When the lightening struck Shidilgudi in 10000 BC, which literally means in Kannada a cave formed out of lightening strike, history unfolded in Badami and its surroundings. The Mesolithic cave man began hunting various wild animals, drew pictures using the blood of the preys on the rocks and sliced the meat with sharp stones. They literally ate the raw wild pig meat and threw carcass for the vultures to prey upon after removing the hide which formed the lion cloth to hide their vitals. The Mesolithic men stayed in Shidilgudi which 3 km walk from the main road.
Pulakesi I shifted the capital from Aihole to Badami in 543 AD, considering the strategic importance of the location which is surrounded by impregnable hillocks and a tank of fresh water. The location of the palace should be in the Museum area. There are steps leading to the hillock, which is virtually unexplored. Most of these empires would obviously had one of the best palaces. It is a mystery how they have been left out.
“Tree of Life “ emerged during the mythical period. So goes the fabled story when Shiva and Parvathi were newly married, they were busily engaged in carnal pleasure for ages at kailash parvath ( meaning the caves in the mountain ) They were ignorant to the fact that Asuras ( demons ) were harassing devas and mortals no end. The helpless sages, disciples, and others approached Lord Shiva at the enterance of the abode of Lord Shiva who was literally on his honeymoon bliss. The visitors unable to awaken Lord Shiva enter into the cave, where the couple are in unison, the surprise entry captures Parvathi literally nude. She immediately picks a Lotus leaf and covers her face in embarrassment from intruders un welcome presence. So eventually the diety came to be known as Lajjagauri, goddess of virginity. The missionary copulation posture is beautifully sculpted by the artisan of the chalukyan era, symbolizing the perfection of erotic era in Indian temple architecture. Friends these erotic rendering was undertaken 575 AD, whereas Khajuraho was sculpted in 1050 AD almost 500 years later.
The beautiful and serene atmosphere with a lake; impregnable defense of Badami landscape captivated Pulkesi II ( 609-642 AD) who married the princess Devi from Alupa dynasty from Barkur. She obviously brought along with her artisans who had rich experience of carving wonderful edifices. Inorder to proclaim his victory over the Pallavas and re-capturing the territory Badami was commissioned as a modern capital of the emperor. This added as incentive to meaningfully employ the artisans from the Alupa empire. The artisans from Kanchipuram too were deployed to work on with dexterity.
Pulakeshi II, who was Ereya, spread his reign by first defeating his uncle Mangalesa who was trying to spread his genes. Than he took over the crown and annexed territories below the Narmada belt and extended it upto the cavery belt. His major victory waa against Harshavardhan and he died battling Pallava's Narasimhavarman in 642 ad who occupied Badami temporarily.
In ancient times Badami was famous as Vatapi, who were demons. The two hills at Badami signified two demons Vatapi and Ilavala, who used to trick people and slaughter them. The great sage Augastye bought an end to the misery of the merchants, who were tricked by the demons into the trap. The lake in front of the temple signifies a tribute to the sage Augastye for bringing salvation to the
Basically there are four cave temples at Badami. The first temple dates back to the 5th century AD with Lord Shiva in Rudra Tandav posture, it is known as Ardhanareeswara. The carving of Shiva with eighteen arms is just majestic and ultimate grandeur. There are few other statues of Shiva in various incarnations. The first cave is dedicated to Lord Shiva mainly, who is also known as Destroyer in GOD abbreviation.
The second cave temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, who is the Generator in GOD abbreviation. There is a rock cut sculture of Varaha form of Lord Vishnu. There are several sculptures refering to the ancient fabled stores too in this cave. Brahma completes the triology as the operator in the hindu myth.
Third cave temple is the most prominent and dates back to 578 AD. This cave temple according to inscriptions found is said to been built under the patronage of Kirtivarman Chalukya. There are images of avtars of Vishnu, in the forms of Naraimha and Trivikarma. The murals of Shiva Parvathi too is seen in this cave. There are traces of paintings of purana on the façade of this cave temple which is the largest and has a beautiful court yard beyond comparison. The view of the augustya lake is exotic and the perfect portrait scene for 100 different angles of photoshoot ops. One should just try video shooting and photoshoots in various forms of lighting to perfect the art of photography. I simply tried 25 different options, but was running out of memory space for more.
