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Buddha in Ardha-Naarishvara sculpture in Badami Cave temples?

Buddha in Ardha-Naarishvara sculpture in Badami Cave temples?

Badami caves are a series of cave-temples built between 6th and 8th century. In the first cave, dedicated to hindu god Lord Shiva, there is an image of "Ardha-Naarishvara".

I was intrigued by the figure to the left of the deity - it shows a starved man with long ears. I could not help but think of starved Buddha image seen elsewhere. If it is indeed Buddha, it seems to me a gentle put-down of buddhism - buddha himself praying to hindu deity.

When I asked the local guide he told me that it is not Buddha but a male-chauvinist devotee of Shiva cursed by Shiva's consort Gauri, but I am not too convinced.

So my question: do we know what the temple builders intended by the starving figure? Opinion of experts of that era would be useful.


The figure is Bringhi, who refused to worship Parvati/Gauri and is an important part in the legend of Ardhanarishvara, and is often depicted with Shiva:


Badami Cave Temples

The Badami cave temples are a complex of four Hindu, a Jain and possibly Buddhist cave temples located in Badami, a town in the Bagalkot district in northern part of Karnataka, India. The caves are considered an example of Indian rock-cut architecture, especially Badami Chalukya architecture, which dates from the 6th century. Badami was previously known as Vataapi Badami, the capital of the early Chalukya dynasty, which ruled much of Karnataka from the 6th to the 8th century. Badami is situated on the west bank of a man made lake ringed by an earthen wall with stone steps it is surrounded on the north and south by forts built in later times.

The Badami cave temples represent some of the earliest known examples of Hindu temples in the Deccan region. They along with the temples in Aihole transformed the Malaprabha River valley into a cradle of temple architecture that influenced the components of later Hindu temples elsewhere in India.

Caves 1 to 4 are in the escarpment of the hill in soft Badami sandstone formation, to the south-east of the town. In Cave 1, among various sculptures of Hindu divinities and themes, a prominent carving is of the Tandava-dancing Shiva as Nataraja. Cave 2 is mostly similar to Cave 1 in terms of its layout and dimensions, featuring Hindu subjects of which the relief of Vishnu as Trivikrama is the largest. The largest cave is Cave 3, featuring Vishnu-related mythology, and it is also the most intricately carved cave in the complex. Cave 4 is dedicated to revered figures of Jainism. Around the lake, Badami has additional caves of which one may be a Buddhist cave. Another cave was discovered in 2015, about 500 metres (1,600 ft) from the four main caves, with 27 Hindu carvings.
The Badami cave temples are located in the town of Badami in the north-central part of Karnataka, India. The temples are about 88 miles (142 km) east of Belgavi (IATA Code: IXT), and 87 miles (140 km) northwest of Hampi. The Malaprabha River is 3 miles (4.8 km) away. The cave temples are 14 miles (23 km) from the UNESCO world heritage site Pattadakal and 22 miles (35 km) from Aihole – another site with over a hundred ancient and early medieval era Hindu, Jain and Buddhist monuments.
Badami, also referred to as Vatapi, Vatapipura, Vatapinagari and Agastya Tirtha in historical texts, the capital of Chalukya dynasty in the 6th century, is at the exit point of a ravine between two steep mountain cliffs. Four cave temples in the escarpment of the hill to the south-east of the town were carved into the cliff’s monolithic stone face. The escarpment is above a man made lake called Agastya Lake, created by an earthen dam faced with stone steps. To the west end of this cliff, at its lowest point, is the first cave temple. The largest and highest cave is Cave 3, which is further to the east on the northern face of the hill. The fourth cave, Cave 4, is a few steps down further east.
The cave temples, numbered 1 to 4 in the order of their creation, in the town of Badami – the capital city of the Chalukya kingdom (also known as Early Chalukyas) – are dated from the late 6th century onwards. The exact dating is known only for Cave 3, which is a temple dedicated to Vishnu. An inscription found here records the dedication of the shrine by Mangalesha in Saka 500 (lunar calendar, 578/579 CE). The inscription, written in the old Kannada language, has enabled the dating of these rock cave temples to the 6th century. This makes the cave the oldest firmly-dated Hindu cave temple in India.

The Badami caves complex is part of a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site candidate under the title “Evolution of Temple Architecture – Aihole-Badami-Pattadakal” in the Malaprabha river valley, considered a cradle of temple architecture that formed the model for later Hindu temples in the region. The artwork in Caves 1 and 2 exhibit the northern Deccan style of the 6th and 7th centuries, while those in Cave 3 simultaneously represent two ancient Indian artistic traditions the northern Nagara and the southern Dravida styles. Cave 3 also shows icons and reliefs in the so-called Vesara style, a fusion of ideas from the two styles, as well as some of the earliest surviving historical examples in Karnataka of yantra-chakra motifs (geometric symbolism) and colored fresco paintings. The first three caves feature sculptures of Hindu icons and legends focusing on Shiva and Vishnu, while Cave 4 features Jain icons and themes.
The Badami cave temples are carved out of soft Badami sandstone on a hill cliff. The plan of each of the four caves (1 to 4) includes an entrance with a verandah (mukha mandapa) supported by stone columns and brackets, a distinctive feature of these caves, leading to a columned mandapa, or main hall (also maha mandapa), and then to the small, square shrine (sanctum sanctorum, garbha ghriya) cut deep inside the cave. The cave temples are linked by a stepped path with intermediate terraces overlooking the town and lake. The cave temples are labelled 1–4 in their ascending series this numbering does not reflect the sequence of excavation.

