We walked into a gaping hole in the mountain trying not to think about the pillars holding up the weight on top of us . This is Badami – located around 500 Km north of Bangalore , India’s tech Hub.
Viewing from far the cave looks like just another natural formation. Human enterprise helped morph these into galleries displaying stylized works of art. At one point in time these were functioning spiritual retreats.
6th century carvings set in an enchanted backdrop of imposing mountains , need I say more ? The majestic landscape provides the perfect backdrop for spiritual contemplation , wonder or adventure .
There are four caves carved into the sandstone and a small natural cave . A short drive from the center of the city takes you to the entrance of the caves . Buy the tickets and climb a few steps to reach the first cave. This cave is dedicated to Lord Siva and numerous carvings of Siva in different poses can be found throughout . Don’t forget to glance up the ceiling as well , there are beautiful depictions of mystical as well as amorous nature . Caves 2 & 3 are dedicated to Lord Vishnu and cave 4 is dedicated to the Jain Tirthankaras . There is a natural cave with a Buddhist shrine as well .There are impressive carvings of Lord Vishnu in Caves 2 & 3 as well as beautiful carvings of gods , goddesses , and animals .
Of all cave 3 is the largest and the grandest. Here again there are beautiful carvings and paintings on the walls and ceilings . Cave 4, the Jain cave, is the smallest and built around 100 after the others. Almost every inch of the cave surface is intricately carved. The view of the valley and the lake from here is breathtaking .
As the story goes Vatapi and his brother Ilavala were two Asura (demons) who used feed on unsuspecting travelers . Ilavala used to invite the travelers in and serve them delicious food prepared out of Vatapi’s body. Once the meal is over Vatapi’s body would break out of the traveler’s stomach’s on Ilavla’s command, thus killing the unsuspecting traveler. Suffice to say that they robbed the travellers first and then fed on them. One day Sage Agastya happened to be the unsuspecting traveler. Sensing their intentions Sage Agustya commanded Vatapi to be digested before his brother could revive his body parts , thus ending their reign of terror . The town became known as Vatapi and the the lake in the valley as Agastya Tirta .
Travelling With Kids .. climbing up to the caves is not difficult . Most kids can easily manage on their own . Be aware of the inquisitive monkeys. Keep food and drinks well hidden. On weekends and holidays expect a good crowd.