Breathtaking Badami...

September 24, 2011

Dynasties, civilizations and great cities of the world often have their fortunes in cycles. They have their ups and downs. Some recover from the bad times but a few languish in misfortune for eternity after a devastating fall. The tale of North Karnataka City Badami is one such touching case.

During the early years of 7th century AD, it was one of the most prominent cities of the world. As Great Chinese traveler Hiuen Tsang proclaimed it was reined by India’s most powerful emperor.  Great Islamic scholar Al Tabari upheld it’s prominence by mentioning it in his chronicle of Kings and Prophets as the city to which great Persian King Khosrau II sent his emissary.

Here lived the warriors who wreaked havoc and miseries on powerful north Indian king Harsha‘s Elephant brigade and forced him to recognize Narmada as his border. Also, in all probability, from here were dispatched the powerful and efficient armies which nipped in the bud, the overt ambitions of all conquering Arabs, who tried to attack India (Thana, 643 A.D.) during the early periods of Islam’s glorious conquests (to keep them off the region for another six centuries).

Falling out of favour for more than 1000 years has taken its toll on Badami. Being in poverty ridden north Karnataka and being ruled by people ignorant of heritage and tourist potential for years has not helped it cause too.

We hear of Badami right from our primary school days and we are curious to visit it too. However, 500 Kilometers geographical distance and still larger cultural distance makes it almost impossible to visit the place. I, after my recent splurge into Chalukyan History, felt the irresistible need to visit and to have a feel of the place.

Badami looked a completely different place. A narrow road, a modest Bus stand, few dozen shops and handful of autos, taxis, tangas and tempos make Badami of today.

There are no kings, no warriors or courtiers. Only a few resting cows, roaming swine’s and street usurping herds of goats now rule the place. But, two kilometers away, perched on a huge almond colored hill are the last vestiges of Badami’s glorious past, the Chalukyan Cave Temples of Badami.

The Cave Temples

In the Badami temple complex, forty grand stone carved steps lead to the first cave temple and to visit a succeeding cave there are no independent steps. You need to visit the gods in sequence. For that matter, these are quite secular gods. First one is Shivite Cave, the last one is Jain cave while the rest belong to Vaishnavite deities.

In a way, it is a package tour to heavens. During your walk, gods present themselves to you in their most vibrant and forceful forms. You find them glorious and awe inspiring. Following were some of the most Stunning statures

Eighteen armed dancing Shiva is the first marvelous sculpture that you come across in the first cave. Lord of destruction performs the dance in almost animated manner covering array of dance postures carrying all his mythological implements. Nandi , Shiva’s vehicle, leans his head as Ganesh and his consort Parvathi join him in the dance.

Ardha narishwara is a master piece which is a harmonious merger of two diverse forms, as diverse as vertically split physical frames of a man and a woman. Unexplainable creativity might have undergone to imagine the form let alone carving it in the stones. Harihara is another of such fusion where Gods Shiva and Vishnu are merged into halves and which also portrays that the Vedic gods weren’t competitors as it happened centuries later in few of the subsequent Dravidian Kingdoms.

Varaha , the boar incarnation of Vishnu, majestically and gracefully lifting Lady-Earth out of the demonic land is a striking carving. Vishnu alighted on Sheshanaga and Vamana in his super form as Trivikrama spreading two of his legs on earth and sky and reaching out to Bali’s head with the third are captivating works. Partly vandalized Narasimha (man-lion) incarnation of Vishnu is a note worthy carving.

I was more fascinated by the statues of the lesser Gods!.  “Vidhyadara “ couple floating and hovering over the skies came close to look real. Their bond and relish have come out in a poignant and poetic manner; they very much looked any couple on honeymoon. Then there were the celestial love making couple whom I noted while stretching my neck to peer at the roofs. They didn’t seem much bothered by my presence.

Jain caves seem to have received special attention of the vandals. Faces of many of the statues here have been scratched.  Relatively less ornate but exceedingly graceful Jain Tirthankaras provide a diverse and sating sight. They are mostly busy meditating and solemnly posing. Some meditate long enough to allow the creepers to wind around their limbs.

Gigantntic lake “Agasthya “ and a complex of 7th century temples are added attractions. The statues in these temples are either damaged or missing but their exterior is grand. Buthanatha, Jambuling Complex of temples and the Hill top and lower Shiva temples are all grand examples of Chalukyan architecture.