The architecture includes structures built in the Nagara and Dravidian styles, which is the first and most persistent architectural idiom to be adopted by the early chalukyas.


Badami Cave Temples

The Badami cave temples are a complex of temples located at Badami, a town in the Bagalkot District in the north part of Karnataka, India. They are considered an example of Indian rock-cut architecture, especially Badami Chalukya Architecture. Badami, the capital of the Early Chalukyas, who ruled much of Karnataka in the 6th to 8th centuries, lies at the mouth of a ravine with rocky hills on either side and a town tank in which water from the ravine flows. The town is known for its ancient cave temples carved out of the sandstone hills above.

The Badami cave temples are composed of four caves, all carved out of the soft Badami sandstone on a hill cliff in the late 6th to 7th centuries. The planning of four caves is simple. The entrance is a verandah (mukha mandapa) with stone columns and brackets, a distinctive feature of these caves, leading to a columned mandapa – main hall (also maha mandapa) and then to the small square shrine (sanctum sanctorum, garbhaghrha) cut deep into the cave. The temple caves represent different religious sects. Among them, two (cave 2 and 3) are dedicated to god Vishnu, one to god Shiva (cave 1) and the fourth (cave 4) is a Jain temple. The first three are devoted to the Vedic faith and the fourth cave is the only Jain temple at Badami.

The cave temples date back to 600 and 700 CE. Their architecture is a blend of North Indian Nagara Style and South Indian Dravidian style. As described above each cave has a sanctum sanctorum, a mandapa, a verandah and pillars. The cave temples also bear exquisite carvings, sculptures and beautiful murals.

Important part of historical heritage at Badami cave temples are inscriptions in old Kannada script. There is also the fifth cave temple in Badami – Buddhist temple in natural cave which can be entered only on all fours.


Buddha in Ardha-Naarishvara sculpture in Badami Cave temples? - History

The Badami cave temples are a complex of four Hindu, a Jain and possibly Buddhist cave temples located in Badami, a town in the Bagalkot district in northern part of Karnataka, India. The caves are considered an example of Indian rock-cut architecture, especially Badami Chalukya architecture, which dates from the 6th century. Badami was previously known as Vataapi Badami, the capital of the early Chalukya dynasty, which ruled much of Karnataka from the 6th to the 8th century. Badami is situated on the west bank of a man made lake ringed by an earthen wall with stone steps it is surrounded on the north and south by forts built in later times.

The Badami cave temples represent some of the earliest known examples of Hindu temples in the Deccan region. They along with the temples in Aihole transformed the Malaprabha River valley into a cradle of temple architecture that influenced the components of later Hindu temples elsewhere in India.

Caves 1 to 4 are in the escarpment of the hill in soft Badami sandstone formation, to the south-east of the town. In Cave 1, among various sculptures of Hindu divinities and themes, a prominent carving is of the Tandava-dancing Shiva as Nataraja. Cave 2 is mostly similar to Cave 1 in terms of its layout and dimensions, featuring Hindu subjects of which the relief of Vishnu as Trivikrama is the largest. The largest cave is Cave 3, featuring Vishnu-related mythology, and it is also the most intricately carved cave in the complex. Cave 4 is dedicated to revered figures of Jainism. Around the lake, Badami has additional caves of which one may be a Buddhist cave. Another cave was discovered in 2015, about 500 metres (1,600 ft) from the four main caves, with 27 Hindu carvings.

Geography
The Badami cave temples are located in the town of Badami in the north-central part of Karnataka, India. The temples are about 88 miles (142 km) east of Belgavi (IATA Code: IXT), and 87 miles (140 km) northwest of Hampi. The Malaprabha River is 3 miles (4.8 km) away. The cave temples are 14 miles (23 km) from the UNESCO world heritage site Pattadakal and 22 miles (35 km) from Aihole – another site with over a hundred ancient and early medieval era Hindu, Jain and Buddhist monuments.

Badami, also referred to as Vatapi, Vatapipura, Vatapinagari and Agastya Tirtha in historical texts, the capital of Chalukya dynasty in the 6th century, is at the exit point of a ravine between two steep mountain cliffs. Four cave temples in the escarpment of the hill to the south-east of the town were carved into the cliff’s monolithic stone face. The escarpment is above a man made lake called Agastya Lake, created by an earthen dam faced with stone steps. To the west end of this cliff, at its lowest point, is the first cave temple. The largest and highest cave is Cave 3, which is further to the east on the northern face of the hill. The fourth cave, Cave 4, is a few steps down further east.

History
The cave temples, numbered 1 to 4 in the order of their creation, in the town of Badami – the capital city of the Chalukya kingdom (also known as Early Chalukyas) – are dated from the late 6th century onwards. The exact dating is known only for Cave 3, which is a temple dedicated to Vishnu. An inscription found here records the dedication of the shrine by Mangalesha in Saka 500 (lunar calendar, 578/579 CE). The inscription, written in the old Kannada language, has enabled the dating of these rock cave temples to the 6th century. This makes the cave the oldest firmly-dated Hindu cave temple in India.

