Badami Part 1 – Art In The Caves

Badami Cave Temple

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.

 Cave art  offer  a  fascinating  insight  into the  life  and  times  of   ancestors.   From the  prehistoric  etchings  of  the  caveman  to the   elaborate   sculptures  that we  see in  Badami  –  they  all have  stories  to tell.    When   etched on   a majestic   red   rocky  mountain   overlooking   a lake    it  takes  on undeniable  charm.  Badami is  one place  where   your  thirst  for  adventure  and  history   can  be  satiated simultaneously.  The  cave  art  appeals  to your  senses  while  ample  opportunities  for  trekking  and  rock climbing  provides  the  adrenaline  rush .

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.


Here is  a  place   where  time  has  progressed  slowly. People   still gather  firewood  and  the  roads  are  not  meant   for  gas   guzzling  monsters.  But don’t let  the  dusty roads  and  the easy village ambiance fool you.   Just a  little  away from all these  lie  breathtaking  works  of art.
Why   should  you  go

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 .

Vishnu Statue Badami

Getting  there

The  nearest  railway   station is  Badami .  From  Bangalore  to   Badami there are   regular  train  services .  You can   get  around  the   city  in  rickshaws .  But like  us  if  you decide  to drive  remember  the   approach  roads  to the   attractions  are   very narrow ,    winding  through   the a  heavily populated  old  part  of  the   town . There  are   quite a  lot of  opportunities to  capture  rural life.
It is   definitely not a   day trip  from  any of  the   major   cities   nearby ,  but   this  part of  Karnataka  has a  lot  of  historical attractions, Pattadakal  and Aihole  come to mind, that  are  definitely  worth a few  days.
A bit of  History
Stone age  tools  and     paintings  are   found  near  here,  pointing to  human settlement  here  long  back.   The  main tourist attraction  – the   temple  carvings  – were   estimated  to be   created  during  the  reign of the   Chalukya   dynasty.  In the  6th  century  Pulakesi  established  Chalukya  dynasty   with  Badami (known then as  Vatapi ) as  the  capital. These  caves  were   believed  to  be   commissioned   in  6th & and  early  7th   century .
And  some  mythology .. As  with  many of  the  places  with  spiritual or   religious  importance  this  town too features in  Hindu mythology,  and  yes  this  one  has  gore , plenty of …

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 .

If you  go , definitely pack  hiking  shoes ,   water ,  first aid kit,   camera  , well  wrapped  snacks  and   flash light .  If  you   are  into  hiking  plan to spend a  day here.  There are a  few  reasonable  accommodations nearby  . If  you are  adventurous do   try  the  street food,   they sure   smelled   good .  

Travelling   With  Kids .. c
limbing 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.
Part 2

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