Vishnu avatars in Badami 🛕

The caves 2 & 3 in Badami are dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The pattern of the caves are the same as cave 1 – outer verandah, pillared hall and inner sanctuary.

Cave 2 first. Boar is the symbol of the Chalukyas and here were are presented with a sculpture depicting the Varaha (Boar) the third avatar of Vishnu.

Vishnu in the Varaha avatar (boar) in Cave 2 Badami

But who is he holding in his hand? It is his consort Bhudevi (Mother Earth) who is seen here being rescued from the demon Hiranyaksha. The demon kidnapped her and took her down into the deep waters of the ocean. Varaha slew the demon and here is seen lifting Bhudevi from the waters.

Fish spoked wheel carved on the ceiling of Cave 2 Badami

The above fish spoked wheel carved on the ceiling of Cave 2 has the most fantastic story I heard in Badami !! You remember the Noah and great flood story from the Bible ? I was out of my mind to hear the same great flood story in Hinduism also. Matsya (fish) was the first avatar of Vishnu. Lord Vishnu took the fish avatar to save the first man, Manu. Vishnu appearing in his Matsya avatar told Manu to build an boat and was towed to safety amidst the great floods !!

Trivikrama – the fifth avatar of Vishnu in Cave 2 Badami

The Trivikrama or Vamana avatar was to kill the demon king Mahabali. The legend behind the Onam festival celebrated in Kerala revolves around this tale. Mahabali though a demon was a generous and just king; his subjects loved him and there was prosperity and peace in the land. The Gods were not happy with this. They approached Vishnu for a solution to kill the demon king. Vishnu in the form of Vamana, a dwarf and visited king Mahabali and begged him for land he could cover in three steps. The king obliged.

On getting the permission from the king, Vamana grew in size to Trivikrama (God of the Three Strides). In one step he covered the whole earth and with the second step the heaven. Then there was no place for the third step. Realising that Vamana was Vishnu, Mahabali lowered his head and suggested Vamana place his foot on it for the third step. Vamana was pleased and with the pressure of his foot, he sent Mahabali down below to rule the netherworld; with permission to visit his kingdom and subjects once a year, during Onam !!

Vamana avatar of Vishnu

The sculpture of Trivikrama shows him already grown to giant size, one foot on earth and the other lifted as if to take a stride. There is also Vamana shown by the side, a dwarf, small in stature. Our guide mentioned that in the sculpture, the figure hugging one leg of Trivikrama was Mahabali’s son, begging Trivikrama to spare his father.

Dwarfs or gangs in Cave 2 Badami

The above sculpture of dwarfs is my favourite from Cave 2. The guide pointed out to their hairdos “Like wigs worn by judges in courts. Maybe they got their inspiration from these sculptures dating back to the 7th century !?”

Flying couples carved on the ceiling of Cave 2 Badami

This completes Cave 2 !!

Till next post, take care !!


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