The Badami caves complex is part of a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site candidate under the title “Evolution of Temple Architecture – Aihole-Badami-Pattadakal” in the Malaprabha river valley, considered a cradle of temple architecture that formed the model for later Hindu temples in the region. The artwork in Caves 1 and 2 exhibit the northern Deccan style of the 6th and 7th centuries, while those in Cave 3 simultaneously represent two ancient Indian artistic traditions the northern Nagara and the southern Dravida styles. Cave 3 also shows icons and reliefs in the so-called Vesara style, a fusion of ideas from the two styles, as well as some of the earliest surviving historical examples in Karnataka of yantra-chakra motifs (geometric symbolism) and colored fresco paintings. The first three caves feature sculptures of Hindu icons and legends focusing on Shiva and Vishnu, while Cave 4 features Jain icons and themes.

Temple caves
The Badami cave temples are carved out of soft Badami sandstone on a hill cliff. The plan of each of the four caves (1 to 4) includes an entrance with a verandah (mukha mandapa) supported by stone columns and brackets, a distinctive feature of these caves, leading to a columned mandapa, or main hall (also maha mandapa), and then to the small, square shrine (sanctum sanctorum, garbha ghriya) cut deep inside the cave. The cave temples are linked by a stepped path with intermediate terraces overlooking the town and lake. The cave temples are labelled 1–4 in their ascending series this numbering does not reflect the sequence of excavation.

The architecture includes structures built in the Nagara and Dravidian styles, which is the first and most persistent architectural idiom to be adopted by the early chalukyas.

Cave 1
Cave 1 is about 59 feet (18 m) above ground level on the north-west part of the hill. Access is through a series of steps that depict carvings of dwarfish ganas in different postures as if they hold the cave floor. The verandah, with an inner measurement of 70 feet (21 m) by 65 feet (20 m), has five columns sculpted with reliefs of flower garlands, foliage and jewelry.

The cave portrays the Tandava-dancing Shiva as Nataraja on the rock face to the right of entrance. The image, 5 feet (1.5 m) tall, has 18 arms in a form that expresses the dance positions arranged in a geometric pattern, which Alice Boner – a Swiss art historian and Indologist, states is a time division symbolizing the cosmic wheel. The eighteen arms express Natya mudras (symbolic hand gestures), with some holding objects such as drums, a flame torch, a serpent, a trident and an axe. Shiva has his son Ganesha and the bull Nandi by his side. Adjoining the Nataraja, the wall depicts the goddess Durga of Shaktism tradition slaying the buffalo-demon Mahishasura.

On the left of the entrance is a two handed Shaiva dvarapala who holds a trident, and below him is a bull-elephant fused image where they share a head seen from left it is an elephant and from right a bull. Once inside the veranda, the cave presents a carved sculpture of Harihara, a 7.75-foot (2.36 m) high sculpture of a fused image that is half-Shiva and half-Vishnu. He is flanked on respective sides with the goddesses Parvati and Lakshmi. To the right, toward the end of the wall, is a relief sculpture of Ardhanarishvara, a fused image of Shiva and his consort Parvati. Next to the half that represents Parvati is an attendant carrying a tray of jewels. Next to the Ardhanarishvara half that represents Shiva is Nandi the bull, and skeletal Bhringi, a devotee of Shiva.

Inside this cave, the sons of Shiva, Ganesha and Kartikeya, the god of war and family deity of the Chalukya dynasty, are seen in one of the carved sculptures on the walls of the cave, with Kartikeya riding a peacock. The roof of the cave has five carved panels with the central panel depicting the Nagaraja, with flying couples on both sides. The head and bust are well formed and project from the centre of the coil. In another compartment a bas-relief 2.5 feet (0.76 m) in diameter has carvings of a male and female the male is Yaksha carrying a sword and the female is Apsara with a flying veil. The succeeding panel has carvings of two small figures and the panel at the end is carved with lotuses.

All the figures are adorned with carved ornaments and surrounded by borders with reliefs of animals and birds. The lotus design is a common theme. On the ceiling are images of the Vidyadhara couples as well as couples in courtship and erotic Mithuna scenes. Through a cleft in the back wall of the cave is a square sanctuary with more carved images. In the mandapa is a seated Nandi facing the garbha ghriya (sacrum sanctum) containing a Shiva linga.

Cave 2
Cave 2 is above and to the east of Cave 1 and faces north. It was created in late 6th or early 7th century. It is smaller than Cave 1, somewhat similar in terms of its floor plan, but it is dedicated primarily to Vishnu. Cave 2 is reached by climbing 64 steps from the first cave. The cave entrance is a verandah divided by four square pillars with ends as half pillars, all carved out of the monolithic stone face. The pillars have decorative carvings with frieze of ganas (mythical dwarfs) with various facial expressions. On the two sides of the entrance are standing dvarapalas (guardians) holding flowers, not weapons. Like Cave 1, Cave 2 art reflects Hindu theology and arts.