There is a Neolithic cave in between the third and the fourth cave. The cave paintings traces are just seen in a dim manner, it looks uninspiring when compared to the other caves. Probably the historians during the ancient time realized the importance of preserving the heritage of Neolithic mankind and kept the original cave blank. It is my surmise that this cave forms an important epicenter of Neolithic civilization, which is lost to world due to modern trespassing and natures vagaries.
The last Cave belongs to the Jaina period, which is dedicated to the Adinath Tirthankar. There are number of murals of the saint in various forms, most of them following the digambara tradition, which in sublime form is the naked truth. This is the ultimate in digambara form for a sainthood to transform into a state of relinquishment of worldly pleasures.
Many a tourists do miss the opposite hillock which contains a veritable history. A group of temples known as Bhutanata. This temple is fantastic film shooting spot, where the film GURU has been filmed. One can witnesss the lake bed with dhobis washing their clothes along with the local women folk. The echo of their pounding of clothes can be heard high above on the Shivalaya hill. The rustic atmosphere of the houses while one transgresses into the bylanes has to be seen to be believed.
One small temple house the Vishnu in Dasha avatar posture. Here the lord is seen resting on huge snake with the hood protecting the Lord. These structures seem to have been cleaned recently to give a factory fresh appeal. On opposite small hillock Karnataka Govt. seems to be experimenting a landscape filled with Neolithic depiction of their lifestyle, which is long in the making. Present in its semi-finished condition gives an ugly sight to watch amidst the grandeur. Incidentally a kannada film shooting titled as Veera Madikere Nayaka was in progress, with adimanava scenes being shot.
A hillock opp to the Bhutanata complexes houses a magnificent collection of sculptures pertaining to Jaina and Lord Shiva. It is worth watching and shooting the same for our album.
There Ancient inscriptions, one pertains to Kappe inscription, where the Mahamalla Varman claims victory over the chalulkyans in 642 AD. There is another important inscription of the architect who tries to find a solution to a ticklish problem. Once he discovers the solution he records it for posterity on the rock hill.
The entry to the magnificient fortress is closed from the cave temple complex on Vatapi hills. It is reliably learnt there were misfortunate incidents of tourist slipping and succumbing to injury. On the other side one can really experience the thrill of climbing a well paved and tiled staircase. The blend of architecture in the Yellama temple is absolutely fabulous. One note of caution is that it is filled with monkeys, one should not venture in a carefree style carrying all the food stuffs in a bag, monkeys are known to snatch at purse, bags and polythene bags. It is better to deposit their valuables in the counter or vehicles below. The ascent to the Mantaps through the crevice is fabulous experience. The high point of the watch tower can be approached on this hillock, one of the watch towers has a cannon, without the gunpowder loaded of course.
Tipu Sultan has left his mark in this place with a mosque, palace in ruins and a tomb stone for one of his generals who may have been a martyr during his battle with the enemies.
Badami can be covered either through NH4 via Gadag or through Hubli. The other alternative route is through hospet, koppal, gadag and Badami. The total distance from Bangalore to Badami via Hubli would work out to 498 Kms. There are no of accommodation facilities available depending on one’s pocket, it is better to reserve their hotels either through KSTDC or directly with hotels. My advice to people traveling to Badami is to never hurry up, you never know you may end up discovering what others may not have observed. The museum @ Badami has one of the finest collections of artifacts of era ranging from Neolithic to Tipu sultan period. The caretakers of the museum can dish out wonderful historical facts if one goads and motivates them. I was surprised that all these workers don t take tips and are keen to observe that the tourist do not vandalise the treasures of the by gone era. My quest to re-discover Badami is unfinished…………may next time around I will sitting in one of the caves inhabited by Neolithic race and posing for a photograph.
Acknowledgements : ASI staff, Guides, & Google search websites. Some of surmises are original renedition.