Badami Caves – Rocks with story to tell

Badami, situated in Bagalkot districtof Karnataka, was once capital of mighty Chalukya Empire, but is now famous as tourist destination for its historical monument – The Badami Caves. These caves are considered to be the most spectacularly carved caves found in South India. The four major caves, hewn out of the hill at great height, are temples dedicated to different deities of Hindu and Jain religion. They are considered to be places of utmost importance by the architectures and archaeologists, for the reason that these caves hold significant clues to the styles followed by the south Indian architectures of past. The caves were carved out of the Deccan sandstone that is abundantly available in the area, during the 6th century, under the rule of Chalukya Empire. The color of the Deccan sandstone is believed to have given the place its name, i.e. the color of Badam which means almond in local dialect.

Town of Badami seen from the caves

Town of Badami seen from the caves. Source: Andrea Kirkby’s photostream Flickr

The Four Caves of Badami

The caves of Badami are situated so high on top of a hill, just opposite to the fort of Badami, that nearly 2000 steps should be climbed to reach the entrance of the caves. Of the four caves in Badami, three are carved in the Brahmanical style, whereas the fourth one belongs to the Jain style.

The Cave temple 1 is considered to the oldest among the four caves of Badami, which was carved in 578 AD. The entrance is a verandah with stone pillars, which is a distinctive feature of these caves; leading to a columned main hall and then to the small square shrine cut deep into the cave. Made of Deccan sandstone or red sandstone, the temple is filled, even on the ceiling, with paintings and sculptures that is breathtaking. The paintings in this cave are on the ceiling of that of Lord Shiva as Nataraja, and Shiva and Parvati with a coiled serpent which has high aesthetic value. The Nataraja sculpture is the one of dancing Shiva with 18 arms, is situated on the right side of the entrance.

Badami Cave Temple 1 dedicated to Lord Shiva as Nataraja

Badami Cave Temple 1 dedicated to Lord Shiva as Nataraja

The Cave 2, situated just above the Cave 1 is dedicated to the Hindu god Lord Vishnu. In front of the cave are guards with lotus in their hands. Vishnu is shown in his different incarnations on the wall painting. In the painting known as Trivikrama, Vishnu is shown as conquering the earth and they sky with his two feet. There is also an image of the God in form of a boar which is known as Varahavatar or Bhuvaraha. The ceilings have engravings of Vishnu, Brahma, Shiva and other deities. One of the eye catching paintings is that of Lord Krishna, riding a Garnda and the lotus encircled by 16 fishes.

Badami Cave dedicated to Lord Vishu

Badami Cave Temple 2 dedicated to Lord Vishu. Source: olderock1’s photostream Flickr

Cave 3 with an opening of nearly 70 feet wide with some exquisite carvings, is the biggest and most attractive of the four caves of Badami. The Cave 3 consists of giant figures of Paravasudeva, Bhuvaraha, Harihara and Narasimha all various avatars of Vishnu. Though the paintings of the ceiling have lost its color, they still retain their beauty. The inscriptions found in the cave indicate that the cave was built by Chalukya Mangalesha.

Badami Cave 3 of Shiva and Vishnu

Badami Cave Temple 3 of Shiva and Vishnu. Source: olderock1’s photostream Flickr

The Cave 4 was completed nearly 100 years after the completion of the first 3 caves. This is the only cave in Badami dedicated to Jain religion. The major attraction of the cave is the glorious image of Mahavira, the founder of the Jainism situated inside the sanctum. Many Jain Thirthankara images adorn the inner pillars and walls, moreover there are some idols of Bahubali, Yakshas and Yakshis in this cave. As the cave 4 is situated to the east of the other three caves, and also from near the cave we find stone steps leading to the Badami Fort, it would complete the journey if started from Cave 1.

Cave temples at Badami

Cave temples at Badami. Source: Andrea Kirkby’s photostream Flickr

Location and other attractions of Badami

The town Badami is located on the banks of a lake of breathtaking beauty, namely ‘Agasthya Tirtha’ which surrounds it on three sides. The other side lies at the mouth of the ravine between two rocky hills, representing the demons Vatapi and Ilvala; who are believed to have haunted the place in the past.

Besides the famous cave temples other destinations to look for when you are in Badami are:

A natural Buddhist cave, which is so low that one can only enter it only by crawling on their knees

Badami Fort on top of a cliff opposite of the Badami cave temples

Archaeological museum housing sculptures of the Chalukyan Empire of Badami, and of nearby towns of Aihole and Pattadakal.