The largest relief in Cave 2 depicts the legend of Vishnu in his Trivikrama form, taking one of the three steps. Below the raised step is a frieze showing the legend of Vamana dwarf avatar of Vishnu, before he morphs into the Trivikrama form. Another major relief shows the legend of Vishnu in his Varaha (a boar) avatar rescuing goddess earth (Bhudevi) from the depths of cosmic ocean, with a penitent multi-headed snake (Nāga) below. Like other major murti (statue) in this and other Badami caves, the Varaha artwork is set in a circle and symmetrically laid out according to Alice Boner, the panel is an upright rectangle whose “height is equal to the octopartite directing circle and sides are aligned to essential geometric ratios, in this case to the second vertical chord of the circle”. The walls and ceiling have traces of colored paint, suggesting the cave used to have fresco paintings.

Inside the temple are friezes showing stories from Hindu texts such as the Bhagavata Purana. These show the legend of cosmic ocean churning (Samudra Manthan) and Krishna’s birth and flute playing indicating the theological and cultural significance of these in 7th century India. The ceiling and door head carvings show Gajalakshmi, the swastika symbols, flying couples, Brahma, Vishnu asleep on Shesha and others.

The ceiling of Cave 2 shows a wheel with sixteen fish spokes in a square frame. The end bays have a flying couple and Vishnu on Garuda. The main hall in the cave is 33.33 feet (10.16 m) wide, 23.583 feet (7.188 m) deep, and 11.33 feet (3.45 m) high and is supported by eight square pillars in two rows. The roof of this hall has panels filled with bas-relief carvings. The sculptures of Cave 2, like Cave 1, are of the northern Deccan style of the 6th and 7th century similar to that found in Ellora caves.

Cave 3
Cave 3 is earliest dated Hindu temple in the Deccan region. It is dedicated to Vishnu it is the largest cave in the complex. It has intricately carved friezes and giant figures of Trivikrama, Anantasayana, Vasudeva, Varaha, Harihara and Narasimha. Cave 3’s primary theme is Vaishnavite, though it also shows Harihara on its southern wall – half Vishnu and half Shiva shown fused as one, making the cave important to Shaivism studies.

Facing north, Cave 3 is 60 steps from Cave 2 at a higher level. Cave 3’s verandah is 70 feet (21 m) in length with an interior width of 65 feet (20 m) it has been sculpted 48 feet (15 m) deep into the mountain an added square shrine at the end extends the cave 12 feet (3.7 m) further inside. The verandah itself is 7 feet (2.1 m) wide and has four free-standing, carved pillars separating it from the hall. The cave is 15 feet (4.6 m) high it is supported by six pillars, each measuring 2.5 square feet (0.23 m2). Each column and pilaster is carved with wide, deep bases crowned with capitals that are partly hidden by brackets on three sides. Each bracket, except for one, has carvings of human figures standing under foliage in different postures, of male and female mythological characters, and an attendant figure of a dwarf. A moulded cornice in the facia, with a dado of blocks below it (generally 7 feet (2.1 m) long), has about thirty compartments carved with two dwarves called ganas.

Cave 3 also shows fresco paintings on the ceiling, some of which are faded and broken. These are among the earliest known surviving evidence of fresco painting in Indian art. The Hindu god Brahma is seen on Hamsa vahana in one of the murals. The wedding of Shiva and Parvati, attended by various Hindu deities is the theme of another.

There is a lotus medallion on the floor underneath the ceiling mural of Brahma. The ceiling has reliefs of many Vedic gods and goddesses such as Agni, Indra and Varuna. The cave artworks, in some cases, show the artists signatures, as well as a major inscription. This and other epigraphical evidence suggests that the cave temple was inaugurated on the “full moon day, 1 November 578”. The roof of the verandah has seven panels created by cross beams each is painted in circular compartments with images of deities including Shiva, Vishnu, Indra, Brahma and Kama, with smaller images of Dikpalas (cardinal guardians) at the corners.

The roof of the front aisle has panels with murals in the centre of male and female figurines flying in the clouds the male figure is yaksha holding a sword and a shield. Decoration of lotus blooms are also seen on the panels. The roof of the hall is divided into nine panels slightly above the level of the ceiling. The central panel here depicts a deva mounted on a ram – conjectured to be Agni. Images of Brahma and Varuna are also painted on the central panels the floating figures are seen in the remaining panels.

The sculpture in Cave 3 is well preserved. Vishnu is presented in various avatars and forms, such as a standing Vishnu with eight arms Vishnu seated on the hooded serpent Shesha on the eastern side of the veranda Vishnu as standing Narasimha (man-lion avatar) Vishnu as Varaha (man-boar avatar) rescuing earth Harihara (half Shiva, half Vishnu and their equivalence) and Trivikrama-Vamana avatars. The back wall has carvings of Vidhyadharas. The cave shows many Kama scenes in pillar brackets, where a woman and a man are in courtship or mithuna (erotic) embrace.

Aspects of the culture, cosmetics and clothing in the 6th century is visible in the art sculpted in this cave, showing a sophisticated tradition.

Cave 4
Located immediately next to and east of Cave 3, Cave 4 floor is situated about 10 feet lower and is the smallest of the four. It is dedicated to Tirthankaras, the revered figures of Jainism. It was constructed after the first three, sponsored by Hindu kings in later part of the 7th-century. Some scholars state this cave may have been created in the 8th century. Some embellishments were likely added in later centuries until about the 11th or 12th century.