Wonderfully carved statues are not the only things you find inside the 6th Century cave temples of Badami. There, in their shadowy womb, garbed in the serene silence, lay the glory of Chalukyan dynasty and divine beauty of ancient craftsmanship. Visit to the place, with an awareness of the historical background is likely to be a satisfying experience.


Joyer Noronha - Archives:



By Joyer Noronha
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Comment on this article

  • Anita, Kinnigoli

    Sun, Oct 02 2011


    Good to see that you have brought the hidden treasure to limelight. The pictures tell the story too. Places like these are the best venues for tourism. Keep visiting more places and presenting the travelogues. Best wishes to you.

  • S Bhat, USA

    Sat, Oct 01 2011

    Thanks for the wonderful article,very ineresting.Wish Govt would do more to make tourist friendly so that every one can see the historical & cultural heritage of our wonderful country.Thank you Mr.Narohna for taking time to travel & enlighten us with your article. Other wise we would not have known about this place.

  • SK, USA

    Thu, Sep 29 2011

    I have visited quite a few museums around the world including in Russia and the United States with reman from civilizations around the word. One thing which Surprised me was these type of architectural work in India. Nowhere have I seen such good work.

  • Ramesh poojary, Kadri

    Thu, Sep 29 2011

    In a different coutry these places would have been treated as national treasure.
    Thanks for the article.

  • VNayak, Mangalore/Switzerland

    Thu, Sep 29 2011

    Badami, Aihole, Padatkal and Hampi are some of the oldest and most valuable monuments and ruins in India as a whole. They show the grandeur of two great empires - Chalukyas and Vijaynagar. In any other country these would be huge tourist attractions. But successive governments in Karnataka have shown no interest in developping these places for tourism. It is difficult to get there and decent hotel accomodation is non existent. (Well,with the Tourism minister called Reddy the interest was more in the nearby Bellary of course).

  • Sudheer Pai, Suratkal

    Thu, Sep 29 2011

    Great coverage Mr.Joyer. From Amsterdam to Badami... You are covering great distances. Expect more articles from you in future.

  • Sunitha, Karkala/Dubai

    Thu, Sep 29 2011

    Wonderful photography... Your photography will definitely tempt people to go and see this place..Well done

  • Harish Shetty, Sakinaka

    Sun, Sep 25 2011

    Good scuptures and good explanation.


    Sun, Sep 25 2011

    thanks for publishing for breath taking sculpture but badly needed chaddi.because we are in 21 century civilized and modernised.

  • Eugene Dsouza, Kadri/ Kuwait

    Sat, Sep 24 2011

    As you have written, we all want to see but it is far away. "culturally away", well said.

    Thanks for this article

  • Rehna, MANGALORE

    Sat, Sep 24 2011

    Very good Article. Even in my school days i had heard of badami & social studies text contained the black & white photos. It was nice to see the colour photographs. Joyer it was good if you had written how to reach the historical place. There are lots of Historical places which we do not know. A humble request to all the writers do mention how to rach these places (Way & Locations)

  • Ravi Lobo, Kinnigoli/ Wisconsin

    Sat, Sep 24 2011

    This is another very well written travelogue nice to see you writing frequently—now. Since, I have read all your articles, I notice that they (articles) are becoming more and more smoother. I hope you write often, and entertain us—Daiji readers—with your vast knowledge on diverse subjects. I can see another Bill Bryson in the making. Bryson didn’t cover India. So, there is a vast subject waiting to be explored. Good luck.

  • Dexter Britto, Mangalore/Auckland

    Sat, Sep 24 2011

    Very well written article.Badami is one of the heritage places in Bijapur along with Aihole and pattadakal that require maintenance. I had been to these places in 1985 and even then the places were not maintained properly. Hope the government wakes up and improves conditions to attract tourists.

  • geoffrey, hathill

    Sat, Sep 24 2011

    Another good report, took me back to my school days. It’s really disheartening to learn the sorry state of our historic and cultural heritage and it would be imprudent to expect the government to do anything to do in this regard as half of our leaders are busy raking in the dough by hook or crook and the other half waiting for their turn. May be people like Vijay Mallya who bought Tipu’s sword for Rs 1.5 Cr in an auction in UK in 2004, can do something to conserve the legacy of our state.

  • Vasant Raj, Udupi / Abudhabi.

    Sat, Sep 24 2011

    What a beautiful place and a peace full destination. I wanted to visit.

  • Mike, KSA

    Sat, Sep 24 2011

    Good one.

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