provide them thus, an indestructible shelter.

Racially those that raised the temples must have been hardier, beyond our concept. The very manual labour involved in tackling this mass and shaping them appears superhuman. The very steps hewn to take us over to the site seem forbidding and one hesitates to put one’s foot on them.” 🙏

More stories in the next post. Take care !!


4 Comments Add yours

  1. PedroL says:

    Those are sacred rocks 🙂 it was so interesting to read and see your photos, thanks for sharing 🙂 have a great new year and cheers from Portugal, PedroL


    1. Miles and smiles says:

      Thank you and Happy New Year to you too !! The temples were places of worship earlier. The sculptures in the temples have very interesting interpretations. Appreciate the comment !!


      1. PedroL says:

        Thanks for the feedback 🙂 have a great weekend! PedroL


  2. IndiaNetzone says:

    There are more than 1,500 known rock cut structures in India, out of which about 1000 were made by Buddhists, 300 by Hindus and 200 by Jains. Many of these structures contain works of art of global importance, and many later caves from the Mahayana period are adorned with exquisite stone carvings. These ancient and medieval structures represent significant achievements of structural engineering and craftsmanship.


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