Like the other caves, Cave 4 features detailed carvings and a diverse range of motifs. The cave has a five-bayed entrance with four square columns – each with brackets and capitals. To the back of this verandah is a hall with two standalone and two joined pillars. The first aisle is a verandah 31 feet (9.4 m) long by 6.5 feet (2.0 m) wide, extending to 16 feet (4.9 m) deep. From the hall, steps lead to the sanctum sanctorum, which is 25.5 feet (7.8 m) wide extends to a depth of 6 feet (1.8 m).

Inside the cave are major carvings of Bahubali, Parshvanatha and Mahavira with symbolic display of other Tirthankaras. Bahubali is standing in Kayotsarga meditating posture with vines wrapped around his leg, his classic iconography. Parshvanatha is shown with the five-headed cobra hood. Mahavira is represented sitting on a lion throne, whose identifying markers are not visibly and is identified by some scholars simply as a “seated Jina”. This figure is flanked by bas-reliefs of attendants with chauri (fans), sardulas and makara’s heads. Other carvings include Indrabhuti Gautama covered by four snakes, Brahmi and Sundari. In the sanctum is an image of Mahavira resting on a pedestal containing a 12th-century Kannada inscription marking the death of one Jakkave. Twenty four small Jaina Tirthankara images are engraved on the inner pillars and walls. In addition there are idols of Yakshas, Yakshis and Padmavati.

The artistic work, the icons to represents ideas and the motifs in Badami Cave 4, states Lisa Owens, resembles those of nearby Aihole Jain caves and much farther north Ellora Caves Jain caves in northern Maharashtra.

Other caves
Other than the numbered caves, Badami is home to many other cave monuments and medieval era temples. On the other side of the lake, near the Bhutanatha temple, is a 7th-8th century Chalukya period cave of small dimensions. Inside, there is a carved statue seated over a sculpted throne with reliefs showing people holding chauris (fans), a Pipal tree, elephants, and lions in an attacking pose. On one side of the statue is a chakra, on the other a conch shell. The statue wears abundant jewelry and a thread over its chest. The face of this statue is damaged and missing its face.

There are several theories as to who the statue represents. One theory holds that it is a relief of the Buddha in a sitting posture. According to this theory, those holding the chauris are Bodhisattvas flanking the Buddha. According to George Michell, the halo, the Pipal tree and cloak-like dress suggests that this was originally a Buddha statue. The shrine, states this theory, was converted to Hindu worship in recent times. According to B.V. Shetti – archaeologist and curator of Prince of Wales Museum of Western India, the cave was not converted but from the start represented a tribute to Mayamoha of the Hindu Puranas, or Buddhavatara Vishnu (ninth avatar of Vishnu). This theory is supported by the chakra, conch and jewelry included in its iconography. The style suggests it was likely carved in or before the 8th century.

Another theory found in colonial-era texts such as one by John Murray – a missionary in British India and Jainism scholar, states the main image carved in Cave 5 is that of a Jaina figure. According to a third theory, by Henry Cousens and A. Sundara – archaeologists, and supported by local legends, the statue is of an ancient king in a photograph of the statue taken before its face was damaged, the figure lacked the Ushnisha lump that typically goes with Buddha’s image. The statue has several unusual, non-Buddha ornaments such as rings for fingers, a necklace and a chest-band it wears a Hindu Yajnopavita thread and its head is stylistically closer to a Jina head than a Buddha head. These features suggest the statue may be of a king represented with features of various traditions. According to Carol Radcliffe Bolon – Assistant Curator at the Smithsonian Freer Gallery of Art, the date and identity of the main statue in Cave 5 remains enigmatic.

Close to the controversial cave are other monuments. One of them is a small shrine consisting of a 7th-century rock carving of Anantashayana Vishnu, or reclining Vishnu with Lakshmi and Garuda in namaste posture. Vishnu is shown restarting the cosmic cycle by giving birth to all of existence. Above the reclining carved relief are the ten avatars of Vishnu – Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Narasimha, Vamana, Parashurama, Rama, Krishna, Buddha and Kalki. Between the Narasimha and Vamana is shown a relief of Brahma cord connected to Vishnu’s navel. To the left of the relief is depicted the Trinity – Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma, while to the right is a human couple and a mother cow with a calf feeding.

In 2013, Manjunath Sullolli – Assistant Director of Bagalkot district working for the state government of Karnataka, reported the discovery of another cave with 27 rock carvings, about 500 metres (1,600 ft) from the four main caves. Water gushes from this newly discovered cave year round. It depicts Vishnu and other Hindu deities, and features an inscription in the Devanagari script. The dating of these carvings is unknown.


Badami Cave Temple

The Badami cave temples are a series of unique rock cut temples located in Badami, a town in the north part of Karnataka. These exquisite temples represent Indian art and architecture at its finest and reflect the precision of Indian craftsmanship prevailing in those days. Numbering four in all, this complex of temples is dedicated to Hindu, Jain and even Buddhist deities with deep religious significance for all the faiths. Situated on the western banks of an artificial Lake, Badami is surrounded on the north and south by forts which were built over a period of time. The towering cliffs above the Lake are made of soft sandstone and many shrines were sculpted out of the soft rock, which overlook the former capital city. Acclaimed by UNESCO as a shining example of Indian temple architecture, Badami is credited with the distinction of having inspired the characteristics of Hindu temples built elsewhere in the Indian subcontinent.