Temples dedicated to Shiva, known as Shivalayas constructed in 7th Century, of which Malegitti-Shivalaya is perhaps the oldest temple and also the finest in Badami.

The 11th century Mallikarjuna temple, which is uniquely built on the star shaped base.

Temples dedicated to Dattatreya, Banashankari and Bhutanatha which dates back to 5th century.

Panoramic points on top of the North Fort, which gives a bird’s eye view of Badami.

Badami’s stone cliffs attract not only local but also international climbers. The stone cliff is a great location for free rock climbing and bouldering.

The Badami cave temples are open to tourists till 6 p.m. It is located 30 km from Bagalkot and 589 km from Bangalore. The nearest airport is Belgaum about 150 kilometers away from the town.

Badami cave temples – Karnataka

More places to visit in South India

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29 Responses to “Badami Caves – Rocks with story to tell”

  1. Michael Belk says:

    What a magnificent site. I could curl up to a nice fire and watch the views all day. The people who designed the caves were going for beauty and longevity.

  2. Shalu Di what a beautiful place is it. I will make plans with my friends to visit. Thanks !
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  3. StyleDestino says:

    the place looks so beautiful, I never heard of it until your post. India has such rich heritage, but sadly our government is not as good in marketing it.

    Wud love to check it out :)

  4. Phillip says:

    Wonderful pictures you have got there.For me represents a dream now, I hope that someday I can make it become true.These photos are inspiring me every day.
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  5. That first shot out of the cave is really striking.
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  6. Arti says:

    Wonderful place to visit, historical and full of architectural brilliance. Thanks for sharing.
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  7. SantO ( says:

    Would love to visit there oneday… Though caves can make me claustrophobic…!!

  8. Arun Naik says:

    I have been to these caves with my camera. the pics you take will be awesome. I went there with my family.

  9. Bhushan says:

    I have never visited Karnataka but this post have make me very eager to go and visit here.Shalu has given some blasting points in past to make me us crazy about travel and would love to visit.

  10. Loved the detail about Badami Caves. Not this time, but will plan it for the next tour to India. Thank You

  11. Heard about the Badami for the first time, but won’t forget it now. you explained it so nice Shalu.

  12. Emme Rogers says:

    Wow! Looks like a magical place to visit! Love the stories attached to it.
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  13. I have been to these caves with my camera. the pics you take will be awesome. I went there with my family.

  14. Sanjib says:

    Hi Shalu,

    Thanks a lot for writing this nostalgic post. It is reminiscing us of our richest heritage and ancient wealth of culture. Heard of Badami in the past but could learn more from this post.

    Regards,
    Sanjib
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  15. 2000 steps are worth to climb for such a beautiful place. I was not aware about these caves. India is so vast and there are thousand of things to visit. One cannot cover all these in single life.
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  16. Tourism is an important industry for the Australian economy. In the financial year 2010/11, the tourism industry

  17. Android Apps says:

    There are really so many beautiful places to see in India, keep up the good work these pictures are amazing and rare. If I get a chance I will surely visit the places you have mentioned on your blog.
    -Nancy

  18. Kristine says:

    Hi Shalu, thanks for sharing yet another stunning destination in India :)

  19. Shamis says:

    These are some magnificent sites. The details carved in are just amazing. I’m always intrigued about history and that just feeds in to that. Thanks for a great read Shalu!
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  20. Joy says:

    What a beautiful and historic landmark, thanks for the share!

  21. Shane says:

    Amazing structure and art! These caves are indeed tourist destinations in India! These are worth a visit and deserves a documentary because of it’s history. I would like to visit here someday if given the chance. Great article! This should really be featured on a certain website on a tourist destination subject. Good job writing this, thanks for posting! :)

  22. Felicia says:

    Wow, what beautiful caves of Badami! It sure is a very huge historical site. I never thought that India could have such pretty places. I’m sure my uncle who loves to hike would definitely love going there. Thanks Shalu for sharing!

  23. Richa says:

    These pics are just lovely. I haven’t heard of Badami caves as of now, but it is so refreshing reading about another of India’s beautiful place. Thanks for the share.

  24. The position looks so wonderful, I never observed of it until your publish. Indian has such wealthy history, but unfortunately our govt is not as excellent in promotion it.

  25. abhishek says:

    I have been to Badami caves once with my friends and was totally awe-struck by the way it was made. So good to read info about it. Thanks for the share, Shalu.

  26. Chris says:

    This article was seriously indepth. Your knowledge on Badami Caves is very impressive. I really hope to one day visit this fantastic location. Thank you
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  27. Verandas says:

    Wow….what an historical place…still its gives the look of royal…and the art which is created on wall are fabulous.

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