The sleepy villages of Badami, Pattadakal and Aihole were once the capital cities of the Chalukyas who ruled much of the Deccan between the 4th and 8th centuries. They built an astonishing profusion of temples, many of which are still in a remarkable state of preservation.
At Badami there are many cave temples, featuring rock cut sculptures of various religious figures. This is therefore a fascinating, little visited area, which definitely rewards the effort involved in reaching here.
What to see
- Rock Cut Cave Temples: The first masterpiece you’ll see in the 4 famous cave temples of Badami is the well-known 18-armed Nataraja (Shiva) who strikes 81 dance poses, if you really notice.
The figures of Shiva, Vishnu and their incarnations are more than life size. Cave 4, the last one, is the only Jain Temple in Badami. The 24th Tirthankara - Mahavira, sits in a uniquely comfortable pose here, against a cushion in the inner shrine.
Shiva Temples: On the other shore, inside a shelter overhung with a huge tamarind tree, whose graceful boughs dip into the lake, is Nagamma, the local serpent goddess. Near it are two Shiva temples, deifying Shiva as Bhuthanatha, God of Souls. Inside the dark inner shrine of the temple, on the edge of the water, he sits in a rarely seen pose, leaning back, angry and impressive. There is a legend here about the sage Agastya Muni, who cured the king of leprosy and meditated on top of the cliffs, beneath the overhanging of a rock, beside a natural sacred pool. Climb up quite an easy beaten path, traversed by cows, and women with water jars, to this shelter. Incarnations of Vishnu are sculpted on the rock. The pool is dark, mossy green, a magical place to meditate in, overlooking the valley.
Sculpture Gallery: Take a look at the sculpture collection from Badami, Aihole and Pattadakal, in the Sculpture Gallery. An interesting sight here is the model of the natural bridge, Sidilinapadi, which is 5 km from Badami. At the gates of the Gallery, steps lead up to the fort temples of Shiva.
Banashankari Temple: A little way away, en route to Pattadakal, you come to Banashankari, the goddess the village is named after. The goddess is black, riding a snarling gold lion, 8-armed, so powerful that the incense-heavy air hypnotises you as you set eyes upon Her. Outside, there is the tank which the goddess was transformed into. Past green swelling hills covered with yellow flowers, the smoke from potters’ kilns thickens the air. You’ve reached Mahakuta. At the famous Mahakutdswara Temple, a natural spring, sweet and cold , called Kashi Tirtha, like the Ganga, said to wash your sins away, gurgles in a moat outside. From here Pattadakal is 12 km away.
Air: Belgaum airport is 150 km away.
Rail: It is on the Hubli-Sholapur rail route, well-connected by rail and road.
Road: It is 128 km from Hubli and 163 km from Bijapur.
Rainfall: July to September. STD Code: 08357