History of Badami Cave Temples

Previously known as Vataapi, Badami was the capital of the early Chalukya dynasty which held sway over most of Karnataka from the 6th to the 8th century. The inscriptions found in the temple complex indicate the origins dating back to as early as the beginning of the 6th century. The Cave temples have withstood the vagaries of time and are still well preserved, which speak volumes about the precision and architecture of those times.

Significance of Badami Cave Temples

Several inscriptions are found in Kannada and Sanskrit which date back to as early as 542 A. D, and one of the most important one is believed to date back to 700 A. D. Some of these have still not been deciphered, but there is a beautiful carving of a ten leaf lotus in a circle. The four Cave temples are dedicated to various Indian deities and there also exists a fifth cave which is revered as a Buddhist temple. The first cave abounds with carving of Lord Shiva along with a frieze of his attendants, the Ganas. The ceiling is replete with murals of couples depicted in amorous positions which are still remarkably preserved in spite of the passage of time. There is an exquisitely carved relief of Shiva and Parvati along with several others, with an 18 armed Nataraja taking prominence over the others.

The second cave is dedicated to Lord Vishnu , portrayed as Trivikarma depicted in his Divine Avatar standing with one foot on Earth and the other directed northward. Vishnu is also represented here as Varaha (Boar) and Krishna Avatars.

Cave three is by far the largest among the lot with inscriptions etched all over the interiors. The ceilings of this humongous cave abound with magnificent paintings and a brilliant mural of Lord Brahma seated on a swan. On the floor below, is a Lotus medallion where offerings are laid. Several reliefs of Lord Vishnu depicted in various positions also proliferate in this huge cave.

The fourth cave is located higher than the other caves and dedicated to the Jain faith. The cave contains an elaborate carving of Thirthankara Parshavnatha with a serpent at his feet. It also contains a sculpture of the Jain Saint Mahavira in a seated pose and a standing Gomatesvara depicted in a serene posture with creepers twisted around his legs.

Badami Museum

The elegant cave Shrines feature a museum with an extensive collection of local sculptures and other artifacts. Lord Shiva’s bull Nandi, stands guard at the entrance and entrances visitors with its majestic presence. The remarkable Lajja-Gauri images pertaining to the fertility cult which flourished in that time are also displayed here.

Architecture of Badami Cave Temples

The Badami caves are built in the Nagara and Dravidian styles, which were prevalently adopted by the Chalukyas. These caves are considered a masterpiece of Rock cut architecture with Petroglyphs and rock art which date back to the early 6th century, featuring in the cave complex. These man-made structures are carved out of soft sandstone on the precipice of a hill. Several stone columns and brackets support the structures which lend a distinctive touch to these marvels of human workmanship. The caves are linked to each other by a stepped pathway with terraces overlooking the town and lake.

Festivals Related to Badami Cave Temples

Badami and the neighboring towns host several annual festivals which are celebrated with great fanfare. The region is famous for the annual temple festival held at Banashankari, in January-February and attracts a large number of visitors. The region is also famous for the Virupaksha Temple car Festival and Mallikarjuna Temple festival held in Pattadakal during March-April.

Benefits or Blessings of the primary deity- Badami Cave Temples

The Badami cave temples are frequented by Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and people of other faiths. All the three Gods in the holy trinity of Hinduism are represented here and visitors can seek the blessings of all the three celestial beings. People of the Jain faith also frequent the temples to pray to the Tirthankara and Mahavira.

Location – How to reach Badami Cave Temples

The Badami Cave temples are easily accessible mainly by road and located about 84 kilometers of Hubli.

By Flight: The nearest Airport is located at Hubli which is about 84 kilometres to Badami. Sambre Airport located in Belgaum is about 123 kilometres away.

By Rail: Badami is well linked by rail to all major cities of the country.

By Bus: There are regular buses plying from major cities of the country to Badami.

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The cave temples reflect both the South Indian Style (Dravidian) and the North Indian style (Nagara) of architecture. The interior of the four caves consists of an entrance with a verandah supported by stone pillars and brackets leading to the main hall and the shrine. The temples are connected by a stepped path with intermediate terraces, which overlook the town. The cave temples are marked 1 to 4 in an ascending series. There is also a fifth cave – a natural cave serving as a Buddhist temple that can be entered only by crouching.

Access to the cave which is about 59 feet above the ground level is through a series of steps. The columns of the verandah contain reliefs of the God Shiva shown in dancing poses and incarnations. The cave illustrates the dancing Shiva as Nataraja. Apart from God Shiva, a wall depicts Goddess Durga killing Mahishasura. The cave also contains carved sculptures of goddesses Laksmi and Parvati.


The merging of the old and the new

I loved the way nature was cleverly integrated into the creation of the Badami caves and this smart move helped them withstand the ravages of time. Interestingly, the present villagers too seem to have been inducted into this style of living and the little hamlet scattered at the foot of the sandstone hills, seamlessly blend into its atmospheric surroundings. With little banyan tree-shaded squares holding fresh produce markets, narrow residential lanes merging uphill into the sandstone caves, and traces of royal Chalukyan ruins lying interspersed among the commoner’s dwellings of today, Badami is what real India is all about. Rustic and idyllic with modest pride in its erstwhile glory.


Yallamma Temple

Yellamma Temple – a bonus find on the Bhutanatha – Badami Caves Trail

Technically my Bhuthanatha Temple Trail had ended for I was back to my car. However, I would like to extend this one to one other temple that I visited before I hit Badami Caves. Past my car, through narrow and interesting by-lanes by the Agasthya Lake and before I reached Badami Caves, I came across this well-maintained but ancient temple. The Yallamma temple attracted me with its intricate artistic facade. I could not make out much about the shrines but I loved capturing the latticework around its main door frame.

Yallamma Temple facing the Bhutanatha temple across the Lake Agasthya The Shrine pillars and doors of Yallamma Temple

The other thing that I liked about it was its pretty roof carvings. It seemed to follow the same style as the Mallikarjuna temple. I suppose it was built around that time.

With that, I end this mysterious trail of the Bhuthanatha temples. I leave you with a lot of unsolved mysteries. And I know that it is precisely that which will make you add this Bhuthanatha Temple Trail to your itinerary of Badami tourist places.


The Rock-Cut Cave Temples Of Badami

The Badami is noted for its beautiful carved cave temples, artificial lake, Museme & rock-cut into the cliff face of a red sandstone hill, of the 6th & 7th Centuries.

The town of Badami in India lies at the mouth of a ravine with rocky hills on either side. The cave temples are carved out of the soft sandstone of these hill cliffs.

Founded in 540 A.D. by Pulikesi I, Badami served as the capital of the Chalukyas. The Chalukyas ruled most of Karnataka, before the Rashtrakutas. These temples mark the emergence of the Chalukya style of temple architecture, which is a nice blend of the North Indian Nagara style and the South Indian Dravidian style.

The four cave temples of Badami were built by the son of Pulakesi I – Kirthivarman (ruled in 567 – 598 AD) and his brother Mangalesha I (ruled in 598 – 610 AD).

The town was later ruled by the Rashtrakutas, the Hoysalas, the kings of the Vijaynagar empire, the Marathas and was even under the regime of the Adil Shahi Dynasty but it still retains the stamp of the Chalukayas.

Temple atop the Badami caves.

In totality, there are four cave temples in Badami – all carved out of sand stone on the precipice of a hill. They all share the same plan – a veranda with columns and brackets leading to a main hall, the pillared maha mandapa which in turn leads to the small sanctum which houses the sculpture. There are many beautiful murals as well. At the cutting edge, one can see a reservoir that makes a perfect foreground to these architectural structures.

The water flowing from the ravine in Badami is gathered in an ancient artificial lake – Agastya tirtha reservoir. High above the water there are towering cliffs of comparatively soft sandstone. Royal shrines were made in these cliffs with grand view opening over the former capital city.

Important feature of Badami Caves and their surroundings is ancient inscriptions in Kannada and Sanskrit languages. In total in Badami there have been found 18 cliff inscriptions. The oldest is from 543 AD.

Legend has it there were two demon siblings Vatapi and Ilvala, who had a trick by which they could kill and make a meal of mendicants passing by. Their tricks worked until Sage Agastya came by and counter-tricked them and brought an end to Vatapi’s life. Two of the hills in Badami are supposed to represent the demons Ilvalan and Vatapi.

It is believed that name Badami has come from colour of its stone (badam – Almond).

The four cave temples represent the secular nature of the rulers then, with tolerance and a religious following that inclines towards Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Cave 1 is dedicated to Shiva, caves 2 and 3 to Vishnu, and cave 4 is a Jain temple.

The First Cave

The first temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Entrance portal can be reached by 40 steps and contains four freestanding square columns and two semi-columns. Below the columns there is a frieze with ganas – attendants of Shiva.

Built around 578 AD, this is believed to be the earliest of the four temples. This cave depicts Shiva in his dancing form – as Nataraja depicted with eighteen arms. There are no less than 81 different dancing poses of Nataraja depicted in this cave.

Shiva in his dancing form – as Nataraja

The first cave has gigantic carvings of Ardhanareeswara and Harira manifestations of Shiva in bas relief. It is made of red sandstone and has a hall with numerous pillars and a square shaped sanctum hollowed in the control back wall.

The Second Cave

Created in the late 6th century AD and dedicated to Vishnu. Here he is depicted in the magnificent Trivikrama form, where he is measuring the earth with one foot, and the sky with the other, with a third food resting on the head of Mahabali. Vishnu in this temple is represented also as Varaha (boar) and Krishna avatars. On its ceiling, are carvings of Vishnu on Garuda and several other scenes from the puranas.

Cave is reached by climbing 64 steps from the first cave. Entrance is adorned with reliefs of guardians (dvarapalas) with smaller female attendants shown.

The Third Cave

The largest and most renowned cave temple in Badami most likely is created in 578 – 580 AD. It is a 100 feet deep cave, with inscriptions dating this Vishnu temple to 578 CE during, the period of Kiritivarma Chalukya.

Facade of the temple is approximately 21 m wide and is adorned with a row of six massive columns. Whole cave is covered with magnificent adornments, including paintings on ceiling. Centrepiece of these murals is four-armed Brahma on his swan. On the floor below the mural of Brahma there is a lotus medallion – place where offerings were laid.

Art in cave 3 provides important information about the culture and clothing in this region in the 6th century.

This temple is also dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Here he is represented in various forms – as Vamana, the dwarf, as Trivikrama, an enormous entity measuring the world as Narasimha, the man-lion and as Varaha, lifting up Mother Earth from the sea. It also has a wonderful statue of Vishnu sitting on the serpent Adisesha. There are also murals depicting the divine marriage of Shiva and Parvati.

Badami Cave 3 looking outwards

The Fourth Cave

This is the only Jain temple in complex and the newest cave in complex, made in the late 6th century – 7th century AD. It is located higher than other caves. If compared to the three previous caves, this cave is less elaborate and smaller – but still beautiful and rich with adornment. It contains carving of the Tirthankara Parshavnatha with a serpent at his feet. Here is located also sculpture of Jain saint Mahavira in seated pose (often mistaken for Buddha) and standing Gomatesvara with creepers twisted around his legs.

Mahavir Jain Sculptures, Cave Temple 4, Badami

The Fifth Cave

There exists also the fifth cave in Badami. It is a natural cave of small dimensions with a Buddha statue carved inside. Area contains also many other temples.

A beautiful view of Badami town from Badami Cave 1

It is said that the better known caves of Elephanta and Ellora were modelled on the ones in Badami. The Kailasa Temple at Ellora, has been hewn out of an entire hillock, cut out from the parent hill and combines the best of cave and free-standing temples.

There are more examples of rock-cut architecture in India than anywhere else in the world. The early architects removed any rock that wasn’t part of the structure they meant to leave behind in the excavated interior of the cave. Most Indian rock-cut architecture is religious in nature. The carvings are often ancient Indian deities. There are more than 1,500 rock-cut structures known in India.

View of the Badami town from the top of the red sandstone outcrop which houses the four famous caves.


The Waves of Construction and Destruction

Agasthya Lake (Bhutanatha honda) in Badami

Construction, alteration, and mutilation of structures here happened in many waves as various kingdoms rose and fell in the Deccan Plateau.

It can be seen that the royal sponsorship changed with each of the reigning kings even within the Chalukya rule. The Buddhist carvings in the natural cave in the cliff were made by the 5th Century, that is before the Chalukyas chose Badami as their capital. The Shaivite rock-cut temple (Cave 1) was constructed after that around the mid 6th Century during the Chalukya rule. The two Vaishnavite rock-cut temples (Cave 2 and 3) were constructed after that in the late 6th Century. Cave 3 is dedicated during the reign of Mangalesha, the elder brother of Pulakeshi II. The Jain cave came up at the upper-most part by the 7th Century, probably during the reign of Pulakeshi II. It may be noted that the Jain Temple on top of Meguti Hill at Aihole also came up during that time. The Jain cave went through further enhancements during the 10th to 12th Century.

The Bhutanatha Temple at the lakeshore was built in the 8th Century. Ananthashayanam (Reclining Vishnu) Temple near Bhutanatha and the Tattukkodi Vishnu Temple on the northern side of the lake came up during the 12 Century CE. By 17th Century, a tomb for one Shahana Beebi was built on the western side of the lake by her husband Malik Aziz. As the guidebook by the Archeology Department says, it would be no exaggeration to call this the ‘Taj Mahal of Badami’.

As for the destruction of the statues and reliefs in Badami, it would have happened in various phases too. Unlike the structures of other caves and temples, the Buddhist carvings in the natural cave in the cliff are almost totally erased with painful effort. The purpose behind it seems to be to totally erase the history of Buddhism from there. Other structures went through only partial destruction, such as causing some damage to the nose and fingers. The purpose was primarily to desecrate and render them useless for worship. Historians consider that this later phase of destruction happened during invasions. Unlike those, the Buddhist carvings on the natural cave were erased, most likely, during the Chalukya reign itself. As discussed in, ‘Buddhism in Aihole – The Chalukya Period in Karnataka‘, Emperor Harsha of Kanauj (Harshavardhanana of the Vardhana Dynasty from North India) attacked Chalukya Kingdom during the reign of Pulakeshi II, and Pulakeshi could successfully protect his kingdom. Harsha’s devout support for Buddhism would have made Pulakeshi II antagonistic towards Buddhism during the war. This might be a cause for the total decline of Buddhist around the 7th-8th Century in this area, and possibly also a reason for the total erasing of the carvings from the cave. The Buddha statue in the Kostaraya’s cave would have been saved due to its connection with Pulakeshi’s father. Or, it is also possible that the statue in that cave came up after the fall of Chalukya Kingdom.

Anyway, all we can conclude from these waves of construction and destruction are that various emotions, attachments, fascinations, and delusions of various rulers and various groups have caused varying rises and falls of various systems during various times. This is very much in the nature of Samsara, and there is no reason to lament, grieve or emotionalize about any of these. All that we can learn from this phase is that a plethora of experimentations happened in this land during the rise and fall of various kingdoms, and even during the various kings within a kingdom. We can also see a significant presence of Mahayana Buddhism in Badami Caves with a clear influence from Ajanta and Ellora region at one point of time.


Watch the video: Badami Cave Temples, Karnataka (January 2022).